By Jeremy Appel on September 19, 2017.
The future of Catholic education in Alberta was front of mind for many trustee candidates as they registered on Monday at Medicine Hat city hall before the noon deadline.
There are nine candidates running in the election for the city’s Catholic Board of Education, including all five incumbents and a former superintendent.
The board’s current chair, Dick Mastel, said he felt obliged to seek re-election as a trustee because he’s “deeply concerned.”
“Catholic education is under attack from different areas inside the province and outside the province,” he said. “It’s essential that we have experienced trustees on the board to work against those kinds of things.”
He specifically referred to the Theodore case currently underway in Saskatchewan, which challenges the constitutionality of publicly-funded Catholic schools.
There are similar cases in Quebec and B.C., he added.
David Leahy, a former CSB superintendent, said Catholic schools are beneficial to anyone who attends them, not just Catholics.
“We need to have more advocacy from school boards and Catholics in general, and, frankly, the non-Catholics who attend our system, about the value of Catholic education in Alberta.
“Anytime you have a group, such as the Public School Board Association of Alberta, question the legitimacy of the constitutional right of Catholics to have their own school system, that’s a concern for everybody,” he said.
Leahy said he also wants to defend charter and home schooling, which he said are under attack from the same forces.
“The first battle is going to be Catholic education and I want to be a very strong advocate for school choice in Alberta,” he said.
Kathy Glasgo, who ran for city council in the previous municipal election, said her faith is an integral part of why she got into education.
“As a teacher, I was interviewed by a superintendent one time … who told me not to bring my God into the classroom,” said Glasgo. “I did not stay long in that district.”
Bonnie Stafford-Meyer, a new challenger, said her interest in the MHCBE stems from her involved in the church.
“I’m of the Catholic faith and that’s where I’ve always volunteered,” she said.
“I want the kids to have safe and caring schools where they can grow … That’s ultimately the goal.”
Another challenger, Jeffrey Neumann, said he’d like to see an increased role for the church in the board’s operations.
“I want to focus on increasing communication between the parishes and the schools and working towards having a stronger connection there,” said Neumann.
Regina Durst said she’s running for re-election to continue advocating for “a strong faith-filled school system that creates a safe and caring environment that allows students to grow spiritually, emotionally and succeed academically.”
Peter Grad, another incumbent, said he’s motivated by his “passion for education.”
He said he takes issue with the way Alberta’s government has gone about updating the Education Act.
“We did a lot of work over a number of years on our Education Act and it looks like our government is just going to pass over it, put some add-ons and leave it at that,” Grad said.
Alicia Doud, a political neophyte, said she thinks it will be “very interesting” to help guide the course of Catholic education for the next four years.
“What I may lack in procedural experience, I make up for with a desire to see Catholic education … thrive and excel in our communities, schools and, most importantly, our children,” said Doud.
Incumbent trustee Robert Risling, the board’s vice-chair, did not respond to request for comment by press time.
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