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School board chair sees value in elected trustees

Despite rumours that the Province could replace local school trustees with a superboard or appointed governors, the Rocky View Schools chair says she is confident local boards have proven their worth and are here to stay.

Despite rumours that the Province could replace local school trustees with a superboard or appointed governors, the Rocky View Schools chair says she is confident local boards have proven their worth and are here to stay.

“The government has repeatedly said that is something they would not do,” said Sylvia Eggerer.

“If they stand true to their word, they see the value in local elected boards.”

Alberta Education Minister Dave Hancock and Premier Ed Stelmach have both said plans to amend the School Act next spring will not involve doing away with elected boards.

The government plans to reopen the Alberta School Act and revamp it based on recommendations from the Inspiring Education report released by a government-appointed steering committee in June.

Eggerer said the importance of elected boards speaks for itself.

“The minister has been saying for the past three years to engage our public,” she said.

“I can’t think of a better example of engaging the public than the Council of School Councils, the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Airdrie’s support for more schools in the community. The ministers hopefully have taken that passion back to the Province.”

This election year, 47 per cent of all trustee positions in the province have been acclaimed and four attracted no candidates, as of nomination day. In RVS, all trustees but one were acclaimed.

“I have no problem with acclamations and I think people need to know it is not apathy,” said Eggerer.

“They are happy with their representation and we are trying our hardest to do a good job.”

Heather Wellwood, president of the Alberta School Board Association, said she doesn’t believe the government will go to a superboard, following a similar amalgamation process completed in health care, but she said the Province is likely watching this election closely.

The voluntary amalgamation between the public and Catholic francophone boards in southern Alberta - agreed to in the spring - could point to a broader streamlining process, Wellwood said.

The last time the province revamped the School Act, in legislation tabled in 1994, public boards were stripped of their taxation authority in favour of the per pupil funding model, and more than half of the school districts were eliminated or amalgamated.

“Since then, there have been some questions about the value of elected boards but I think they are the people’s voice,” said Eggerer.

“When you have someone local, you can get things underway and bring forward important issues. Another important aspect of our job is to be the stewards of the public purse.”

Hancock said he has no interest in creating a superboard or dissolving current boards.

“You still need to have elected boards to represent and involve the community,” said Hancock on Oct. 7.

“What we really need coming out of these elections is to engage new trustees and the continuing trustees in the continuing discussion about how we reflect in a new education act the role of boards with respect to public engagement - and then how do you then reflect the other voices that need to be there.”

He said it might be possible to appoint people to elected boards to represent specific underrepresented groups such as First Nations populations.

Eggerer supported that idea.

“Opinions from different groups are always welcome as long as it doesn’t override the elected vote,” she said.

“That’s democracy.”


Airdrie City View Staff

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