Catholic board candidates look to challenges around GSAs, fees
With three acclamations and two incumbents allowing for only two wide open races, the Calgary Catholic School District election may look quiet on the surface. However, candidates are being vocal on critical issues ranging from support of LGBTQ students to ensuring classrooms maintain resources in spite of fee reductions.
“I am really worried; I think lowering fees is going to hit us really hard,” said Pamela Rath, a longtime school volunteer and candidate for Wards 4 and 7. “For most families, paying the $80 or $100 for school fees is not that big a deal.
“And, for those families that really struggle, there are already programs to help them,” she said. “But because of those fee reductions, we’re going to see the province go into further debt, and it is our kids that will have to pay for that.”
School boards say they’ve faced uphill financial battles this spring after the provincial government’s recent introduction of Bill 1 — An Act to Reduce School Fees, which provided up to $50 million to school boards across Alberta to help them reduce bus fees and remove the bulk of instructional fees.
Rath’s opponent Ken Doll, a financial planner who says he has a strong background in finances and budgeting, says it’s time to elect a trustee with good business sense to tackle issues like ensuring administrative costs aren’t being taken out of the classroom.
“A lot of people on the board are from the school industry. I have no experience as a teacher or education administrator. But I have a lot of business knowledge and I think that’s needed right now,” he said.
Lory Iovinelli, a stay-at-home mom and school volunteer who’s running in Wards 6 and 8, agrees that Bill 1 legislation will push school boards to be more careful than ever about ensuring resources stay in the classroom.
“It’s not a large amount to ask from families, and I would be concerned how the removal of that will impact resources, especially extracurricular things like field trips.”
Candidates are also supportive of supporting diversity, like continuing to create gay-straight alliances in schools and student-run clubs to support LGBTQ students.
But few are willing to push for the use of specific vocabulary like lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
The CCSD has come under fire from the LGBTQ community, not for following provincial guidelines and ensuring GSAs are in schools, but for refusing to go one step further to use the proper language.
“There’s definitely a need for these kinds of clubs in schools, but if there are concerns about what they should be called that should be a discussion within schools and at the board level,” Iovinelli said.
Iovinelli’s opponent Christopher McMillan, said he too supports diversity, particularly for students outside of the Catholic faith.
“The Separate School Board, while known for its strong Catholic connections, has long been open to students of all faiths, no faith, and unknown faiths,” he says. “There are many Sikh, Muslim, atheist, and Protestants attending Separate Schools. Inclusion is something we should all be proud of.”