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.”


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