Letter: Satisfied parents respond to Morinville school issue

Dear Editor:

The debate over secular education in Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) has caused many to take a closer look at how education is delivered in the communities of Morinville and Legal. Emotion aside, the facts need to be paramount to this discussion. Many people have made a conscious decision to choose Morinville and Legal as their home. In order to accommodate such a diverse group of people, our Public/Catholic system clearly “Welcomes students of all faiths and traditions.” This does indeed make our system unique. Although religion classes are offered and the majority of families chose to participate in them (60-70%), families can also choose a Health option instead. Many students participating in the religion classes are not identified as Catholic. What permeates the school day is children developing a sense of personal responsibility and respect for one another. Tolerance and acceptance of others is also evident in the daily instruction of the children as taught by both CATHOLIC and NON-CATHOLIC staff. Academic achievement and self assessment are promoted and the children are encouraged to “let their precious light shine.” Survey results from our schools are deservedly and consistently very high and award winning. Our schools follow the Alberta Curriculum AND we are fortunate to have our childrens’ education enhanced with teachings of “Human” values such as mutual respect, moral integrity, honesty, charity, responsibility, friendship, family and community.

As for the ACSTA’s recommendation for changes to the School Act, there is a clause that GSACRD recognizes the unique position of the Morinville and Legal schools and their desire to serve all families.

A major consideration that has yet to be discussed is the cost of providing an Alternative school (K-12). Has consideration been given to where funding for this will be coming from? Will it be coming out of our childrens’ classrooms? What impact will this have in our childrens’ classrooms? Who will be giving up their school and moving their children to another so as to accomodate alternative education? We know that our school division will experience a 1.2 million dollar shortfall in education funding for the coming year. What programs will need to be eliminated to do so? At this time, we should be focusing our energy on improving the programs and maintaining our high quality of educational programming.

It is also a matter of fact that hundreds of students have received education through this current model and they have gone on to realize personal, academic and professional success. They were in no way ‘harmed’ by exposure to faith-based education. Lastly, as parents, educators, and community members, we are to set an example for all concerned as to how to relate to one another, to respectfully discuss issues, and not to exaggerate, bully, intimidate or threaten others to make our point of view heard. We applaud the town for following their municipal governance guidelines and not getting involved in a “School Board” and “Education Act” issue. It is our position that our communities should work within the parameters of the “Provincial” guidelines for education when discussing this matter. Please refer to our petition at www.gopetition.com/petition/43101.html.

Thank You!

Jessica Chvojka and Charmaine Enns
Morinville, Alberta

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10 Comments

  1. Very nice letter.

    Without discounting your satisfaction in the system at all, I have some counterpoints.

    Are the schools allowing all of the public to enter? Yes they are but that does not make them inclusive or diverse. They still teach one belief above, and to the exclusion of others throughout the educational day. That by definition is exclusive of differing beliefs and certainly is not diverse. It also mitigates an opt out strategy.

    Teaching tolerance to the masses for one belief system above and to the exclusion of all others is also counterintuitive. My child in kindergarten is certainly tolerant to Christianity/Catholicism, to the point where she has told her mother in no uncertain terms that all other belief systems are “wrong”. She is five, and my idea of tolerance and diversity certainly does not align with that.

    To the ACSTA submission I would say anyone who gives up legal rights and freedoms for an administrative policy is misguided to a fault. Administrative policies can be rewritten at the drop of a hat without legal recourse once the legal rights and freedoms have been removed.

    I would have no concern, nor issue with your stance had I enrolled my children in a separate school division, but I did not.

    In a public school division however these practices are not acceptable.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  2. All five of our children have had a fine, values based education in this system. Why fix something that isn’t broken?

  3. I was surprised too upon moving to Morinville that the Public School system was in fact a Catholic based system. We are not Catholic but are Christians. I was unconcerned about it because I knew they wouldn’t be required to take the Religion course. I felt that the values that are taught as stated above were most important. Upon reading the concerns of a few parents, I asked my children who have now graduated from the school system, if religion was a part of their courses. They stated that no, never. They weren’t any prayers or even religious artifacts hanging in the schools. I would suggest that these parents spend at least one day at the schools, listening in on classes to determine for themselves what is actually being taught before they conclude that this a faith-based system. If they haven’t done this, then they don’t have all the facts.

  4. I’m glad your kids did not go through what I’m going through, I truly and sincerely mean that.

    However I can tell you what my kids in the public elementary school are subject to this year. I can tell you first hand the impact it has had in their world views and in my home, and I can point you to the school board website, the 2011 registration form, the ACSTA submission to the Minister of Education, and the physical adornments and accoutrements of my childrens elementary school hallways in response to educational mandates and faith representation in the public schools if Morinville.

    And that is indeed the crux of the matter. It’s a public school board that by it’s own admission and action, represents only a portion of the public it serves.

    That folks is most certainly unethical, questionably amoral, and in my opinion based on my limited understanding of the school act, the Alberta Human Rights Act, The Alberta Act, and the NWT Act Chapter 29 (upon which the Alberta Act was drawn, and with three very interesting sections regarding how religion is to be approached in education) illegal.

    And it is the antithesis of public.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  5. unfortunately the system is broken. Religion does not belong in a publically funded school system. What I see is the beginning of a community that will be deeply divided all due to religion. And a divided community does not teach respect or tolerance at any level. And that is not good. Would we be having this debate if the public school system was of a muslim nature? or a buddhist content? I think in order for Morinville to be a town with a great community atmosphere we need to put aside the differences and make a public school system like the rest of the country has. one free of religious undertones, one where all children of all races, cultures and religion can attend and not feel out of place. We are encouraged to live, eat, shop & educate locally and how can that be done if religion is going to separate people. Its time for Alberta to stand up and change, and change is good.

  6. I think the system has been broken for a long time. No one has publicly said anything about it until now. You either conform or remove your child from his/her public school, and that is what people have done in the past and continue to do.

    @ Karen

    I think the schools have changed a lot since your kids were in the primary grades. I was at Notre Dame Elementary School yesterday. As soon as I opened the main door, what do I see? On the wall is a crucifix and pictures of Jesus. I didn’t see the Bible this time, they must’ve moved it elsewhere.

    Yes, there is the daily prayer at the start of every school day. They say grace before every snack and every lunch. They watch Veggie Tales in “Option/Health” class as well as in the assemblies, they also quote scriptures and even in one of the newsletters, on the front page is a picture of three children with Father Ignacy from St. Jean Baptiste Parish. One child is holding a crucifix, one holding the Bible, and one holding a candle.

    It is the constant exposure to one religion in a public school. That is the problem. I would have no issue if this was happening in a separate school, but a public school needs to be inclusive of all children. Not welcoming all faiths but one must conform to our faith and our faith alone.

    My son has asked me “Am I a bad person because I’m not Catholic?” So, we had a discussion as to what kind of things you do to make you a good or bad person. Then he said that if he was Catholic, he would be a “better” person.

    I do not want my children to have a faith based education, that is why I sent them to a public school. That is why I didn’t send them to a separate school or a private school. My children’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms are being violated every single school day. And our public school board is okay with that.

  7. @Jessica Chvojka and Charmaine Enns

    I am sorry I still don’t see your argument. Just because it has always been so doesn’t make it right (look at slavery, womans suffrage, racial segregation) that statement is getting really old. Just because you are satisfied with the current system doesn’t make it justified for an entire and diverse town population. There are many who are not satisfied with religion permeating our PUBLIC school system regardless of how “accommodating and welcoming” the schools are.

    Teachers can still teach our children “mutual respect, moral integrity, honesty, charity, responsibility, friendship, family and community” without religion present. It is arrogant of you to think those traits are exclusive to religious education. I would expect nothing less from any teacher in any school system.

    You mention maintaining “our high quality of educational programming” Please explain further what you are referring to here. Maybe you can also explain why is it then that we do not have a fine arts program and music teacher in any of the elementary schools? All seven of the Catholic elementary schools in St. Albert do. Some of those schools have less students than both of of ours. I can tell you the reason. In St. Albert all of the Catholic Schools are in competition with the Protestant schools for students. They have to offer exceptional programing there. More students equal more provincially funded tax dollars. Morinville schools (although doing the best with what little they are given by GSACRD) are just a cash cow. I challenge you to prove that the majority of per student funds received for Morinville students stays in Morinville schools. Further I challenge you to show how any of the “high quality of educational programming” is any different than what is provided in secular public schools.

    You mention “there is a clause that GSACRD recognizes the unique position of the Morinville and Legal schools and their desire to serve all families”. Please show us! I have read the entire submission and do not see that “clause” anywhere. Are we to trust the verbal word of a board that illegally denied a secular option to those parents that want it and a board that stands behind the submission of the ACSTA requesting obliteration of our current rights?

    Bottom line you are happy with the status quo. We hear you, but that is moot point to the real issues here.

  8. When I was looking at moving to Morinville I researched the schools and made a choice on where I wanted to move based on the education my son would be given. I am not Catholic but do not have a problem with my son learning about God or faith.

    I think that if you have chosen to move to Morinville without researching the schools then it is now your responsibility to find the type of education you want for your children outside of the community. Our schools need to focus on teaching the children and getting the resources they so badly need and not the issue of Religion.

  9. Stephen,

    I replied to the Parents Not Satisfied letter, so I thought a response was also appropriate for the Satisfied Parents letter.

    Jessica and Charmaine’s personal satisfaction aside, they are simply not getting the point. I don’t know if that is because they are Catholic, grew up with the local system, have never lived anywhere else, or are that very happy with the current school system. Really, it doesn’t matter. My point is that you cannot equate quality of education, tolerance and acceptance of others, etc, as being the result of having a faith-based (in this case Catholic) school system.

    Like many parents, when we moved to Morinville we were surprised by the no choice school system. Being a military family, we didn’t do any research because we had lived in four other provinces and thought that we knew the public system fairly well. Like the rest of the country, we thought that the “public” school was indeed public and non-religious. To most people, public education means non-faith based. Period. If you want faith in your school, enrol your children in a separate Catholic school. The rest of us will exercise our right to have a choice to send our children to the provincially sponsored and regulated public (read non-faith) schools.

    I fully expect the “Catholic/Public” system (I dislike the term because it is false and there is no such thing other than here and Legal) will die a very painful death and will be replaced by the truly public system known across the rest of Canada. Public schools will be the default and non-denominational and everything else, particularly Catholic and other non-public schools, will become separate.

    In conclusion, I am very happy that Stettler was forced/required to open a Catholic school. The same argument used by the Catholic board to open a Catholic school there is valid both ways and, hopefully, will be the deathknell of the “Catholic/Public” system that currently exists in Morinville. Even our government and elected officials can’t be that two-faced and get re-elected. But in small towns, anything can happen…If we weren’t a small town, close to rural Alberta, this would never have happened. I hope it gets sorted out soon.

  10. In response to Jaaki’s letter, like many people, she seems to be missing the entire point. I don’t know if it is a result of not being familiar with the rest of Canada, but it is the province’s responsibility to ensure the Public education, meaning not faith-based, that is the established norm and entitlement everywhere else in the country is available. Thus, you shouldn’t have to do any research.

    What could very well happen, and I wouldn’t be surprised, is that at least one or more of the Catholic schools in Morinville are designated public and students moved around between them. The current system makes the Catholic faith-based schools the default, which is both wrong and Morinville/Legal-centric. If works well if you don’t mind the permeation of the Catholic faith, but if you were an areligious or non-religious person and promote those values at home, you would not be impressed. And with the standard being non-faith schools in a public system, you would also be right.

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