Hancock meets with GSACRD over Morinville school issue

Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull talks to media after a meeting with Education Minister Dave Hancock Wednesday afternoon. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – A meeting between the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division (GSACRD) board and Education Minister Dave Hancock failed to produce the concrete results some Morinville parents were looking for in their quest for a secular education for their children. Hancock met with GSACRD Superintendent David Keohane, Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull and other GSACRD trustees Wednesday afternoon at the Alberta Legislature to discuss the issue.

“We’re looking at ways that we might address this,” said GSACRD Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull after the meeting. “We did look at the original seven options as well as some others, and we were just looking at how we might go forward in the future with some short, medium and long-term goals.”

The seven options presented to the delegation of Morinville parents in January were appealed by the group soon after. But just what the additional options discussed with Minister Hancock are, Turnbull was not prepared to divulge to media, at least not until they have crossed the board table. “I can’t discuss that until I’ve met with my board and we can make a decision as a board,” she said. “I don’t do any of that until I’ve spoken with my board.”

Turnbull anticipates that discussion will likely take place sometime in April, prior to which she plans to meet with Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the delegation of parents.

Although noncommittal on what options were discussed or specifically when or if the parent group will get what it is seeking, Turnbull said she felt progress was made in the meeting with Minister Hancock. “I think there’s always progress when you have those people in the room,” she said. There was many people in that room today. We did discuss some of the options we as a board have been looking at. The Minister spoke to us as to what he would like to see happen as we go forward. Until we sit down with the Hunter delegation and have a conversation there, and we sit down as a board; we won’t really have any go forward ideas until probably next month.”

Education Minister Dave Hancock said in the fullness of the discussions Wednesday afternoon he and the board talked about a number of options that could be done, but he was going to leave the final outcome to the parents’ delegation and GSACRD to work out. “I didn’t take it as my roll to whittle their list down,” the minister said of GSACRD’s options. “I think they need to deal with their constituents in terms of what will be a satisfactory approach to providing education in the community. I think that needs to be a real discussion with the people involved. It’s not really in my hand to mandate that, but I think it was in my hand to talk with the board about what those responsibilities and options are.”

The Minister said he would not speculate on how many students seeking a non-faith based education would be required to warrant a school, stating the issue was not about people.

“This isn’t about a building; this is about people,” Hancock said. “It’s about rights and it’s about – first of all – everybody coming together to put their children first and to understand how we can get each child the type of education program they need.” For Hancock there is confidence that can be worked out between the board and the parents seeking secular education. “We’ve got elected officials in the area who have an obligation to work with their communities, and they’re willing and able to do that,” Hancock said. “I need to leave it up to them now to do that.”

For Donna Hunter, who has been fighting for what she believes is her and her family’s right to a secular education; there is doubt as to just how feasible that is. Still, she maintains hope a resolution can be found.

“I have to be hopeful,” Hunter said, adding she will meet with the board to see what they have to say. “I’ve been keeping my expectations pretty low. Every time I put myself out there, it comes back just like this. ‘Be patient. We’ll get back to you. It’ll resolve itself eventually. Something will come of it.’ It never has.”

The mother of three said she was surprised to be going back to meet with the board because she and her delegation made an official appeal to the Minister of Education after GSACRD presented her group with seven options, none of which were acceptable to the parent group.

“The board said no, and they said no emphatically,” Hunter said of the options and alternatives GSACRD presented her with in January. “No, there will not be a secular education program at any of our division schools in Morinville. So, what am I supposed to say when I meet with the board again?”

Hunter said she was disappointed in the Minister’s leaving the matter in the board’s hands because she appealed directly to him as she felt he was the one who needs to say that GSACRD’s decision and options cannot stand in a public school system.

“I’m disappointed,” she said. “Secular education at a public school should be a given, and it’s not. So, I’m disappointed. I’m extremely disappointed that it’s more of the same.”

GSACRD’s next board meeting is Apr. 18. Chair Turnbull said she did not know at this time if the matter will be discussed further at that meeting.

VIDEO FOOTAGE

Board Chair Lauri-Ann Turnbull takes media questions.

Minister of Education Dave Hancock takes media questions.

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15 Comments

  1. I just have one question. How do I get a hold of the parent group or Donna Hunter herself? The reason that I ask is because I have the same problem with my children s school Vanier, and how they PUSH THERE BELIEFS AND THERE RELIGION on our children even if we have asked them not to. The only reason that we haven’t moved or looked for other schooling options is because our son has a learning disability and the help he has received (excluding his current teacher) has been really good for him. But the fact still remains PUSHING A RELIGIOUS BELIEFS THAT WE DON’T REALLY BELIEVE IN OURSELVES ON TO OUR CHILDREN. Now before you go postal on my comments just know this if Catholicism is what you choose then there is no problem with that and I’m happy for you, heck some of my closest friends are Catholic. But for crying out loud don’t push it on my kids in school especially if there’s no other option for education in our community.
    If there are more parents out there that feel the same way Please make a comment too. Lets not let all of the hard work Donna has already done go down in vein. Thank you

  2. I love how people come to Morinville and try to change everything, and then leave a few years later. If they don’t like it, they should just move now. Plain and simple. Majority over minority.

  3. I suggest that you attend the town council meetings as Donna Hunter has been (to the best of my knowledge) diligent in attending. Not only will you likely see her there, but you’ll also get a glimpse of the refusing town council. The next regular meeting is scheduled for April 12,2011 and is open to the public at 7:30pm.

  4. http://www.morinvilleparentdelegation.webs.com will put you in contact with the group. there is a web based contact form.

    Patrick. Thats part of the issue. Catholic students not in the majority anymore. But as you infer by noting people come, try to effect change, and then move, this issue is not new, and whether anyone moves away this year, next year, or never, it will continue to come up again, and again, and again until resolved.

    It’s interesting how that happens with institutionalized bigotry.

    Thats right, I said institutionalized bigotry. Look it up.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  5. @ Patrick

    You are the minority now. 70% of students registered here are not Catholic. Maybe you should move! This town needs less people like you.

  6. @Patrick- I am so sick of this argument “If you dont like it, leave!” It is perhaps the weakest argument I can think of for this particular issue. There are many reasonable and logical arguments in regards to this topic. This however is NOT one of them. This line of reasoning can be used to justify ANYTHING. Oh, you don’t like that this is a non-jew town? Well you had the CHOICE not to move here. Don’t like how we have an annual virgin sacrifice? Well you shouldn’t have moved here then! Don’t like that I broke into your house? Well then, you shouldn’t have been living there!

    Morinville is my community, and I love it here. I have NO intentions on leaving, and with the help of my fellow citizens, we will shape this community, moving it gracefully into the future. Asking for a choice in our childrens education is not an unreasonable request.

  7. Although the Minister dodged the issue, I think he is right in sending this back to the people. What a fantastic example of local people exercising local democracy. A solution will come out of all of this and I think both sides are going to have to compromise. The board chair is right not to have made any commitments before talking to the Hunter delegation and the rest of her board. Democracy takes time to arrive at solutions because of the need for participation of all the parties involved. If you think about it, things are actually moving very quickly to resolve this. We could be living in a dictatorship where decisions are made at the stroke of a pen by one person to the exclusion of all. Be thankful that we actually have a process to engage in and the opportunity to “work” that process.

  8. @Thomas,

    I don’t think you have as much backing on this as you think you do. Using the 70% non-catholic families in town has no impact on this issue. I am not catholic or religious at all, as are many of the others who are happy with the way the schools are now. Maybe a real poll should be taken by the residents with school age children and then the true numbers will come out.

    @Ray,

    You have choices. 8 of them. You choose to ignore all of them.

  9. We are expecting to hear from Chair Lauri-Ann Turbull for a discussion in April. If you are interested in coming or adding your name to the group of Morinville residents electors of GSACRD who request a secular education program, please send us a message. http://www.morinvilleparentdelegation.webs.com or our Facebook page `Public non faith based school in Morinville.` Please include the number of children you have and their ages. Thanks so much!

  10. Mel

    Not according to the poll on the right side of your computer screen.

    So far that’s the ONLY attempt anyone has ever made to determine the numbers.
    I’m open to an independent poll, or community referendum.

    I wonder why that hasn’t been done?

  11. Thomas, the poll on the right DOES NOT show a 70% support for your cause. At best it shows a 50.8% support for your cause. However, I find myself wondering how accurate it is as one person can vote multiple times. Everyone stating this percent or that percent of support is plain making things up, from BOTH sides. Until such a time as an actual, valid poll or referendum is done NO ONE can state numbers for support based on the entire population affected by this issue. I am not a Catholic, I do however think the schools we have are exceptional as is and I do not want to see them changed.

    • A quick comment on MorinvilleNews.com polls. They are reader polls not Ipsos Reid or any thing of the like. They are designed to gauge our reader’s thoughts on issues of the day – issues from the trivial (will you be attending St. Jean Baptiste festival) to the more important (current school issue).

      We have set the polls to limit multiple voting by cookie and by ISP. That stated, it’s accuracy is limited by the voter’s willingness to use multiple machines, non residents voting and the software that runs the poll.

      On this matter, the only poll that will be of any true relevance is the one to be conducted by GSACRD and we are given to understand that is coming. Story to follow later today.

  12. Christian;

    I have never claimed any percentage of community support, I have at times said there were more than 5 parents involved.

    70% would be an approximate reference to the number of students who do not claim Catholic status within our school system and that number came from the school board.

    The poll at right though is however a pretty good indicator that we can stop talking about “5 Parents” bucking the system. If you wish you may refer to us as 5 Vocal parents and as of yet undetermined number of less vocal parents.

    With regards to legislation and human rights in the persuit of a non faith based education it DOES NOT MATTER what the percentage is. So long as ONE familly is affected the public school board MUST find some means of accomodating them. This is the point many people either in error or by design, overlook.

    Let the fair and impartial poll be taken, we will all know then who wants what, and we will see what comes next.

    Regards;

    Thomas Kirsop

  13. @ Patrick
    Lets get one thing clear, I have lived in Morinville for most of the 32 years i have been alive, as a child my parents moved a lot but always came back just as I have. I tried to live in “the city” but found it unappealing for a number of reasons that need not be discussed. I love our sleepy little town and am happy to raise my three children here safely. That being said I attended the schooling system here even as far back as when we were still Tribute District (sorry if the spelling is wrong but its been a long time since that word has come up, LOL)and even then I had issues with the amount of “religion” that was in our schools. Saying pray twice a day even at MCHS and some teachers even related other courses to “religion” when ever where ever possible, but don’t ask me to say who they were because I won’t tell and I wouldn’t do that to them as I had no issues with them personally, well in most occasions.
    So I ask you do you have children in the Morinville schooling system and when did you MOVE here?

    @ Lisa
    I have attended council meetings and I have even spoke at one, I also almost ran for council myself, Even our Mayor Lloyd Bertchsi told me me he was surprised not to see my name on the ballet. But I told him this; I have never really been into politics before and don’t really know how to even start to get involved but I’m going to learn. And even more impotently my children are all still under ten years old and that they are my highest priority so when they are less interested in spending time with DAD and I personally am more informed on the entire process I would be more interested.
    As for attending more open council meetings and getting more vocal or involved and getting in contact with Donna at an open meeting, well refer above(my highest priority). I might have been engaged in helping with home work, which happens more often then not(children with learning issues which I also said before), or maybe I worked really late and didn’t get home in time for council, or one of many other reasons that I was not at the same meeting as Donna.
    So you can understand what I mean when I said “I just have one question. How do I get a hold of the parent group or Donna Hunter herself?”, right?

    Thank you every one for getting involved in the Democratic process in which we all love and on which this country (the greatest in the world) was built, and for all the arguments both for and against.

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