By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Three candidates have put their names forward to fill Morinville’s two seats on Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division No. 29’s seven-member board. The division pulls four trustees from St. Albert, two from Morinville and one from Legal. Cathy Proulx was acclaimed as Legal’s trustee, but Morinville’s race is between incumbent trustee Lauri-Ann Turnbull and newcomers Noreen Radford and Heather Thiessen.
Noreen Radford, who has made Morinville home for more than a decade, currently serves as chairperson of the Morinville Public Library board, as a member of the Morinville and District Chamber of commerce’s steering committee for tourism and has also been on the St. Jean Baptiste Festival committee since its inception.
Radford said a passion for the town’s children and her experiences as a board member and within a number of local organizations motivated her to seek a seat on the school board.
“My work ethic is very strong,” she said. “I’m dedicated. I have an educator’s background. I’m also a business owner and sometimes I think that’s not really being related into the school board. I’d like to see that brought in.”
Radford said her major platform is getting the schools into the community and the community into the schools.
“We’ve seen evidence of that in different events I’ve coordinated or actually chaired, but I don’t want to see children standing on street corners,” Radford said. “I want to see them involved, and I think once they make that commitment, and once we become a community that’s a village that’s raising children; I think, all in all, everybody’s going to win.”
Radford said she believes one of the issues confronting the next board is maintaining Catholic education while acknowledging that not all students in the division are Catholic or even Christian.
“I’m Catholic, but I’m also a Christian,” Radford said “I believe in moral conscience and spirituality, and I think we need to decide which direction we’re heading in that.”
Radford explained that because Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools are the only option for Morinville students, it is important that the division recognize the diversity in Morinville while preserving the fact that the division is a Catholic school division.
“Let’s say if you had a Muslim student coming here; there is no other option other than bussing,” Radford said. “I think we have to be aware of the ever-changing roles in society and how we’re addressing spirituality. Again, we are a Catholic school board and that is front and centre, but are we meeting the needs of all?”
Radford said she hopes to be the voice to bring that message of inclusion to the board.
Additionally, the candidate said fiscal restraint within the school board is always important to tax payers and something she is interested in ensuring happens. “We have to be responsible but still giving quality service.”
A Morinville resident since 1991, Heather Thiessen spent 18 years in the banking industry and many years volunteering at the school level, both in the classroom and on school trips.
Thiessen said she was motivated to seek apposition as school trustee because she is a real believer in a great education for all children.
“I think our school division has so far done a wonderful job in providing a great education for all of our students,” Thiessen said. “I really would love to see that momentum continued.”
The candidate said now that her two children are in University, she believes she has the time to devote to the division and wants to be an advocate for residents, their children and concerns over their children’s education.
“I’m very excited at the prospect to be there as a voice for the people of the community and to have somebody to come to to address their concerns so that they have a say in how their children’s education is,” Thiessen said.
The candidate realizes that that voice, if she’s elected, will be one of seven on the board. As such she does not have a laundry list of issues she wants to address once on the board.
“I think that for me it would be a mistake to go in with a pre-loaded agenda,” Thiessen said. “I don’t have that. I would like to face any new challenges as they come and help to make the difference in any of those challenges. We vote as a board. So I can’t really go in saying I’m going to do this or that because that’s not the type of position that it is.”
However, Thiessen points out that – if elected – she will have an open door policy whereby she will take residents concerns to the board to be heard. “I will certainly help them in resolving their issues by directing them to the right personnel,” she said.
Incumbent school trustee Lauri-Ann Turnbull is seeking her second term on the Division 29 board. Turnbull, a mother of four said she’s been active in the community since moving here in 1994. Since that time she has participated in the Municipal Sustainability Plan sessions as well as the recent Community Branding workshop. Additionally, Turnbull has been involved in other initiatives connected to schools, including Core Lyncs and Big Brothers / Big Sisters.
Turnbull said she was motivated to run again because she loved her job as school trustee during her first term. “I’ve been involved with the schools for so many years, from the time that my eldest daughter was in kindergarten,” she said, noting she was active throughout her children’s education. “I just thought it was a natural transition and I really enjoyed being part of the process of the bigger decision making.”
Turnbull said one of the major concerns that is present in the division and something she and other trustees have been advocating for is making sure that special needs funding coming from the government is adequate.
“What happens in our division is that we have a real challenge in that the funds coming forward from the government don’t anywhere meet the dollars that it costs to educate these students,” Turnbull said. “And I think we all know that these children deserve the same education as any other student in the division. Consequently, we take some of our off-the-top funding to give help fund some of these children to give them the best education possible.”
Turnbull explained that the division is always asking the government for proper funding for special needs students to give them the best level they can achieve.
Additionally, Turnbull said she wants to work hard to maintain the high achievement standards the division is known for amongst all its students.
“We have to find a way to at least maintain that and continue tweaking things to make things better,” Turnbull said. “We’re always looking at the process of how we’re educating the students [with] new programs we can bring in.”
Voters will get the opportunity to select their candidates for school trustee Oct. 18 and to listen to them five days earlier at an All-Candidates Forum Oct. 13.