Sturgeon School Division board chair says board ready to help on secular issue

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – While the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional School Division (GSACRD) board is shopping around for potential education partners to deliver secular education to those Morinville families who want it, Sturgeon School Division’s (SSD) board says they are ready and willing to lend a hand.

Board Chair Terry Jewell said during Wednesday night’s board meeting the two boards met Apr. 20 to discuss the prospect.
“We clearly indicated to GSACRD that we’re interested and qualified and geographically located,” Jewell said. “I’d be disappointed if they wandered off 50 kilometres.”

But wandering away from the neighbouring school division is a possibility. Jewell said he was told by GSACRD the division is out shopping for a service provider, a revelation the board chair finds disappointing given the willingness of his division to offer a non-faith-based education to Morinville students.

Numbers will tell the tale

While the Catholic Public division is shopping around for potential educational partners, they are also waiting on the results of a survey that they believe will determine what the need in Morinville actually is. GSACRD recently contracted Pivotal Research to conduct an independent survey of parents who have children attending GSACRD’s Morinville schools as well as a random phone survey of no less than 400 residents to gauge the interest in a non-faith-based education in the town.

Surveys are scheduled to go home with students Friday night and results are expected to be revealed by the end of May.
The survey has come under criticism from those who are in support of a secular public education for the community because they feel its scope is not large enough to reflect the true needs and wishes of the community. It is a position SSD Chair Terry Jewell agrees with.

“When we’re counting noses we need to count all of the folks,” Jewell said Wednesday night. “Not a survey but a census.” Jewell said with his board’s meeting with Education minister Dave Hancock, it was his understanding the minister agreed with the point about a census.

But with a survey about to get under way and the school year rapidly coming to a close, time is running out to have a secular option in place by fall.

“Each day that goes by it becomes harder to provide a meaningful service to kids,” Jewell said, adding that at the end of the day it was the students that count.

Parents pleased

Thee members of the parent delegation attended Wednesday night’s meeting to see if they could learn the outcome of the meeting between GSACRD and SSD. Donna Hunter, spokesperson for the group, said she was pleased with Sturgeon School Division’s efforts.

“I was very encouraged to hear Sturgeon School Division response; how interested they are, that they want to provide the program,” Hunter said after Wednesday night’s board meeting. “Geographically, they feel they are the best suited to provide it.”

Hunter said she is pleased Sturgeon is so willing to assist and work towards a solution. “Now we just need the actual permission and authority to get going,” she said.

The public school advocate said she was also pleased to hear Sturgeon School Division would like to see a census as opposed to the survey currently underway.

“If you want to actually find out, you have to survey the entire electorate, house by house, parent by parent,” Hunter said. “You need to do a census not a survey. I’m very excited to hear that the minister is leaning that way as well. Hopefully that can get going.”

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  1. We all need to be able to vote on this issue.

    My Son goes to Bellrose high school in St. Albert, so I will not get to have a say. He goes to Bellrose for a reason! (It is a long two way drive twice a day.)

    I think GSACRD is hoping to cash in on the satisfaction of parents with the schooling that their children are getting.

    I too, had children in this system and cannot say I was unhappy with it.


    I would have chosen secular, if given a choice and would choose it now if NOT denied a choice.

  2. While things are slowly going the right way, to ask/order the Catholic Board to go looking for a non-secular education option is ludicrous. This argument/discussion has gone on for months and the majority still don’t get it – Public schools should be run by Public boards, as is the default for most of Canada (Morinville and Legal excepted). This should automatically fall to the Public (Sturgeon School Division) school division to figure out. The GSACRD should have no active role in this other than to decide which assets move. At least one friend has said “what about sweat equity – we put the work into our schools.” As far as I’m concerned, if the Catholic schools are public, then this is not an issue as all that is happening is another “division” of the public school system is getting some resources. No one “owns” public schools.

    I hate to rant, but I can’t get over why people keep calling the Catholic Board public. It isn’t. A board that only practising Catholics can serve on is not public, so I wish that term would be dropped. That is perpetuating part of the problem. Catholic schools are Catholic, not public. The only way you can begin to consider them public is that, like most other schools, they get public funding. Bring in Sturgeon and let them do it.

    In the end, this issue has already dragged on due to the two most divisive factors you can have – religion and politics. By having the Sturgeon Board come forward publicly, we will see another element rear its ugly head – egos. After watching the “train wreck” interview by the Catholic Division Superintendent, I can’t see him accepting any help from Sturgeon, despite it being the most geographical (and therefore logical) solution. If schools boards are geographical and GSACRD has control over Morinville, then we have a bigger fundamental problem on the horizon.

    While we will take a step in the right direction, to be fair, you can’t ask or force a Catholic Board to have secular interests as a priority. In fact, I imagine that some people out there who desperately hope that the non-secular option gets badly pooched so they can come back and say “we told you to leave things as they were.” People who put their religion, politics and egos first tend to forget that. I can hardly wait to see how it plays out as most of Morinville is watching. Who loses in the end? The kids.

  3. @Brent
    “A board that only practising Catholics can serve on is not public”

    Trustees from Morinville ward do not have to be Catholic.

    It makes sense for Sturgeon to provide secular education in Morinville.Why didn’t they step up right from the beginning?

  4. It makes sense that a public school board represent the public it’s supposed to serve. All of the public. If that board says it can not or will not serve the public then those board members should be disbanded and replaced with people who can and will.

    If you told your boss and the public, repeatedly, that you could not and would not perform your duties at work because you truely felt your calling was to only look after 30% of your responsibilities, how long do you think it would be before you were looking for new employment?

    Sturgeon holds no blame in this as it’s not their division. They can not do a thing in Morinville until GSACRD invites them too.


    Thomas Kirsop

  5. Correct me if I am wrong but there are teachers n Mornville that are also not Catholic.

  6. As a taxpayer in Morinville, I believe I also have a right to decide what type of schooling is provided here. My daughter went to Sturgeon Composite because I did not do my home work about the school system here until after we bought in Morinville. Unfortunately for her, she had to be bussed from Morinville, which meant that instead of a ten minute walk to and from the high school here in Morinville, she was on a bus for an hour each way to and from Sturgeon Comp. Also, the bus only made three stops, all on 100 Ave, so there was a considerable walk to and fom the bus every day. We were also informed that although “free” bussing was in place at the time of enrollment, it could be cancelled at any time, without reason, and then transportation, and the cost of, would become the responsibilty of the individual families! If we had know this prior to moving to Morinville, we would never have moved here.

  7. Can anyone explain to me how GSACRD got to be the group running the education system in Morinville (and Legal)in the first place? Morinville is like an island in the middle of Sturgeon County. Shouldn’t Morinville be in Sturgeon County eductional system?

  8. Paul – Teachers may not be catholic in this area or some other area but they are required to fall in line with appropriate conduct and forget non-catholic teachers being promoted into counselling, administration or into central office (this rarely happens if at all).

  9. @Brad ACTUALLY…..GSACRD is a Public funded board…it is NOT funded by a Catholic school. They named themselves “Catholic-Public” which they were told by the Minister of EDUCATION that it was made up terminology and illegal and they HAVE TO FIX IT!! So NO Catholic school board should not have to fund Public school…but GSACRD is really PUBLIC FUNDING.It sad but true…look into it.

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