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ECSD Trustee Election: Who do I Vote For?

Many people have asked me which ECSD candidates running in the October 16 election are independent of the ECSD administration and the archdiocese given my comments in my previous post.  So the following are my picks  based upon my best understanding from what I have read about the candidates online, on their websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, and the LGBTQ Capital Club’s questionnaire.  I have not spoken to any of the candidates directly and they have not asked me to mention their names here.  I have spoken to some of the candidates’ volunteers who have verified that their candidate is socially progressive.

Through this post I also hope to assist the public to easily find the websites, twitter feeds, Facebook sites of the ECSD candidates I recommend.

Ward 71:  Terry Harris

Due to the following email that I received from a constituent, I have decided to change my recommendation to Terry Harris: 

“I listened to Mara Suchy’s response on LGBTQ issues on the ecsd website and I wasn’t convinced she’s a firm advocate.  She spoke of everyone being included but wouldn’t affirm a need for gsa’s specifically.  She spoke of inclusion for First Nations, LGBTQ and anyone not being included as it being the same thing.  She seemed to hedge a bit instead of saying gsa’s are needed.

I called Terry Harris, as it wasn’t an issue addressed on his website or in his video clip. He response was (surprising to me), much more affirming.  He spoke of LGBTQ rights being protected under Canadian law, spoke of the importance of gsa’s for LGBTQ kids and spoke of how many students and staff in the ECSD identify as LGBTQ.  He said it’s an issue important to our community and feeling safe and protected is essential to their well being.  Keeping in mind we are a catholic institution and yet saying that, we are all god’s children…. and bottom line gsa’s have an important place in schools.

As you touched on this in your blog, I thought it might interest you.  For me, it’s a key issue.

I also want to thank you for serving as trustee these last few years and for being such a strong advocate for the LGBTQ community.”

Ward 72: Dan Posa

Though Dan Posa is mentioned on the Edmonton Archdiocesan website, I recommend him because he is the lesser of evils.  He is a business manager for EPSB and responded well to the LGBTQ Capital Club’s Questionnaire.  I think Dan has the potential of thinking independently of administration and the archdiocese.  I do not endorse in any way Mina Angotti.  She was one of the parents who came to speak against my motion to allow some exceptions to the admission policy at Archbishop MacDonald High School at the April 2015 School Board Meeting. You can find her addressing the Board at 20:20 stating “I can’t help but feel that whenever we stand confident as practising Catholics and have effective programs that help us compete on a global stage that we entertain all possibilities because that is what Jesus would do…really?”  Yes really, Ms. Angotti.  Archbishop MacDonald High School is a Catholic high school…no where in the Gospel do I hear Jesus preach about the importance of global competitiveness.  Rather, I hear a lot about mercy.  Ms. Angotti and parents like her, need to ask themselves whether they care that the high school is a Catholic school or an academic one.  From her comments, I suspect that the academic nature of the school is of greater importance to her.

Ward 73:  No recommendation.


Ward 74:  Gabrielle Johnson

Gabrielle’s Twitter

Ms. Johnson recently completed her studies at a Catholic University in Belgium. From Ms. Johnson’s Twitter feed you can see that she is a devout Catholic with good intentions to serve the students of ECSD.  She retweets the archdiocese and sounds like she may have an allegiance to the archbishop that could affect her decisions on the Board.  The other candidate is Debbie Engel has been on the Board for 20 years and has the same allegiance to the archdiocese.  I would suggest that you vote for Ms. Johnson so that our students could be served by someone with fresh ideas and someone who is not so intimately connected to the administration.  Debbie Engel voted to renew the superintendent’s $430,000 salary making Joan Carr the highest paid superintendent in Canada, easily surpassing the annual salaries of provincial premiers and even the prime minister of Canada.  

Ward 75:  Michael Brown FacebookInstagramTwitter

Reading through Michael Brown’s website, he seems fairly progressive and independent of the administration and archdiocese.  He has not completed the LGBTQ Capital Club Survey and is not mentioned on the archdiocesan website.  I received his responses to questions posed by a Ward 75 constituent which you can read here:  Michael Brown Responses.  You will note that he is quite traditional on many fronts however, as I mentioned in the case of Mr. Posa of Ward 72, it is a matter of finding the most independent candidate who shows the most compassion for our vulnerable students.

I would not recommend Arlene Maluta who is well connected to the Archdiocese.  Glenn Argan is the previous editor of the Western Catholic Reporter and is also conservative but not so much in the archbishop’s pocket.  He lost his job as Editor of the WCR when the archbishop closed down the newspaper cf. Closure of WCR which (I would venture to guess) did not sit well with him…

Ward 76:  Marilyn Bergstra

Re-Elect Marilyn Bergstra

Marilyn Bergstra Blog


Trustee Bergstra has worked very hard on the ECSD Board and was one of 2 progressive voices for LGBTQ students on the Board (I being the other one).  In her last term she brought forward motions to mandate vaccines for students attending public schools, to teach age appropriate curriculum on how to report sexual abuse, to create a meaningful LGBTQ policy, to enhance the mental health and well being of students, and voted against the renewal of the superintendent’s $430,000 salary.

Trustee Bergstra is only one of two ECSD candidates to sign the Support Our Student’s pledge  to support LGBTQ youth. Kristin Heimbecker running in ward 77 is the other ECSD candidate.

I would not recommend Lisa Turchansky who is very connected to the archdiocese with her aunt Lorraine Turchansky working as Archbishop Smith’s Director of Communications and Public Relations. As well, Patty Liogier who is the Vice Principal of Archbishop Joseph MacNeil high school is assisting in a very clear way with her campaign.  Take a look at this:

LiogierLiogier car 1Liogier car 2

Ms. Liogier’s car is very visible in front of Archbishop Joseph MacNeil school using her car to campaign for Ms. Turchansky.   I wrote in my blog last week of the dangers of administration getting too involved in the elections and here is a classic case.  How is Ms. Turchansky if she is elected a trustee, going to remain objective when a parent of Ms. Liogier’s school has a complaint?  Who do you think Ms. Turchansky will represent if she is elected — the administration or you and your child?  I would suggest that the public phone Superintendent Joan Carr at 780-441-6019 to make a complaint about her staff’s involvement in Ms. Turchansky’s campaign.  I would also suggest that if Ms. Carr does not do anything about this, it’s because she as involved in Ms. Turchansky’s campaign as her staff.

Ward 77:  Kristin Heimbecker

Kristin’s Facebook

Kristin’s Twitter Feed

Ms. Heimbecker signed the Support Our Student’s pledge  to support LGBTQ youth.  No other ECSD candidates other than Marilyn Bergstra and Kristin have done so.  Ms. Heimbecker is being supported by progressive people across Edmonton and so I would recommend her for this ward.

I would not recommend re-electing Laura Thibert – she voted to renew the superintendent’s outrageous $430,000 contract, rarely brought forward motions and was highly influenced by the administration during her two terms.  She is not an independent thinker.  I would also not recommend Kara Pelech — she was a trustee for one term from 2007 – 2010 and was ousted by Thibert in 2010.  This is telling in its own right.



A Letter to the Electors/Tax Payers of Alberta

Dear Elector/Tax Payer,

I have been an active member of my church and community for many years.  I graduated from St. Michael’s College, Faculty of Theology with a Master of Divinity which set me on the path to parish and retreat ministry in the Catholic Church.  My life however, has been devoted not only to service to the church but to my community and the general public.  When my husband and I moved to Edmonton with our two children (number three came along a few years later) I coordinated the children’s liturgy at our parish and let my name stand for President of the Woodcroft Community League.

One of the most challenging issues I had to deal with as President of the Community League was the potential closure of the community’s local EPSB elementary school. The elementary school was one of many schools at that time that was closed in spite of public outrage.  As time went on and one school was closed after the other, the public became aware that democratically elected school trustees were listening more to their administrations than to those who elected them.  In the wake of the school closures, the Association of Responsive Trustees in Edmonton Schools (ARTES) was born.  ARTES was the group that recruited the likes of Christopher Spencer, Dave Colburn, Sarah Hoffman, Michael Janz, and Heather MacKenzie who once elected, put a moratorium on school closures until a more palatable plan could be found.   I too was recruited through ARTES in their mission to put electors back in the driver’s seat in both the public and Catholic systems.

Interference and Bullying from the Administration

ARTES searched for and found people who understood that their role as democratically elected trustees was to be governors of school districts, not the handmaid of their administrations.  With this in mind, the newly elected 2010 EPSB trustees got to work extricating their administration from their Board.  They did this by first hiring a superintendent who understood that his role was to serve the Board in its governance role.  They also removed the administration from their bench in the public chambers.  Instead of sitting in the middle of the panel, the superintendent now sits across from them.  The Board secretary was also removed from the panel and now sits off to the side at a desk facing the trustees.   Having the Board room set up in this way is exactly the way City Council Chambers is arranged [1].

According to consultant George B. Cuff in his Report on Governance prepared for the ECSD Board in 2012, “A sound organization can only function when the respective roles of its leaders are clear to all…Role definition is also important in terms of what the chair does that is different than the Superintendent.  These roles should be unique.  One represents the policy-making aspects of leadership while the other represents the administration of Board-approved policies and resolutions”.  Looking back at my 4 years at ECSD, my experience has been that the Board was not clear on its mandate and deferred to the Superintendent to write and develop their strategic plan and Board policies.  Superintendents and administrators don’t write policy, Boards do.  But what I witnessed again and again was a majority of trustees permitting the administration to venture into the Board’s “sandbox”, allowing the administration to take over and become enmeshed in the governance role of the Board.

George Cuff advised the Board in his Report that “independence is absolutely essential to good governance. The alternative is a governing body so fully reliant on its administration that concurrence with all administrative advice and /or decisions is taken for granted”.  This lack of independence was evidenced by the reluctance on the part of the majority of trustees to meet independently of the superintendent.  And I personally experienced time and again an effort on the part of the administration to stifle my role as a trustee.   Even the simplest things like trying to connect with my constituents through visits to my schools, was made very difficult.  (cf. Klotz Email.)

This enmeshment of Board and administration appears symbolically in how our Board room is arranged.  The Chair of the Board sits flanked on both sides by the administration–the Superintendent sits to the Chair’s left and the Secretary to their right.  The Chief Financial Officer is also on the bench to the left.  This speaks volumes to who is really in charge at ECSD – not the trustees and electors but the administration.  Trustee Acheson brought forward a motion this term to have the administration face the trustees but the administration came back with a report stating it would cost thousands of dollars to make the changes.  His motion failed.

If you have the time and patience to watch even a few months of ECSD Board meetings, you will notice that there is always a majority of trustees who not only agree with the administration’s every recommendation but who praise the administration at every opportunity.  Why would they do this?  It’s simple math.  There are 7 trustees who are easily outnumbered by administrators and staff.  If the administrators see a trustee challenging them, they will use their personal connections and influence to make it very difficult for that trustee to visit schools and to meet the parents who could vote for them or if the trustee manages to get invited, neglect to introduce trustees at events.

The administration will run candidates who have long standing friendships with them making it more likely that elected trustees will go along with their recommendations.   You should know for example, that Terry Harris who is running in Ward 71 and is not a resident of the ward, is a long time friend of the ECSD administration and so when he comes to your door, electors should be asking hard questions about who he will represent if he becomes a trustee – the wishes of you and your child or the wishes of the superintendent and administration?

If the administration is particularly bothered by a non- compliant trustee, they will send in their staff to run against them in the upcoming election as happened to Trustee John Acheson.  He was a non-compliant trustee who asked questions and was never quick to rubber stamp the administration’s recommendations.  In the 2013 election Board Secretary Andrea Klotz ran against him.  He won the election but he had to spend the next 4 years working side by side with Ms. Klotz who returned to her position as Board Secretary.  I had to work alongside Chief Financial Officer Barry Devlin after seeing him hand out flyers for my opponent Terry Harris during the 2013 election.  It is very difficult for a Board to work well and develop relationships of trust with their administration when they are facing off with them during municipal elections.  I would suggest that the Ministry of Education should introduce guidelines that would discourage administrators from active involvement in municipal elections in order to promote trusting relationships between administration and the Board.

And as I mentioned above, this issue of administrators running roughshod over elected trustees is not a situation unique to ECSD.  EPSB experienced this prior to 2010 and I have learned of an Alberta school board recently that replaced their superintendent because he was disrespecting the role of the elected Board.  It’s an occupational hazard that I believe, is much more common than tax payers realize.  It takes however, strong minded and courageous trustees to take the required steps to remove the CEO who disrespects the governance role of the Board.

It costs tax payers millions of dollars to fund the 61 school boards across Alberta.  ECSD Board alone costs tax payers over a million dollars in salaries and administrative support.   If Boards are just rubber stamping what the administration wants, why have school boards?  In the words of George Cuff “If there would be little discernible difference to how the organization functions regardless of whether a Board meeting was held or not, the question needs to be asked:  ‘why meet’?”. What I am suggesting is that tax payers could be electing and footing the bill for Boards that are not adding much value.  It’is very important then, that you ask trustee candidates what their relationship is with the district’s administration and if they are willing to think independently.

Interference and Bullying from the Archdiocese

Not only is it an occupational hazard for Boards to be overrun by their administrators but with Catholic boards, the problem is compounded by the role of the church hierarchy.   Canon Law 803 states that “A catholic school is understood to be one which is under the control of the competent ecclesiastical authority…No school, even if it is in fact catholic, may bear the title ‘catholic school’ except by the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority”. Instead of working collaboratively with the ECSD Board, Archbishop Richard Smith chose to use this Canon to put undue pressure on it.

In December 2014 Archbishop Richard Smith used Canon Law to threaten to remove the catholic designation of the ECSD Board when Trustee Bergstra was intending to bring forward a motion to encourage the establishment of GSAs in our Catholic schools.  All the administrators and trustees who were present at this meeting at the Pastoral Centre – about 10 of us — would have to lie under oath to deny that this happened. I am embarrassed to admit that in those early days of my term, I was influenced by the archbishop’s threat and asked Trustee Bergstra not to bring forward her motion.  She didn’t and in the end didn’t have to because the provincial government soon passed Bill 10.

Not only did the archbishop threaten the Board but he meddled in our Board’s policy making.[2]   When Trustee Acheson and I were working on developing an LGBTQ policy, Archbishop Smith wrote a letter to Trustee Acheson to wait for and follow what the Catholic Superintendents were developing (cf. Letter from Smith 20.08.15.)  Neither Catholic Superintendents nor the archbishop is elected and their job is not to write policy for school districts.  This is the role of duly elected trustees.  Yet here is an example of administrators and the hierarchy working together to try to undermine the role of elected Boards.

It is interesting that in 2013 I could barely get on church property to hand out my election flyers but today, the archdiocese is in full election mode with articles about trustee candidates posted on its website.  It becomes immensely clear who is in and who is out.  The Archdiocesan reporter gives glowing reviews of approved candidates while maligning their opposition.

I have never seen such an interest by the archdiocese and the bishops in the outcome of trustee elections.  Perhaps they have become disturbed that well educated trustees are not interested in following their antiquated ideas about women, the HPV vaccine, GSAs, LGBTQ, transgender washroom access, participation in Pride Parades etc.  They are astounded that some Catholic trustees are actually following their own conscience and the Gospel rather than their dictates.  I have to admit that I stopped listening to them when a member of the clergy –a representative sent on behalf of the archbishop — stated in a closed door meeting with the ECSD Board that “Maybe Catholic schools are not the place for transgender students”.  Another moment was when I asked the archbishop if he had anything to do with denying the 7 year old transgender girl access to the girls’ washroom.  He said no.  I asked him because previous to this, the superintendent declared the archbishop would not change his mind on the matter. What does one make of that?  Who was telling the truth? It is at moments like these that the clergy and Catholic leaders lose their credibility and become counter signs of the Gospel message.

So dear Elector/Tax Payer, when a candidate for Catholic school Board comes to your door, ask them what their relationship is with the administration, the archbishop, the archdiocese and the clergy.  Will they write policy that will support your children or support the church’s antiquated doctrines?

Contradictory Policies and Waste of Tax Dollars

It is important that you ask these questions because the new Board will be making decisions that will impact your children and your pocket book.   One is the decision to amalgamate yellow bus service with EPSB.  This decision has been delayed and delayed to ensure the decision is made after the election when the archdiocese and the administration hope a more compliant group of trustees is elected.  There is a reluctance to amalgamate yellow bus service for the same reason as there is a reluctance to share science labs in Red Deer (cf. Alberta Views article Beyond Belief).  If the Catholic Boards look too willing to cooperate with their public counterparts, the concern is that the next step will be a complete amalgamation of the two systems.  I do hope that the new Board will not cave to pressure from the archdiocese and will vote to amalgamate EPSB and ECSD bus systems because it will mean huge cost savings (at least $2 million/year) and ride times will be reduced considerably.

Another decision the new Board will face is opening a proposed grade 9-12 NAIT Collegiate.  Both EPSB and ECSD want to collaborate with NAIT to build this facility that will give high school students a head start on their education in the technical fields.  If a conservative group of ECSD trustees is elected, they will not permit shared use of space with EPSB.  There will be separate labs, separate entrances, 2 principals– a duplication of everything at the dear elector’s expense – due to an Alberta Catholic School Trustee Association (ACSTA) policy.  Is this what you want to pay for?

It does not make financial sense to duplicate everything so that Catholic students remain unsullied by their public counterparts – especially when Catholic schools under circumstances that suit them, will turn away Catholic students in favour of public ones.  I am referencing what happens at Archbishop MacDonald High School every September.

Catholic students who have attended Catholic schools since they were in Kindergarten but who miss the 75% requirement by 1% are denied entrance to this school – even if the student lives right down the street.  That spot will be filled by an EPSB student who did make the grade.  On of my constituents who lived 2 blocks away from Archbishop MacDonald High was turned away because of that missing 1%.  She had to take 2 buses– an hour long bus ride each way –to attend her Catholic high school.  She had to leave all her friends from her years at ECSD and from her community because of 1%.

When I made a motion that Archbishop MacDonald High School should make some exceptions to the rule, Archbishop MacDonald parents stood up at the public board meeting and berated me for trying to reduce the high academic standards of this school. They spoke about the competitive world that our students must be prepared for.  I’m sorry but I thought that since mercy is the essence of the Gospel (cf. Pope Francis’ theologian Walter Kasper’s book Mercy:  The Essence of the Gospel) it should be at the heart of Catholic schools – not competition. Needless to say, my motion to allow some exceptions to the 75% entrance requirement failed.

I wrote to Archbishop Smith about this situation but he took no action.  I wrote to the Pope’s representative in Canada –the Papal Nuncio – and he took no action either.  I believe that this high school is a scandal to Catholic education and wonder if it is even legal to be turning away Catholic students in favour of accepting public ones.  And so under your eyes, dear Elector/Tax Payer, Catholic schools are accepting public students over Catholic ones while at the same time wasting tax payers’ dollars by duplicating facilities so Catholic students do not learn side by side with their public counterparts.    You must ask yourselves if this make any sense whatsoever.


Why I am not Running Again and Should Stand Alone Catholic Schools Continue to Exist?

I am not running again because I am highly disappointed in the archdiocesan leadership.  It is very difficult for me to feel proud to be a Catholic trustee when the hierarchy is speaking and acting contrary to the Gospel.  It is hard for me to stand by and watch them use our 100% publicly funded Catholic schools to promote their hatred and bigotry while wasting tax payers dollars on duplicating facilities and updating such things as the religious education curriculum to the tune of $4.8  million dollars ($368,000 x 13 grades)[3].

You may be wondering if I still believe in the continued existence of Catholic schools.  Good question and my answer is no.  From what I have seen over the last 4 years, I do not believe that Catholic schools are any better academically, socially or even spiritually than their public counterparts.  My son who was bullied in his Catholic school and found a welcoming community at EPSB.  I am grateful to the principal and the staff who nurtured his self confidence.  He continues to thrive at our local neighbourhood public high school where he attends with his many friends he made both at school and in our community.  I’m sure that there are parents who have moved their child out of EPSB to an ECSD school and had the very same experience.  My point is, it’s the school that makes the difference, the principal, the teachers, the mix of students, not whether it’s Catholic or public.  I believe that ECSD has many excellent and compassionate teachers, principals and staff who make a wonderful difference in the lives of the students and families they serve.  But I have seen the same quality of teachers, principals and staff at EPSB.  So I have come to agree with the Public School Board Association of Alberta (PSBAA) that Catholic schools could be a program of choice under the umbrella of one unified system.  There are public schools in Alberta such as in Beaumont that already operate with Catholic programs of choice.


I must say, to be fair, that the ECSD administration is to be commended for their improvement of First Nations high school graduation rates and the creation of the 100 Voices pre-school program for which they have rightfully won awards.  They have done good work which I would be remiss not to mention.  But I would suggest that these successes have been undermined by the administration’s meddling in and undermining of the governance role of the Board. In Catholic districts, the role of trustees is being further undermined by the interference of the archbishop and clergy.  I suggest that we are at a cross roads.  If democratically elected trustees continue to be neutered by these outside forces then the role of trustees has become irrelevant and we should either shut them down or seek reform.  Now you know the problem, the next steps are yours.  Here is what I would suggest going forward:

Calls to Action

  1. Call on the Minister of Education to include trustees under the Whistleblower Act
  2. Call on the Minister of Education to give trustees formal access to the services of the Ethics Commissioner.[4]
  3. Call on the Minister of Education to amend the School Act to state that Canon Law 803 does not apply to Catholic schools in Alberta
  4. Call on the Minister of Education to publicly declare that Catholic schools are not theocracies but 100% publicly funded institutions that are run by democratically elected trustees
  5. Ensure you ask trustee candidates if they are able to think and act independently from school administrations, the archdiocese and clergy.

Thank you to my family and all my supporters over the last 4 years – I couldn’t have completed my term without your kind words and encouragement.

[1] The City Manager does not sit beside the Mayor and Councillors but sits across from them.  It’s made very clear that the City Manager works for the public through the Mayor and Councillors.

[2] In the Alberta Views article Is this the End of Catholic Schools?  Adriana LaGrange, President of the ACSTA denies that the bishops get involved on a day to day basis in the Catholic schools and do not write policy.  This is not true.  The Archbishop sends his representatives into the schools, to our public board meetings, to meetings such as those discussing the transgender child’s use of the washroom and to meetings at which we were discussing the LGBTQ policy. One of his representatives Fr. Dean Dowle was present at a school meeting with the mother of the seven year old transgender child and several administrators and is heard on tape asking the mother how she disciplines her child.  When a teacher invited their colleagues to the Pride Parade, Fr. Dean responded with the following email:  Dean Dowle Email to Teachers .  Teachers I am told were not impressed cf. Teachers Response to Dowle Email

[3] This number is only for ECSD and does not include the costs for updating the same religious education curriculum that must be used in all 18 of Alberta’s Catholic districts.  This curriculum which was developed and recently updated by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is used in Catholic schools across Canada.

[4] I called the Office of the Ethics Commissioner in January 2017 to ask advice on whether Trustee Kowalczyk was in a conflict of interest when voting on the superintendent’s contract since his wife is a principal in the district.  The superintendent was his wife’s direct supervisor.  The Office of the Ethics Commissioner told me he was in a conflict of interest according to our Bylaws.  When the media asked the Office if they communicated with me, they would not confirm this.  See my blog post on this matter for a screen shot of the call from my phone to the Office.

Good News for the Artist in Residence School Program

On August 2, 2017 I received the following good news from the Government of Alberta in response to my email of April 28, 2017.  I asked that since the AFA had had their funding levels restored, could the Minister of Culture encourage the AFA to restore funding to the Artist in Residence Program (The AFA had received their own funding cuts in 2015 which they passed along to artists).  My constituents will be happy to hear that the 50% funding cut to the Artist in Residence program from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) in 2015 has been reversed.   A new government with an understanding of the importance of the AFA’s programs, including the Artist in Residence school program, has made a big difference.  Not only would I like to thank the Alberta Government, but I would like to especially thank the late Helen Clease then President of the Alberta School Board Association for joining Mark Henderson, Executive Director of Theatre Prospero and I last spring in a meeting with Ricardo Miranda, Minister of Culture to request that the government restore funding to the AFA and their programs.  Helen’s leadership on this issue led to writing a letter of  support on behalf of ASBA to Minister Miranda.  I appreciate as well the support of my fellow trustees across the province who passed a resolution at the ASBA Fall 2016 Conference to support arts experiences in our schools.  Here is the email from Minister Miranda:

Dear Ms. Grell:

Thank you for your email concerning artist residencies in schools and available funding through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) Artists and Education Project Funding stream.

The Government of Alberta believes exposure to the arts has a positive impact on the lives of all Albertans. Our government is proud that thousands of artists and arts organizations across the province each year benefit from support through the AFA.

With an increase of $5 million to the AFA, Budget 2017 increased its support of the arts and creative industries to more than $31.5 million. This investment will help to sustain and grow the arts sector into the future.

Arts organizations will receive additional operational and project support to help weather the continuing economic challenges caused by the steep decline in global oil prices. More individual artists applying for project funding will receive AFA support. By creating new economic opportunities for artists and arts organizations, we help ensure people will continue to enjoy and fully experience Alberta’s culture and creativity.

The AFA announced its 2017-18 budget, which outlines how it allocated these additional funds. The AFA board approved a budget that supports greater access, excellence, and sustainability of the arts sector and seeks to increase funding for as many stakeholders as possible.

I am pleased to share with you that the AFA’s Artists and Education project grant stream has been allocated a budget of $1.02 million, more than double last year’s support levels. This is the largest single project opportunity increase in the AFA’s 2017-18 budget. The AFA board recognizes the importance of having youth participate and learn from Alberta artists and felt it was important continue to support this program.

Arts access for youth is also being increased through additional funds for the AFA’s Summer Schools program and the Alberta’s Future Leaders program. The AFA is committed to developing a long-term strategy to promote youth engagement in the arts.

More information about the AFA’s 2017-18 budget can be found on its website at If you have further questions regarding the AFA budget or the funding allocation to the Artists and Education program, please contact Ms. Helen Chimirri‑Russell, Director, Arts Development, at 780-415-0307 (toll-free by first calling 310-0000) or

I appreciate your interest in this important issue.

Best Regards,

Ricardo Miranda

Minister of Culture and Tourism


NDP Government Commits $ to Playgrounds for New Schools

The following good news was provided by the Government of Alberta:

All new and replacement schools will soon get a $250,000 provincial grant for a playground, saving Alberta families millions of dollars. Premier Notley and Minister Eggen announced a playground grant program at Vista Heights School in Calgary. The $20-million program will apply to all new schools with kindergarten to Grade 6 programs announced between 2014 and 2018. Replacement schools approved in 2017-18 are eligible if the school is being built on a new site without an existing playground. “We know that playgrounds not only benefit the students who get to use them, but they serve the community as a whole. They are hubs where parents and children meet and play together. Our government believes playgrounds are extremely important to local communities and that is why we are funding them to make life better and more affordable for Albertans.” Rachel Notley, Premier. More than 50 previously announced school projects across the province are currently eligible for the playground grant funding. Should additional schools be announced in 2018, those schools would also be eligible. Alberta’s Capital Plan commits $20 million over the next four years towards school playgrounds. “Building a playground at the same time as a school is being built just makes sense. I am proud that our government is working to protect and improve education, and this includes the interactions and activity that students take part in outdoors.” David Eggen, Minister of Education. “Playgrounds are an essential part of all students’ school experiences. Our children deserve safe, outdoor play areas that encourage engagement while they learn and develop their physical and social skills during free time and recess. I’m happy the province is committing more resources to playgrounds, and I would really like to see an even greater commitment to playgrounds in the future.” Justin Murray, parent and member of the Vista Heights School Council and Parent Enhancement Society. Should a school community wish to build a playground that costs more than the $250,000 provided, they will have the option of fundraising to supplement the project. New schools that receive the Education playground grant will not be eligible for other provincial grants that support playground construction. If a community wants to upgrade or replace an existing playground, they are able to apply for the Community Facility Enhancement Program grant offered through Culture and Tourism.



Trustee Inquiry: May 30, 2017

I made the following inquiry at the May 30, 2017 ECSD Public Board Meeting:  The inquiry is in relation to Resolution 3-61/17 passed at the ARA conference May 20- 21, 2017 which stated:

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Alberta Teachers’ Association urge Roman Catholic school boards to recognize and respect the right of their teachers to exercise their individual professional judgement with regard to religious instruction and permeation of religion in the planning and teaching of lessons, evaluation of students, the selection of learning resource and professional development.

Trustee Inquiry:  Have ECSD teachers been directed not to use the Professionals Respecting and supporting Individual Sexual Minorities Toolkit (PRISM Toolkit) which was created by the ATA and Alberta Education?  If so, who is directing them not to use it and why?

Motion for June 20 Public Board Meeting

To:  Board of Trustees

From:  Patricia Grell

RE:  Alberta Teachers’ Association Resolution

The ATA passed the following resolutions at the 100th Annual Representative Assembly (ARA):

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Alberta Teachers’ Association affirm the importance of constitutionally established denominational education and support the legitimacy of denominational education provided by Roman Catholic separate school boards as a vital component of Alberta’s public education system, insofar as they operate in accordance with human rights legislation (3-59/17)

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Alberta Teachers’ Association urge separate school boards, notwithstanding their denominational rights, to treat all teachers equitably relative to their employment rights (3-60/17)

Given the fact that

  1. Alberta’s Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the grounds of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression,
  2. The Canadian Human Rights Act includes Sexual Orientation in its list of prohibited grounds of discrimination
  3. that in early June the Canadian Senate is poised to pass Bill C-16 which will add Gender Identity and Expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act’s list of prohibited grounds of discrimination
  4. given the fact that money designated for the classroom is currently being used to fight denominational rights in regards to these protections such as in the case of Jan Buterman, I propose the following motion:


That the ECSD Board of Trustees support the ATA resolutions passed at the ARA 2017 conference and not use our denominational rights as a basis for discrimination against LGBTQ teachers and

That if the Board passes this motion, that no more of ECSD’s educational dollars will go to support the case against Jan Buterman.

Apology to Counsel Karbonik

The following was read at the May 30 ECSD public Board Meeting:

I would like to wholeheartedly and unreservedly apologize to Counsel Carole Karbonik for the disrespectful remark that I made at our Public Board meeting held March 21st, 2017. Carole is a professional who is following orders, like any other district employee, and she deserves to be respected at a public board meeting and it is the Superintendent and the Board who should be held accountable, not our staff. I’ve blogged before about how I believe she is put in a terribly awkward position in her role in the district which is under the direct authority of the Superintendent.  I should have been mindful of this when I made my remarks. My issue is with our process, not with her and I regret my remark. This has been a teachable moment for me and I hope also for the Board and Superintendent.  We should be mindful of the difficult position with which we are placing our staff – especially our legal counsel when we ask them to provide an opinion on an issue that affects their role in our district directly.  Asking Ms. Karbonik to give a legal opinion on her supervisor’s contract was completely and unequivocally unfair.  On January 27, 2017 prior to the vote on the Superintendent`s contract I did recommend to the Board that we get an external legal opinion on the contract however, my recommendation went unheeded by the Board.  So it is the Board and the Superintendent to whom I should be directing my concern not to Counsel Karbonik.  For this I am very sorry. Again, my apologies to Counsel Karbonik.