St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools drops on two board positions

After a series of meetings in the fall, the number of trustees will now drop for the St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Schools.

Thalia Hibbs

Thalia Hibbs

After a series of meetings in the fall, the number of trustees will now drop for the local Catholic school division.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division (STAR) board of trustees held a special meeting on Jan. 5 and narrowly voted 5-4 in favour of cutting two trustee positions from the board one each from Wetaskiwin and Drayton Valley lowering the number to seven from the current nine.

Following a lengthy and extensive debate, both Wetaskiwin trustees voted against the idea along with one trustee from Leduc and Drayton Valley. Trustees from Ponoka, Lacombe and Beaumont as well as the other Leduc and Drayton Valley trustees voted in favour.

Board chair Thalia Hibbs, who represents Lacombe, explained the decision was not an easy one to make.

“It was a hard decision, but I’m proud of how the board came to it,” she said in a phone interview Jan. 9.

“There was a lengthy discussion with a lot of perspectives put forward, and questions about the numbers, along with all of the pieces of feedback taken into account and some other numbers considered just so we didn’t miss anything.”

The division, which has about 4,000 students, held meetings in all six communities they serve in October and November as well as accepted online feedback as part of an overall review of its system of representation. It was the first such review since STAR was created in 1994.

“What we heard over and over was that each community still needed to have a voice and that is still there, since each community is really quite distinct,” Hibbs added.

“It’s all about balance and local representation without sacrificing too much. And finding that balance was the ultimate goal of the review and the decision, though changes can be somewhat complicated because of how our boundaries are.”

One of the main factors in the decision to lower the number of trustees was the demographics presented to the board by the consultant who ran the review process. Those figures included the fact that currently each of the nine trustees represent, on average, about 2,800 electors in each ward. That number is a percentage of the slightly more than 100,000 electors that live within the STAR boundaries.

Hibbs also stated the change brings STAR more in line with other school divisions around the province and also regarding the fundamental principles of representation by population and voter parity.

The board will now have to formally revise its bylaws regulating trustees then send it to Alberta Education for final ministerial approval. That is expected to be completed later this spring so the change will be in place in time for the next civic election this October.

In favour:

Leduc Trustee Michelle Lamer

Beaumont Trustee Dan Chalifoux

Drayton Valley Trustee Sandra Bannard

Ponoka Trustee Dan Svitich

Lacombe Trustee (Board chair) Thalia Hibbs

Opposed:

Wetaskiwin Trustees John Tomkinson and Henry Effon

Leduc Trustee Karen Richert

Drayton Valley Trustee Susan Kathol