STAR Catholic board getting ahead of the curve

One local school board is trying to get ahead of Alberta Education for once.

One local school board is trying to get ahead of Alberta Education for once.

The St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Board (STAR) held one of six town hall meetings in the communities it serves at St. Augustine Catholic School on Oct. 13 as part of its ward boundary review process.

STAR was originally created in 1994 by combining a couple of Catholic school divisions as a result of the provincial government at the time cutting the number of school divisions by nearly two-thirds to just 61. STAR then grew with the inclusion a few years later of schools in Drayton Valley and Wetaskiwin.

“The expectation of this review is to begin ahead of the curve and be proactive,” STAR board chair Thalia Hibbs told those at the meeting.

“We haven’t discussed anything at the board level in detail and believe that all of the discussion and thoughts from the public will be beneficial.”

Brian Callaghan, a consultant from the Alberta School Boards Association, which represents school boards in the province, was hired to conduct the review and present any findings to the STAR board of trustees. His report is due by the end of January in order for any changes to be sent to Alberta Education for approval so it can be implemented for the October 2017 election.

About 20 people were in attendance, though none raised any questions about what the outcome of the review should be. For the most part, they listened to Callaghan’s presentation that also included a number of statistics and three options: keeping the status quo regarding the wards with nine trustees, redistributing the number of electors each trustee represents or reducing the number of trustees.

At present, each trustee represents an average of 2,800 Catholic electors based upon a percentage of the slightly more than 100,000 electors that actually live in the wards covered by STAR. Currently, there are two trustees for Leduc, Drayton Valley and Wetaskiwin with one trustee for each of Beaumont, Lacombe and Ponoka.

The dilemma though, as explained by Callaghan, is since the four wards (with Lacombe and Beaumont being sub-wards within the Ponoka and Leduc areas) have no boundaries that touch and that makes it difficult to redistribute and keep people engaged in the process.