The need for more space in the Red Deer Catholic School Division was the biggest issue heard from current trustees and those seeking election at a meet and greet held Thursday evening.
With enrolment up nearly 6% this year, every candidate said space constraints need to be addressed.
Adriana LaGrange, who has been a Red Deer Catholic school trustee for 10 years, said the regional division has grown exponentially.
“We have tremendous growth. When I first started 10 years ago we had 5,600 students and we’re over 10,000 in our school division,” she said. “We do go all the way out to Rocky Mountain House and down to Olds, so we are seeing growth throughout the whole division.”
Murray Hollman, who is seeking a second term on the board, said he recognizes the space constraints in the Catholic schools.
“With our astronomical growth rate, it’s a good problem to have, but it’s almost growing out of a school a year,” he said, adding increasing needs in the classrooms are also at the top of his mind. “From being able to support our teachers and our students and making sure everything they need are there. Our ESL (English as a Second Language) population is sitting around 30 per cent now, so there are huge needs in classrooms.”
New candidate Cynthia Leyson said she is also hearing other concerns from the community.
“I’m also hearing that the workload for teachers is high. I’m still learning the issues and concerns for teachers.”
Incumbent Anne Marie Watson said space constraints in the school system are also at the forefront of her mind.
“We’ve experienced above average growth for our area consistently, so that is great that people are choosing Catholic education, but it causes some issues when we don’t have enough spaces for our kids and we are packing more and more kids into classrooms,” she said. “We opened two new schools this year, but the need for more schools is there.”
Carlene Smith, running for Catholic School trustee for the first time, said there are many issues she is hearing from the community.
“The big focuses are more schools for our district – we are an ever-growing population and we are struggling to find space for all of our students,” she said, adding she has served on school council for the last seven years. “We need to modernize our old and outdated schools. And we need stable government funding – solid funding that our school district can rely on year over year.”
Candidate Kim Pasula added resources is also a concern.
“We just finished the completion of two new schools and at this time we have a fair number of schools at capacity. People are choosing Catholic education, but at the same time we have to ensure teachers and our schools have the resources they need to provide the high standard of Catholic education.”
Meanwhile, LaGrange added she is seeking re-election because she feels she has much to offer.
“I’m the current president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association and the vice president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association, so I feel very passionate about education, specifically Catholic education. I definitely feel called by God.”
Leyson added she is running because she feels it is the next step for her.
“I’ve worked at Michener Centre for nearly 29 years and I plan to retire. I love children and I would like to advocate for the children and teachers,” she said. “This is a new journey and I hope I get the chance to prove myself to the community. I believe in Catholic education so I would like to continue to advocate and promote that.”
Hollman said he is seeking re-election because his work on the board is not done.
“There is still more of me to give. I am still being called by God to give back and I still really enjoy it.”
Watson added she hopes for another term on the board because she has a strong skill-set to offer.
“I think I bring a fair and balanced perspective to the board table and I think I’ve got a proven track record of success on the board and in our community as a volunteer. I have a passion for serving and I hope to continue that role.”
Smith said her decision to run for the position came after much self reflection.
“Three of my four children are in the school system, so I have a long time in the schools left. If I am going to enter into this type of advocacy, now is the time.”
Pasula added he ultimately wants to make a positive impact.
“I believe Catholic education is important – it always has been and it always will be,” he said. “I thought it was time to step up and make sure we do a better job of advocating for Catholic education.”