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Ward system will not apply to school districts

Casting ballots for school trustees in an at-large election will not change if the City of Red Deer switches to a ward electoral system.

This week, Red Deer Public School District trustees expressed concern that the potential change would have an impact on its elections.

“Our schools do not fit in wards nice and neatly,” said trustee Bill Stuebing.

“About one-third of the students in any one of our schools are from outside the attendance area of the school. In effect, we have students from all over the city attending school all over the city.”

Stuebing said the board wants to avoid the situation where trustees become insular and the interests of the jurisdiction as a whole becomes secondary in a ward system.

“We want to have all trustees concerned about what’s best for all our kids, not just a segment of them,” he said.

Board chairman Lawrence Lee said the board believes in its that a entirety a ward system creates divisions in communities and not collaboration and partnerships.

According to the Education Act, school jurisdictions have the authority to determine whether the trustees are elected by an at-large or ward voting system.

The board affirmed its position by penning a letter to city council and discussing the matter at recent meeting.

On Feb. 4, city council will debate the possibility of a plebiscite in the upcoming Oct. 21 civic election on switching council to an electoral ward system from an at-large system.

The debate is not a new one as council has discussed the issue at length over the years.

Last April, council rejected the move by a vote of 6-3.

Councillors Chris Stephan, Buck Buchanan and Frank Wong were opposed.

The same three councillors have recently brought forward the plebiscite motion because they want the community to be able to weigh in on the decision. Stephan said residents did not have that opportunity when council decided in April.

If the vote is successful, a ward system would still be at least four years away.

In the end, a plebiscite is not binding and it would be up to the current council to make the decision.

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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