If it’s not broken, why change it?
That’s essentially the reaction of the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools division following a narrowly successful 4-3 motion by their public school counterparts that supports a single publicly funded education system in Alberta.
The Red Deer Public School District board of trustees passed the motion on Wednesday during their regular meeting. Diane Macauley, Bill Stuebing, Jim Watters and Bill Christie voted in favour of the motion. Bev Manning, Dick Lemke and Cathy Peacocke voted against it.
Guy Pelletier, Catholic school board chairman, said Thursday that after conversations the past month with the public school board, he understands now that part of the motivation is to serve the needs of students better.
“I think that’s admirable. We’re happy to do that and to have a conversation about that. Is amalgamating school divisions the best way to do that? I don’t think so. I don’t think that would provide the best service to our students.”
Part of what makes Alberta so successful from an education perspective is that there are choices, such as public, Catholic, home schooling, francophone and charter schools, Pelletier said. Each division can then tailor its courses and delivery to the needs of its students.
“Certainly our track record of that is impeccable and we have terrific student growth all across the division. … We had a growth rate of 4.5 per cent last year, much higher that the population growth rate, so I don’t see any compelling argument to change that. What we have is working very well.”
Pelletier said this issue comes up from time to time but it never gains traction. Communications with Alberta Education have always been very positive and he doesn’t believe there’s much of a movement for a single system.
“It’s a bit difficult not to take this personally,” he admits. “It feels perhaps like one group feels they can deliver a product better or differently. … As trustees let’s focus on making our divisions the best we can and not worry about trying to merge something when there’s no benefit to doing that.”
Maybe the Catholic trustees need to communicate more closely and better with their public school colleagues so they can better understand why the Catholic board is so committed to maintaining the division, he said.
A single system does not serve students who choose Catholic education at all, Pelletier said. “It’s quite the opposite. It’s harmful to them and as trustees we’re not going to let that happen. And there is no wave suggesting it should happen.”