New trustee wants to rattle some cages

Patricia Grell

Patricia Grell

October 28, 2013

It was steady as she goes on election day Oct. 21 for Edmonton's Catholic school trustees with all six incumbents who sought re-election back on the board.

But the one new trustee, Patricia Grell, is out to rattle some cages about the Catholicity of Catholic schools.

"Are our schools authentically Catholic?" Grell asked Oct. 22 after winning the seat vacated by retiring board chairperson Becky Kallal. "I think I got voted in by a lot of people because I asked that question."

Grell won the north end Ward 71 with 2,709 votes compared with 1,779 for Terry Harris and 1,588 for Zach Koziak.

Grell said two other trustees – John Acheson and Larry Kowalczyk – tried to raise issues around the Catholicity of the schools over the last three years and were consistently voted down by the board majority.

Proposals for a Catholic education symposium, money for a few teachers to have a full sabbatical to study religious education at Newman Theological College and a full assessment of the Catholicity of the schools were all voted down, she said.

The two trustees who supported those measures won re-election – Acheson by a mere 70 votes in Ward 75 over Andrea Klotz, who is the school board's secretary – but Grell said that still leaves the trio as a minority on the board.

"If we're the only three talking about this, we're not going to get far," she said.

Grell said she's also concerned that the trustees, senior administration and principals of the district are spending much of the week of Oct. 21 holding a leadership conference at the Jasper Park Lodge.

The money, she said, could be much better spent on hiring staff to help special needs students.


"I don't think there's room for Jasper Park Lodge accommodations in all of that," she said, noting that she would not attending the event on principle and because she also has a full-time job.

The leadership conference, meanwhile, could be held at Providence Renewal Centre or Star of the North Retreat Centre with participants sleeping at home at night, she said.

"Let's be a little smarter about the way we're spending our money. Let's put it toward the things we're about as Catholic schools."

In the other five wards, the incumbent trustees all won by large margins.

In Ward 72, Kowalczyk defeated Dan Posa; in Ward 73, it was Cindy Olsen over Michelle Davis and Jennifer Chahal; Debbie Engel defeated Brad Lohner in Ward 74; Marilyn Bergstra defeated Tom Solyom in Ward 76; and Laura Thibert won over Kara Pelech, Stephen Dufresne and Roger Riashy in Ward 77.

Letter to the Editor – 11/11/13
Letter to the Editor – 11/25/13