Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 7, 2002
WCR Letters to the Editor
Shared facilities don't work - East Central
On behalf of the East Central Alberta Catholic board of trustees, I am responding to Ramon Gonzalez's Sept. 16 article, "Alta. bishops oppose shared school buildings."
In that article, Ramon Gonzalez makes reference to a varied response by school divisions to the shared facilities issue, and includes an example of East Central Alberta Catholic's CTS Centre as one example of how Catholic school divisions have responded to this issue.
Unfortunately, the Provost Career & Technology Centre case study would more accurately support the Alberta bishops' recent assertion that "the sharing of facilities creates grave problems for Catholic education."
Mr. Gonzalez is correct in asserting that the Provost CTS Centre was one that "neither school division would have been able to afford on its own." At the heart of the original intent to create the facility, was an economic rationale.
By 1995, Lakeland College, East Park Educational Opportunities Council (Provost Adult Education Council), Buffalo Trail Regional Division, and East Central Alberta Catholic Schools were in need of providing technology integrated course work to students, and in the absence of each organization receiving dollars to fulfill this need independently, a facility was created to accommodate the unique learning needs of each organization.
This facility was created strictly as a "stand alone" off - campus learning facility for all parties, and each organization that had membership in the facility would book its use throughout the operational day.
Originally, in 1995, the Provost CTS Centre provided tremendous opportunity for the students of St. Thomas Aquinas School in Provost. Our $57 million contribution to the partnership gave us 20 per cent ownership of the building and 20 per cent controlling interest of state of the art capital items, designed to enhance the instruction of technology dependent course work. This financial investment, paled in comparison to what an investment in an independently owned facility would have cost the board.
Unfortunately, by spring, 2002, all members within the Provost CTS Centre came to the realization that this shared facility initiative, as a cost effective option, had simply not worked. Despite the board's involvement in many meetings to resolve concerns relevant to building accessibility, and maintaining or enhancing capital needs within the building, the building partnership was never able to reach its anticipated potential.
Furthermore, the partnership could not serve the specific needs of each organization within their learning mandates. All partners who participated within the centre came to this realization through time. In fact, the Provost CTS Partnership is no longer in operation. The building is currently being used to house learning for students from Provost Public School, while the public school is in the process of completing the construction of its own CTS facility.
East Central Alberta Catholic Schools, like other school divisions in the province, is currently awaiting a reply from Alberta Infrastructure regarding its own capital project submissions; one of which would include the construction of a CTS facility in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, Provost.
If the position of the East Central Alberta Catholic's board of trustees could best be summarized regarding our experiment with this particular shared facility initiative, it would be as follows. This effort, which pursued economic solutions to programming through the partnership, and occurred at the expense of securing unconditional interdependency at the outset, was destined to not succeed.
Moreover, this particular partnership, which again, gave the board 20 per cent controlling interest, did not successfully enable our mandate of providing Career and Technology Studies for our students to be achieved as successfully as originally anticipated. The remaining 80 per cent of shareholder interest, rendered the board continually codependent upon the needs of the majority shareholder.
Our interests were rarely upheld by the rest of the partnership within an equal or equitable manner, nor was advocacy from the rest of the partnership sufficient in determining that the unique needs of East Central Alberta Catholic would be looked after for the betterment of our students, over time.
In light of this particular case study, the recent letter outlining the Alberta bishops' position on shared facilities is indeed a timely document. The East Central Alberta Catholic board of trustees does not wish the Alberta bishops, or the public to come to the conclusion that the example of shared facilities that occurred in Provost would be considered to be a successful venture.
In fact, considering that East Central Alberta Catholic Schools did not unilaterally close the partnership, the other public bodies that joined this partnership would more than likely express the same conviction.
Through the publication of this response to Mr. Gonzalez's article, it is hoped that the greater Catholic community will receive accurate information regarding the success of each Catholic school shared facility project that is currently being discussed in this province.
Our particular case study provides evidence in support of the Alberta bishops' position regarding shared facilities, and the subsequent support that the public and relevant government ministries will need to bring to this matter.
East Central Alberta Catholic Separate Schools
Catholic MLA backs shared facilities
I am in receipt of the bishops' letter dated Sept. 4, 2002, and signed by Archbishops Collins and Guimond, and by the Bishops Henry, Huculak and Bouchard.
I have read their words and am compelled to comment, not only as a legislator, but as a parent, a former educator and a practising member of the Roman Catholic Church.
Although they do not specifically mention the potential cohabitation of high schools in Edmonton Castle Downs, as this issue is now present in our community, I would like to offer my thoughts and comments.
I too, witnessed our holy father's sermon, and was able to do so in person, as I was in Toronto and attended the Mass.
Indeed, I hold our pope's sermons and teachings in the highest esteem as not only is he our contemporary of St. Peter, but also a favourite son of the country of my origin.
Notwithstanding the above, at no point in time to my knowledge has our holy father made any explicit or implicit comments on the propriety of the Catholic community more actively partaking in interfaith community projects or Catholic educators allowing multi-use facilities.
To the contrary, I would suggest that our holy father and the leaders of our Church are aware that Canada is a pluralist society and that our Catholic religion is only stronger here through our participation in the community at large.
I would like to assure all of you, first of all, that there is absolutely no intention of eroding the Catholic education system in this province.
As an Albertan and an elected member of the legislative assembly, I strongly support Catholic education, and would be the first to speak out against any attempted removal or dismantling of a separate Catholic education in our province.
Indeed, a Catholic education is a right granted under Alberta legislation.
As a product of Catholic education I am acutely aware of its importance, its relevance, and its sanctity.
The issue I have brought to the table is not for combining the Catholic and public education systems, but rather to have one building house both schools. These schools would be in separate wings of the same building, with a separate partner in between the two.
In the case of the potential schools in Edmonton Castle Downs, the middle party would likely be a Capital Health community health centre.
I am in no way suggesting that classes or programs would be combined, and I would anticipate no changes to the curriculum, or a need to change the policies of the Edmonton Catholic school board to accommodate the Edmonton Public board, or vice versa.
With all due respect, the concerns of the bishops regarding the potential erosion of the Catholic system if a dual school were to exist would be better received had there not already been students who are not of the Catholic faith attending our Catholic schools.
The inclusion of other children who are not of Catholic faith has not only not eroded our system, but in my opinion has made it stronger. Children learn tolerance of other faiths, and learn to live in community with others.
In fact, in the town of Sylvan Lake, the sharing of a similar facility and some of its resources has already been done and is working very successfully.
I do not believe that by sharing a furnace, a parking lot, or sharing nourishment in a common cafeteria, our Catholic education would be in jeopardy.
Catholic education is not based on physicality of a facility, but rather in the content, the ideation and the paradigms taught within its walls.
In fact, as our holy father asked our young people to be the salt and light of the world, what better opportunity to be examples of this than by sharing facilities in harmony with their peers, many of whom already play together on our community teams, live on the same block, and share the same recreational facilities.
Who are we to be the salt and light for, if there is nothing to flavour nor anything to shine upon?
If the sharing of a facility is truly a vexation to the Catholic system, one would need to ask how much of a distance would have to be maintained in order to ensure its preservation.
In cooperation, I trust that all of our children's spiritual and education needs will be met.
Thomas Lukaszuk, MLA
Edmonton Castle Downs
What if . . .
Re: article: "Bishops Bite the Bullet as WYD deficit hits $38Million" (WCR, Sept. 23).
I am glad the Canadian bishops and many in the Canadian Church are celebrating the success of World Youth Day.
As a trainer of youth ministry coordinators in Canada and the United States, I couldn't help but also ponder a "what if . . .". What if the $38 million had been devoted to training parish, diocesan, school and campus ministers to creating and sustaining comprehensive ministry with youth and young adults in their local communities?
According to my calculations, the Canadian Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies program already offered at eight sites in Canada could have been offered free in 10 sites in Canada for 253 years.
Oh well. Let the struggle to find funds for training and formation continue.
Magnetic field concerns
The Edmonton Catholic school board has found it necessary once again to publicly claim that the site for the Archbishop Joseph MacNeil School near the power lines is safe (WCR Letters, Sept. 23).
If the parents' concerns were truly based on irrational, unfounded fears, it would be a simple matter for the board to expose the parents' lunacy by providing the unequivocal, reassuring research review and names of experts they claim to have consulted which led them to believe the site is safe.
The problem is, the parents' concerns are based on well-founded scientific research and advice provided by respectable researchers and scientists.
The parent's findings, experts' advice and their credentials now form part of the public record at City Hall.
All the board has been able to provide is their naive "opinion" that there is nothing whatsoever to worry about.
The board claims to be following prudent avoidance based on the guidelines provided by the California study but the board misinterpreted the study and read the guidelines incorrectly. Small wonder they say it is safe, if they did not understand it.
What is actually true is:
If the board is really interested in the children's safety and wants to practise prudent avoidance as they claim, then the school has to be located where the background field reading, plus the wiring and equipment in the building are between 0.7 mG to 1.0 mG, the typical home exposure.
- Most health concerns are related to the magnetic field, not the electric field.
- The recommendations for the magnetic field in this report states," aim to have the EMF levels of high - occupancy areas in the new schools resemble the typical home exposure." ( see www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/deodc/ehib/emf/ckintro.html)
- The California Department of Health Services measured the average strength of magnetic fields in San Francisco bay area homes.
From this study about half of the houses had an average magnetic field below 0.71 milligauss ( see www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/deodc/ehib/emf/shortfactsheet.pdf, p.3). The World Health Organization states that typical residential exposure is 1 mG.
To put this in context: at the proposed Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, the magnetic field readings at 110 metres ranged from 2 to 2.2 milligauss (mG), in an empty field with no other electrical sources except the power lines.
Once the school is built and the magnetic fields from the wiring and the equipment are added, the magnetic field probably will be near or above 3 mG.
This is the strength associated with a doubling risk for childhood leukemia (see studies including Ahlbom A., Day N., Feychting, M, Roman E., Skinner J., Dockerty J., McBride M., Michaelis J., Olsen J.H., Tynes T., and Verkasalo P/K. A pooled analysis of magnetic field and childhood leukemia. British Journal of Cancer, 83(5), 692-698).
It is also clearly above the recommendation that EMF levels in new schools resemble typical home exposure.
Children who attend this new school will be exposed to much higher than average EMF levels.
- The set back distance of 150 feet (45 metres), the board is referring to, is based on the strength of the electric field not the magnetic field.
This is a regulation in California, not a recommendation to decrease any health risk (www.dhs.ca.gov/ps/deodc/ehib/emf/development.html, California Department of Education Requirements, p. 2).
It is also worth noting, the Department of Infrastructure provides funding for schools and they have provided a letter saying the funding for this school will not be taken away if another site is chosen.
The developer has also said that they will comply with direction from the appropriate authorities in whichever location is chosen.
Clearly, prudent avoidance could be practised at a very modest cost and without missing the opportunity of having the school in our neighborhood.
The board has also compared electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from home appliances with EMFs from power lines.
What the board fails to appreciate is that EMFs from home appliances diminish very quickly over very short distances (a couple of feet) and exposures are short term and short lived.
The problem with the power lines is long-term exposure (eight hours per day, five days per week for up to 10 years) to children and that far greater distances are required to reach background levels.
The 108 metres is not far enough from the towers to reach typical exposure levels.
If you think the school is safe at 108 metres from the power lines, think again.
Better yet, check it out yourself.
Why would anyone choose to be hated?
In response to the current letters on homosexuality, I must say this.
I am a 20-year-old male who was raised in a Catholic household, went to Catholic school, and went to Church on Sundays. I was told of the love that God has for me and all his children, and that this love was unconditional.
Now that that has been stated, I must say that I have had a hard time digesting the Church's values about homosexuality. These values spread hatred, not the love that I was told about in grade school.
Due to the bias, I was thinking of suicide for I am gay, and I was told by my society and my Church that I am wrong and disgusting.
It is not a choice. Why would I choose to have people hate me?
Why is the suicide rate for queer teens three times higher than that of their non-queer counterparts? Why are there more gay kids on the street than straight kids?
Seems strange that Jesus Christ, whose teachings are the basis of Christianity had nothing to say about homosexuality, but plenty to say about those who judge others.
I do not drink, smoke, do drugs, eat meat, I follow WWJD, and yet I am a bad person?
I struggled with my sexuality from the time I was 13 until I was 17 until I was confident enough to love who I am, and to know that I am a child of God.
Kids are dying and in pain. Open your eyes: Love is the way.
Catholic teachers can 'be a source of grace'
I very much agree with the remarks made by Superintendent Dale Ripley to teachers and staff on the occasion of the ECS school opening liturgy as reported by the WCR (Catholic education faces threat from within - Ripley, Sept. 9).
However, in the same article a remark attributed to Patricia Clancy-Novosel, president of the ECS teachers' association, deserves further comment. She is quoted as saying that it would be difficult for her to teach in the public system "because I would have to hide a part of myself."
This statement is perhaps a result of a lack of awareness of the important role a Catholic teacher can assume in the public school system.
And in living that role, there should be no necessity to hide part of herself.
It is true that the environment of a public school is not the same as the environment of a Catholic school. Nevertheless, the public school setting provides the Catholic teacher with unique opportunities to, individually or jointly with teachers of other Christian denominations and other faiths, bring a presence of God to the community of students served.
In the Sturgeon School Division, a public school jurisdiction of which I am a trustee, a significant number of teachers and administrators are Roman Catholic. They work side by side with men and women of other Christian denominations among which, incidentally, are to be found wives and children of United Church ministers, a brother of a Ukrainian rite bishop and an Anglican nun.
I am not aware that any of these teachers and administrators feel that a part of them needs to be hidden while they work in our schools.
Rather, in the leadership they provide and the way they live their work lives they are important visible models of followers of Christ for all those around them.
"Every person . . . is called to be a source of grace and peace for the whole community, for the Church and for humanity." (Jean Vanier)
"The relationships which the members of the Catholic Church have established with other Christians (have) made us aware of the witness which other Christians bear to God and to Christ. . . . The Second Vatican Council made it clear that elements present among other Christians can contribute to edification of Catholics." (Ut Unum Sint, They They Might All Be One, John Paul II, 1995).
Both of these statements are relevant, not only to educators, but for all Catholics everywhere.
Beware of attacking Iraq
It looks like the United States is about to make the same mistake by attacking Iraq as it made by getting involved in the Vietnam War which did not solve anything but only killed and maimed many people on both sides.
An attack would inflame people in Muslim countries to such an extent, terrorists would multiply. Some of the moderate Arab governments are not popular with the majority of their citizens and an attack on Iraq could inspire them to overthrow their governments.
Reasons given for an attack is that Iraq has chemical weapons of mass destruction and is trying to produce a nuclear bomb which they would use on the United States and they have previously attacked its neighbours.
When Iraq attacked Iran, the United States participated by supplying them with intelligence information on Iran. Even if Iraq obtained a nuclear bomb, they would not risk using it because the United States would retaliate with a superior arsenal of nuclear weapons. Saddam has always been homicidal, not suicidal. The biggest threat to regional or world peace would be an American attack on Iraq. The inspectors must be given a chance to do their work.
The United States tried to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Venezuela recently because they perceived that the fuel supply from that country could be jeopardized. It looks like the proposed attack on Iraq is really about fuel.