May 25th, 2024

Candidates critical of curriculum during Catholic trustee forum as municipal campaign nears end

By Herald on October 14, 2021.

Some of the hundreds of voters that showed up Thursday morning line up at the advance polling station inside the ATB Centre. The advance poll will be open today and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. The ATB Centre is located at 74 Mauretania Road West. Herald photo by Al Beeber

Al Beeber – Lethbridge Herald

The province’s embattled draft K-6 curriculum took hits Wednesday night by Lethbridge candidates running for the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division.

The forum for Ward 2 was one of two the division live-streamed Wednesday with the other for Pincher Creek.

The forums are available for viewing on Holy Spirit’s YouTube channel.

In the Lethbridge forum, moderated by principal Kevin Kinahan of St. Joseph School in Coaldale, Lethbridge candidates were given one minute to answer five questions posed to them.

Those candidates included Roisin Gibb, Bob Spitzig, Tricia Doherty, Carmen Mombourquette, Keith McDonald, Bryan Kranzler and Linda Ellefson.

The candidates universally expressed alarm about the impact the province’s draft curriculum will have on both public and Catholic education in the province, with several stating the previous draft curriculum proposed by the former NDP government would have been preferred.

The candidates all stated the proposed curriculum fails to acknowledge Indigenous and Metis history and several pointed out it is age-inappropriate.

All said the curriculum should be developed with input from stakeholders including teachers.

Kranzler stated “politics need to stay out of it,” while McDonald told the forum the province needs to listen to teachers.

Mombourquette said the NDP-proposed curriculum was well-rounded “and would have been a blessing” for students. He added “I have deep, deep issues with the current draft.”

Doherty said the draft is not age appropriate and “is not aligned with the direction the world is heading.” Doherty said school boards should be allowed to pilot the 2018 draft, adding it isn’t fair to launch the curriculum in the middle of a pandemic.

Ellefson stated the draft lacks equity, diversity, inclusivity, collaboration and teamwork and is not respectful to Indigenous and Metis communities.

Gibb, who has a son in Grade 4 directly affected by it, said “it is not a good curriculum,” adding the province needs to trust teachers and educational leaders.

All candidates were also asked how they would encourage and facilitate calls to action as outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“One of the calls to action ends with the idea that the government should slightly change the oath of citizenship that new Canadians take. And that oath of citizenship would end with this: ‘that I faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous peoples and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen….if we could potentially ever have that become part of the oath of citizenship and the meaning behind that oath of citizenship being put forward in front of our children as they go through school to become active Canadian citizens, we would make a tremendous difference in this society,” Mombourquette said.

“We all come to understand we are all treaty people.”

That sentiment was echoed by Doherty.

“First we must recognize we are all treaty people, we are responsible for facilitating the calls to action that affect the education of aboriginal students. We need to push the province to include better aboriginal representation in education in the curriculum which must include the history of residential schools. Advocating for programming that promotes culturally appropriate early childhood education” protecting the rights to have aboriginal languages and “helping to find and hire the right teachers to offer education in these languages and programming,” are essential, Doherty suggested.

Ellefson said “reconciliation is a long-term process. IT is both a personal journey and a public process. It not only involves awareness of the past and acknowledgement of the harm that was inflicted but it also calls us to action…we are all striving for success. We need to continue to create those spaces for kindness, healing, sanctuary, inclusion. We need the wisdom of deep listening and respectful open-hearted conversation.”

Spitzig said the board should focus on the calls to action the board can deal with in regard to education, a sentiment Gibb echoed by saying the truth needs to be told throughout the school year and in the curriculum.

Kranzler said trustees first need to educate themselves and have elders help in that education process.

All candidates said trustees need to be supportive and appreciative of teachers given the impact of the COVID pandemic on how education is given to students.

Kranzler said without proper funding, boards can’t provide staff and teachers the proper resources they need.

McDonald said board members need to be advocates for the Catholic education in the province.

On the subject of funding, Gibb said checks and balances are needed to ensure financial resources are allocated appropriately and it’s important to acknowledge that funding is based on enrolment.

“We need to ensure Holy Spirit is the No. 1 choice for education,” she said.

Kranzler said tough decisions are needed to ensure funding is allocated properly and that only so much can be spent “before the well runs dry.”

In 40 years of education, Mombourquette said he never heard a school board has too much money, saying the board is the keeper of the mission and vision and needs to have a dialogue with the province.

Spitzig said school boards need to prioritize funding and follow their policies.

When asked how boards can support teachers, McDonald said trustees need to address the stress teachers are under and let them know they are appreciated.

Doherty said it’s important to respect the professionalism of teachers and to listen and learn what they want. She said the board needs to build strong relationships with teachers and not micro-manage them.

Gibb said “there needs to be open communication without fear of repercussions, adding boards should encourage room for spiritual development and create a culture of appreciation.”

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