Education minister ‘disturbed’ by Edmonton Catholic board dysfunction

Education Minister David Eggen speaks to the media following a meeting with Edmonton Catholic Schools Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Global News

EDMONTON – Alberta’s education minister said Tuesday he finds the level of dysfunction within the Edmonton Catholic School Board very disturbing, and he intends to meet with a facilitator to discuss their next steps.

This comes one day after Board Chair Marilyn Bergstra apologized for a decision to email a Calgary bishop’s letter to parents. Bergstra said the decision was made by members of the board while she was away.

READ MORE: Edmonton Catholic chair apologizes if sending out Calgary bishop’s letter caused hurt 

“We need to know that the procedures for making decisions are clear,” Minister Eggen said Tuesday morning.

“They are responsible for many tens of thousands of children, and running one of the biggest boards in the province.”

In October, the minister hired Donald Cummings to help the board work through governance issues as it attempted to draft an LGBTQ policy.

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READ MORE: Alberta education minister assigns advisor to oversee Edmonton Catholic School Board 

The minister said his conversation this week will include the possibility of dissolving the board entirely.

“Moving down that road is certainly one of the options I have available to me,” Eggen said. “I’ve been reflecting on that a lot in the last few days.”

In his letter, F.B. Henry – Bishop of Calgary – blasted the province’s guidelines on how school boards should deal with LGBTQ students, calling it a “…forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology.”

The education minister introduced guidelines Jan. 13 for school boards to follow regarding LGBTQ students, including what they can wear, what sports they can play and which washrooms they can use.

Alberta’s 61 school board have until the end of March to submit drafts to the province for review.

On Tuesday, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association issued a statement in response to the guidelines.

“ACSTA reaffirms that all Catholic schools in Alberta have been and will continue to be inclusive, welcoming, safe and caring environments,” the statement read.

“ACSTA reaffirms its commitment to work with Alberta Education and regrets Alberta Education’s lack of consultation during the development of the Guidelines for Best Practices resource material,” it went on.

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ACSTA Press Release Janurary 2016

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