Edmonton Catholic School Board names new chair, seeks fresh start

The new Edmonton Catholic School Board meets for the first time. .
The new Edmonton Catholic School Board meets for the first time. .

The first meeting of the new Edmonton Catholic School Board was as different as it could be from some of the meetings seen over the last four years.

It was fast and devoid of any conflict.

READ MORE: Edmonton trustee calls for merger of public, Catholic school boards, calls system ‘corrupt’

The last board often sparred over many issues. Trustees were sanctioned over their behaviour and the education minister even named a facilitator to help the board get its work done. That facilitator described the differences between trustees as “intractable.”

The Oct. 16 election saw five new trustees elected to the board. Only two are returning and the first items of business didn’t even require a vote.

The board chose a new chair and vice-chair. Trustees nominated only one person for each post.

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Terry Harris was acclaimed as the new board chair and Sandra Pallazo was acclaimed as the new vice-chair.

“We just look at it as an opportunity for renewal. There’s going to be lots of opportunity for renewal here over the course of the next term and we’re very much looking forward to serving,” Harris said in an interview after the meeting.

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Harris acknowledged the new board will face some challenges.

The province is in the middle of developing a new curriculum. Catholic superintendents are developing an alternative sex-education curriculum.

READ MORE: If Catholic school sex-ed plan is as advertised, it won’t be taught, Notley says 

Teachings on homosexuality, contraception and consent in marriage have been identified as areas of concern to Catholics.

Harris says the new board will have to tackle those issues in Edmonton.

“We do need to make sure we’re an authentic Catholic district and that as pieces are coming to us, we’re doing the right thing in terms of making sure the curriculum is robust,” said Harris.

Last week, Premier Rachel Notley waded into the curriculum debate.

“Being gay is not wrong. Engaging in safe sex is not wrong and under no circumstances is sex without consent ever right and that is what will be taught in our schools,” she emphatically stated.

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In Question Period on Monday, United Conservative Party MLA Ric McIver asked the premier about her statements.

“The Premier clearly made a mistake in her statements. I again ask, will the premier apologize to Alberta’s Catholics whom you accused of condoning marital rape?” McIver said.

READ MORE: Not up to Premier Notley to dictate how Catholic schools teach sex education, says Jason Kenney

Notley did not respond. Education Minister Dave Eggen spoke about the importance of a strong curriculum.

Harris was asked about the exchange in the legislature. He said he hadn’t heard it and wouldn’t comment on the call for an apology.

However, he did talk about the premier’s words from last week. Harris prefaced his comments by noting Catholics believe all people are created in God’s image.

“We are all God’s children,” Harris said. “We’re due respect and dignity. So to me, a suggestion that we would do anything to the contrary to that or support anything to the contrary of that doesn’t sit well.”