Outgoing CBE trustees discuss challenges facing Calgary's next public school board

·3 min read
Trina Hurdman, left, and Julie Hrdlicka have served as trustees for eight and six years, respectively.  (CBE - image credit)
Trina Hurdman, left, and Julie Hrdlicka have served as trustees for eight and six years, respectively. (CBE - image credit)

When Calgarians head to the polls next week, one of the many decisions they'll face is picking the next public school board.

With only two Calgary Board of Education trustees running for re-election, there will be at least five new faces around the table this fall.

Outgoing trustee of eight years, Trina Hurdman (wards 1 and 2), says there are a lot of issues in public education right now. When she looks for whom she wants to fill those empty seats at the table, Hurdman says she'll be looking for someone who is a hard worker and critical thinker.

"You never know what issue will come up over the next four years, so you need someone who is willing to do their research, who is willing to put in the work, who is willing to read and listen to a variety of perspectives and to really understand and get the background on an issue," she said.

"I want trustees who are really going to do the work to dig into the issues, to make sure that they really understand them before they have to make any decisions."

Hurdman says the new board will immediately have to get to work on a few hot button, lingering issues.

"Many members of the community seem to think that trustees will be able to have a lot of influence over the new curriculum. So I think it's important for trustees to be able to hear from their constituents around the curriculum," she said.

"And to continue to advocate to the provincial government for the changes that they would like to see made in the draft curriculum, so that when that curriculum is finalized, it will be a curriculum that everyone can be supportive of and get behind."

Julie Hrdlicka, outgoing trustee of more than six years (wards 11 and 13), says while working with Alberta Education is one of the main roles of trustees, it's proven to be a battle for the current board.

Hrdlicka's advice to incoming trustees?

"The government is going to try to influence you and and they're going to try to tell you how it is, and, of course, you have to work with them," she said.

"But our priority has to be and always must be advocating for the needs of students. And you can do that in all sorts of ways. You don't always have to be publicly confrontational, but sometimes you need to be. What we need is a strong board that won't be fearful … of repercussions from the government, quite honestly."

Hurdman says that while she believes the CBE will always be a lightning rod on any issue "just by virtue of its size," the most effective advocacy is never done in the public eye.

"I would say that we actually have a very good relationship with the province, and I base that in terms of being able to get responses to questions, being able to have our voices heard, being that when we write letters we get responses to them," she said.

"If we were in a position where we were not effective, then that's when you were just ignored, and the government is not ignoring the CBE."

Hrdlicka says she hopes to see the next board of trustees be champions of public education, and specifically the CBE.

"And they're not going to be championing special interest groups. I think that's really important. We're already seeing that this election," she said.

"When you're a champion for students, when you're dealing with the province, you're advocating that public dollars are going to schools, that they're not going into charter schools and private schools. You're advocating for dollars to go into our schools."

Only Althea Adams, trustee for wards 3 and 4, and Marilyn Dennis, trustee for wards 5 and 10, are running for re-election.

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