By Jamie Rieger
Wildrose Shadow education minister, Mark Smith met with members of the Cherry Coulee Christian Academy administration and parent council last week to discuss the successes of the school as well as the challenges it faces.
“After the last election, (Wildrose leader) Brian Jean said we were to go out and meet with people in our portfolio,” said Maureen Gough, legislative and outreach assistant for the Wildrose Party, who accompanied Smith to the meeting in Bow Island. “The purpose of this southern Alberta tour is to get to know the education concerns. We have 16 school boards, home schooling, congregated sites, and have had some town hall meetings.”
Through the Conversations in Education tour, Smith is hoping to learn more about what is working well and what needs to be done to address challenges.
“I made the decision to run in the last election expecting to go back to teaching, but somehow I managed to win,” said Smith, who represents Drayton Valley in Edmonton.
Smith, who is a Christian said he sent his own children to the first Alternative Christian School in Alberta, a school that started in the mid-1980s, but also indicated that he sees the value in different methods of education.
“I like the public education system, but I see the value of all methods of education. There is a great diversity of education and I want to see Alberta children being well-served. That is why I am here; to understand where you are coming from. This helps us define policy,” he said.
“In the next five years; if we play our cards right, we will earn the right to be the next government,”
Smith then asked CCCA principal Mike Daniels to define the successes of the school.
“Considering the size of our parent and student body, you can see what can be accomplished when people work together to get things done,” said Daniels. “Even with our financial boundaries, our parents and our supporters have been very helpful in making the school successful. Also, we do what a public school does, but with smaller classes. We are giving our students a really good education so they can make good choices when they graduate.”
One issue that is of great concern at CCCA is Alberta Education’s LGBTQ policy.
“As a result of these policies, we have put together a blanket policy and have spent a lot of time consulting with a lawyer,” said Daniels. “We did not know where the line would be drawn.”
Daniels then asked Smith, “Where does provincial law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms cross?”
“Where you find that balance is up for debate,” said Smith. “I find it hard to believe that they would pursue a cause that went against the Charter. Any religious school has a right to its religious beliefs.”
The conversation then moved on to other points of discussion, including funding and finances.
“We are not in the debt that a lot of schools are in. We paid off our buildings as we could and when we got this property, we made a promise that we would never go to a bank and borrow. We have honoured that promise,” said Daniels. “We have been truly blessed in so many areas.”