ST. PAUL - St. Paul Education is moving forward with reducing the number of wards within the geographic region it serves, and in effect the number of trustees that sit on its board.
During the Nov. 18 board meeting, trustees approved first reading of Bylaw No. 1/20 - A Bylaw of the St. Paul School Division relating to The Electoral Ward Boundaries of the St. Paul School Division.
Board chair Heather Starosielski said the school division has reached out to stakeholders regarding the change, and was still looking for feedback.
During the County of St. Paul's Nov. 10 meeting, the topic of the school division boundary review was brought up.
“I commend them on taking the initiative to reduce the number because I think it’s a matter of time before we will be looking at the same thing at our table. I’m sure the government is going to be pushing that way," said County of St .Paul Coun. Darrell Younghans.
But he also questioned the move toward six trustees, and said he thought some changes could be "opening the door for an appointed trustee. I don’t think a democratically elected board at any time should have any appointed trustee with the same power.”
County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham also expressed a concern over the number of trustees being set at six because it could create the potential for a stalemate when voting on issues.
“It could be a concern,” said Upham.
Council agreed to provide feedback to school division on the matter.
The current structure of the board includes seven trustees elected in seven distinct wards. There is also a provision to have a First Nation trustee appointed by stakeholder bands, however, this seat is vacant.
The Glen Avon ward is shown separately on maps, and represents Glen Avon Separate Protestant district as it was when amalgamated to form St. Paul Education Regional Division #1 in 1995.
"This ward cannot be amended without considerable background work including a faith census of our entire region," reads the electoral ward review document put together by St. Paul Education.
The current board has been operating with six trustees for over a year, following the resignation of former trustee Deb Pederson.
"Given shifts in population and the ongoing attention to budgets and efficiencies, the board felt another review was warranted," states the document. The last review was done in 2010.
The board has determined that it is possible to fulfil its governance mandate with just six trustees, states the review.
The redesign being put forward will see six trustees elected in five wards. Wards currently known as Ward D and Ward E would be combined into one ward. The new Ward C, which takes in much of the Town of St. Paul, will see two trustees elected, while all other new wards will have one seat.
The new map shows Ward A representing schools in the eastern portion of the school division, including Elk Point and Heinsburg regions. Ward B is the southwestern portion, which includes Two Hills and Myrnam areas. Ward C is the Town of St. Paul and surrounding area, and Ward D is the northern portion, which includes Ashmont and Mallaig regions.
The Glen Avon ward will not change and includes the Town of St. Paul and an area that surrounds the town.
In order for the new bylaw and changes to be in effect for the next election, they must be approved no later than Dec. 31, 2020. Second and third readings of the bylaw will be brought forward at the Dec. 9 board meeting.
During the Nov. 18 meeting, Starosielski stated that many other boards in the province are reducing the number of trustees. Pembina Hills School Division reduced its number of trustees to six this summer. Battle River School Division was another example given, with that division going from eight to five trustees in late 2019.