WESTLOCK – Unless there’s only one candidate in each ward, Westlock-area voters will select three new trustees for the Pembina Hills School Division board in this fall’s municipal election.
Busby-area trustee Jackie Carson, who’s represented Westlock South for the past four years, tendered her resignation to the board at their Aug. 25 meeting — Carson won her seat in 2017 defeating Ken Mead by a 604 to 360 margin. Earlier this summer Wendy Scinski and Jackie Comeau, who represented the town and Westlock North respectively, both announced they won’t seek re-election.
Carson, who was unable to finish her term as she and her family have moved to the Spruce Grove area, said it’s been an honour to have served the community.
“My background was in education, I was a teacher, and I really didn’t fully understand the governance side so the learning curve was the most interesting part. Getting to know the other trustees around the table was also very valuable and they came with a wide range of educational experience so I was able to learn a lot from them and with them,” said Carson Sept. 1.
“I loved our discussions around the table and everyone had a different view. We didn’t always agree, but we were able to come to a conclusion together. And I think that’s what I’ll miss the most — the camaraderie between us and being able to do the best we could for the kids.”
And while Busby School’s new $1.5 million gym is probably the biggest highlight, Carson was also proud of the division’s Indigenous Education Advisory Committee and the establishment of the citizenship awards for kids throughout Pembina Hills.
“It's an amazing thing for the community and I’m sad I won't be there to see the end result of it for sure. And all three of my kids went to Busby School and none of them will be able to enjoy that new gym,” she said. “But I also want to say that it was an absolute privilege to work with superintendent (Dave) Garbutt and be a part of the hiring process to replace him. I’m excited for the future of Pembina Hills with their new superintendent.”
If there’s one regret from the term it’s the loss of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre, a decision Carson called “devastating” not only for Barrhead, but the division as a whole.
“It was a real hit for Pembina Hills and I’m incredibly disappointed in the provincial government and the direction they went with it,” she said.
Carson, whose family is originally from the Parkland area, said she won’t be able to run as a trustee in the coming election as there’s a six-month residency requirement, but didn’t rule out a return to a board table in the future.
“For sure I can see myself getting back into education politics at some point in the future,” she concluded.
Scinski said it was “an honour and privilege” to work with Carson over the past term, while board chair Jennifer Tuininga, who also recently announced she won’t seek re-election, wished her well. Due to the Oct. 18 election date, a byelection won’t be held and Scinski will represent Westlock South until the new trustee is sworn-in.
“She is passionate about education and doing what is best for kids. She brought great insight to the board when decisions were being made,” said Scinski.