Chinook’s Edge School Division trustee Holly Bilton has been elected chair of the Rural Caucus of Alberta School Boards.
Bilton, the trustee for Innisfail, says in her new position she hopes to help address issues and concerns specifically facing rural students and schools.
“The rural caucus is a really good way to have us get our voices together and think through and work on solutions and then present those to the government and the minister,” said Bilton.
“We are from all over the province, so we are going to come with our unique ideas and how best to go to the government with our issues.
“We want to make sure we come together as the best voice we can to talk to Alberta school boards and the government to make sure we are on the same page.”
The rural caucus, which started three years ago, represents 33 rural school boards, including Chinook’s Edge.
Bilton explained that the caucus plans to focus its efforts in three principal areas: transportation, health and wellness for students, and provincial funding model.
“Transportation is a significant cost to rural communities,” she said. “There are small schools that are a long way apart. We need to get our kids to school.
“Basically we will be working with the minister to try to help find some solutions to the best ways to distribute the funding and how to be more effective.
“A good example of that in our own division is that in Chinook’s Edge and Red Deer Catholic we bus students together; so we have some collaborative busing.”
Regarding health and wellness, she said the caucus will be working to ensure students receive adequate service under the existing regional collaborative service delivery model.
“The funding has been cut in recent years for some of our most vulnerable students,” she said. “Basically when you need anyone from mental health to speech pathology, there is a small pool of dollars that are available and that has been cut.”
The caucus will be working with the province to ensure the overall funding model for schools considers rural needs, she said.
The caucus will be working in close conjunction with the Alberta School Boards’ Association (ASBA), she said.
Fellow Chinook’s Edge trustee Sherry Cooper has been elected as a director of the rural caucus, while Chinook’s Edge board chair Connie Huelsman has been elected chair of the ASBA Zone 4.