By Andrew Ehrkamp
News Editor

Alene Mutala, a retired teacher and education consultant, says infighting among trustees of the Edmonton Catholic School Board has compelled her to stand for election herself.

“I was approached by friends and colleagues who were concerned about Catholic education and the negative impact of the dissension among board members,” said Mutala. “People are saying ‘These people don’t get along. The board doesn’t get along.’ Someone needed to do something.”

So she did. Mutala is running to fill the Ward 75 spot, currently held by John Acheson, who is stepping down after seven years as a trustee. Election Day is Oct. 16. Glen Argan, a journalist and theology student, has also declared his intention to run in Ward 75.

Mutala retired last year after a 27-year career as a teacher, school counsellor and finally as religious education consultant for Elk Island Catholic Schools. She was approached about running at a conference in Anaheim, Calif., and later at an Alberta Catholic schools administrators’ conference in Kananaskis.

“I said I had to think about it. I had to discern about it,” said Mutala, who has a certificate in pastoral services and a master’s degree in religious education from Newman Theological College.

“They said ‘You really need to do this.’ When you hear board members speaking out against Catholic education or each other, it breaks my heart. People say ‘Well, why have two publicly funded education systems?’  You hate to see a negative view of Catholic education.”

Mutala noted that Catholic education is “continually under threat” with calls for a single public education system in Alberta. In Saskatchewan, a judge ruled the provincial government must stop funding non-Catholic students who attend Catholic schools. That ruling comes into effect in June 2018.

Another issue is the “lack of government funding to support all programs and resources for our students. This has been an ongoing issue for years,” she said.

Mutala said she’s uniquely qualified, noting her 27 years in Catholic education and her knowledge of school policies and governance and the need to “give support to staff and students” as a trustee.

“I have a different background. As a teacher, I know what goes on in the classroom and to support teachers. This is my calling,” Mutala said. “I can bring some unity to the board, so the board is united in supporting Church teachings and Catholic education.”

“You realize that there’s a need to have good trustees whose mission is to evangelize students and to make them successful. We need to educate students physically, academically and mentally.”

Acheson, the current trustee, has advocated for an assessment – or a test – of the Catholic school board’s evangelization mission. But Mutala said that’s difficult to do.

“It’s very hard to test Catholicity because we’re always growing in our faith.”

Mutala also noted that the new religious education program in Alberta, which she helped implement, has means of assessing the students’ grasp of religious concepts.

Mutala, 66, has lived in Ward 75 for more than 20 years and she has two children and two grandchildren. She’s a member of St. Joseph’s Basilica Parish and she’s been involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program and Eucharistic ministry. She’s also been a board member of Catholic Social Services.

The deadline for nominations in the upcoming school and municipal elections is Sept. 18.

For more information on running for election as a Catholic school trustee, download the ACSTA Trustee Election Guidebook.