By Andrew Ehrkamp
News Editor

Marilyn Bergstra hopes to continue advocating for the health of students and staff and to defend Catholic education if voters re-elect her to a fourth term as an Edmonton Catholic school trustee.

An outspoken trustee, Bergstra said she has always advocated strongly for Catholic education.

“We really need to emphasize to the public how important it is. We offer the faith element, but there’s value above and beyond that,” said Bergstra, who is running in Ward 76 in southwest Edmonton.

“We offer excellent education to students but we’re contributing to the fabric of Alberta as a whole through the spiritual, emotional and physical development of our students.”

Bergstra said having two publicly funded school systems offers “built-in success” through competition because it encourages choices and greater innovation, but the Catholic system is under threat.

She said the relationships she’s developed with provincial government MLAs through her experience as a trustee can help advocating with the provincial government. “Catholic education will resonate with them. We want the government to understand our position and what we’re all about.”

Bergstra said it’s a critical time to defend Catholic education.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down with the Archbishop as a board and as an individual to work on Catholic education and how we can get the message out there.”

Over the past year, the Edmonton Catholic school board has also had its share of controversies internally and within the community, on such issues as gender identity, trustee expenses, and the role of faith in schools.

Bergstra defends her actions. “I can’t control other trustees. I’m there to do a job, and if re-elected, I’m going there to do a job,” she said, adding “the dysfunction preceded my time on the board.”

“I’ve always conducted myself with integrity and made decisions based on research and fact, how the community feels, the impact on the child. I’ve tried to integrate all these things.”

Bergstra said she’s proud of her work over three terms as a school trustee, including the areas of mental health and fentanyl awareness, identification and reporting of sexual abuse incidents, and a comprehensive curriculum to promote mental health and well-being for students.

“We do a lot in the area of mental health and I want to extend that to the emotional wellbeing of the staff,” said Bergstra, who is working towards a master’s degree in public health at the University of Waterloo. “We as a Catholic board need to look at best practices.”

Bergstra said she supports recess for all children as well as “a corresponding break for all teachers.”

Bergstra grew up in Edmonton and St. Albert.  She has a post-secondary degree in science and certificates in education and financial literacy. St. Thomas More is her home parish, and she attends other parishes with her extended family.

Election Day is on Oct. 16. The other candidate vying for Ward 76 school trustee is Lisa Turchansky.

For more information on Bergstra’s platform, visit marilynbergstra.wordpress.com.