Veteran trustee to retire
Public board's Joan Trettler frustrated by province
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 06:00 am
Frustration played a role in Joan Trettler’s final retirement plans. But she’s also making room for someone younger.
After four terms on the board of St. Albert Public Schools, Trettler won’t seek re-election in October.
“I find the current situation in education very distressing,” she said.
“We see a lot of expectations and the current budget takes away money. Somehow we are supposed to do more with less and that’s impossible.”
Trettler, now 70, taught in St. Albert since 1969, and joined the board shortly after her retirement in 1997.
Having grown up in Northern Ireland – she moved to Canada at the age of 10 – she says the lack of quality education in that country influenced much of her career.
She says it is critical for every child in Alberta to have access to public education and the province and city of St. Albert made great strides to provide for that in the past.
Now she notices a move to more private schools, which worries her. Good schooling, she says, should not only be open to the children of urban parents who pay extra.
“I think when I first became a trustee shortly after the Klein government cuts, I think for me to truly and really fight for education and to make sure it's retained and kept its taste in the province … to me that was important,” she says.
“And I worry about not keeping the core school system strong.”
Some of the highlights of her career include the renovations at Sir George Simpson and Lorne Akins junior high schools, and avoiding the provincial teacher strike in 2012.
She is proud of being involved in the selection of two superintendents and the creation of a working relationship between staff members and the board.
She added that a new focus on the arts brought positive change to St. Albert's schools. Today’s students are hard-working and dedicated to both humanitarian and academic projects, she says.
“Having different programs for children, that’s really grown in those 15 years. Another growth recently has been the interest in French immersion,” she says.
“So those things have been quite a change from the past and I think people want to be able to access any school in St. Albert depending on what their needs are.”
But Trettler also worries about the students.
The rise of social media has created a new era of bullying and children being disrespectful to one another, she says.
While drug problems among youth existed 15 years ago, she says parents have to be more aware of it.
And considering St. Albert’s anticipated growth in population and new developments, Trettler says future trustees and chairs need to talk to the city about new school sites.
“I think it’s important that we plan for the future and make sure the schools are in place when the children need them, not after they’ve been bused all over St. Albert,” she says.
“It is difficult to plan in a reasonable way because there are so many question marks.”
In coming years, she hopes more young people will get involved with the board. Anyone interested in her position can talk to her. She warns that the job involves a great deal of commitment.
Barry Wowk, superintendent of St. Albert Public Schools, says he hopes Trettler will still change her mind about retiring.
He described her as someone who took time to understand complex issues, cared deeply for her job and always had a desire to do what’s best for the students.
But she never tried to stand out.
“She tried to make sure the whole board was what was important. She went out of her way to share with other trustees and that the whole board worked as a team,” Wowk said.
“We will miss her. She comes with a lot of years of experience and we will miss her a great deal. I am just thankful for the years we had to work with her.”
Once Trettler retires as chair and trustee in October, she will continue to research and write the history of the district and participate in the St. Albert and Area Retired Teachers' Association.
But her direct involvement with education in the city will end, she says.
“It’s been very interesting because I had the opportunity to be in the classroom and now the opportunity to be a trustee,” she says.
“I think I’ve been very fortunate for that. But there comes a time to move on. And I think for me that time has come.”