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Gilbert 'relieved, excited and ready to get back at it' for RVS

The new Rocky View Schools board, which includes incumbent Ward 6 trustee Fiona Gilbert, will be sworn in at the annual RVS Organizational Meeting Oct. 28.
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Fiona Gilbert will serve Rocky View Schools as Ward 6 trustee for a third term, edging out two other contenders in Monday's municipal election.
The new Rocky View Schools board, which includes incumbent Ward 6 Cochrane trustee Fiona Gilbert, will be sworn in at the annual RVS organizational meeting Oct. 28.

Two new members will join the board – Fred Burley in Airdrie's Ward 3 and Shelley Kinley representing Ward 2 for Langdon, Indus and southeast Rocky View County. 

Gilbert, the previous board chair for the last two years, said she looks forward to welcoming some new faces to the board and is eager to get back on track after a brief pause while campaigning the last couple weeks.

"I'm relieved, excited and ready to get back at it," she said. "We are jumping right into things with some decision making coming at us around modular classrooms and capital planning. We also spent a lot of time last year talking about developing a strategic plan for the division, and that is something that the board has never really had. That will definitely be a big focus of mine from a board perspective."

Gilbert was uncontested in the last election and said with two other candidates vying for the spot this time, there were a lot more interesting and important discussions to be had with the community. She overcame Peter Fortna and Simon Ongom in the race for the Cochrane seat.

"It's been great to be able to connect with community members and talk about public education," she said. "When I was elected four years ago, I ran unopposed, so I was acclaimed to the position. There wasn't an opportunity to have some of that great discussion that's really needed around public education."

Gilbert said the provincial government's draft curriculum and Truth and Reconciliation action from RVS were some of the topics electorates spoke most passionately about during this election period. 

Rocky View has started a conversation about Truth and Reconciliation and board members voted to deem Sept. 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and as a new statutory holiday.

The board also has an organizational meeting on Oct. 28 where they will discuss a motion brought forth Oct. 12 to create an Indigenous Advisory Committee, which would include Indigenous voices to guide the board in the development of a Reconciliation action plan. 

A chair for the RVS trustee board will also be elected at the annual organizational meeting, a role Gilbert previously held. She expressed she has not yet decided if she will put her name forward for the position, which is appointed by the eight trustees in a group vote.

Gilbert's leadership as board trustee and chair for RVS, and the school district as a whole, have come under fire for their approach to combatting the spread of COVID in schools and among students who are ineligible for vaccination. 

There is no lack of divisiveness in the community when it comes to the topic of pandemic response, Gilbert said. 

"I trust in the choices of the community and what they've indicated to me is that I'm doing good work and I will continue to do that work with my focus on student success," she said.

Gilbert believes the provincial government's offloading of rules and regulations onto school boards has been tough to handle for school officials and elected representatives.

"It's unfortunate in a way, but it also allows us to make local decisions in the best interests of our community," she said. "So there is kind of a flip side to that as well. From a divisional point of view and from a trustee point of view, moving forward through this pandemic, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students and our staff and focus on supporting their learning."

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