Two Okotokians with longstanding ties to Christ the Redeemer (CTR) School Division are running against each other for one of the Ward 3 seats on the district’s Board of Trustees.
Krista Conrad and Andrew Gustafson have both been involved in the Foothills’ Catholic school district for more than two decades as parents, volunteers and advocates. Now, the Okotoks candidates are aiming to make a further impact to the division as trustee.
“I think I’m the right candidate for this,” Conrad said. “I’ve been preparing for this my entire life, though it didn’t seem as though I knew it.
“It’s something I feel well positioned to take on and I’m ready to serve our school community with my whole heart.”
Conrad said her involvement with CTR Catholic dates back nearly 30 years, when she and her siblings attended schools within the division. Conrad added her mother worked for CTR Catholic as an educational assistant, and all five of her own children are currently attending, or have attended, the division’s schools.
She said she first considered running for a trustee position back in 2017.
“We did have an incredibly strong representation here in Okotoks through our past chair, Ron Schreiber, who unfortunately passed away at the beginning of September,” she said. “I never would have dreamed about running against him because he was such a strong force and a brilliant trustee.
“When this opportunity rose, I decided it could be the right time for me. I come from a place of passion for Catholic education. Most recently, I’ve been the parent council chair of St. Mary’s School here in Okotoks for the last four years.”
If elected, Conrad said her priority as Ward 3 trustee would be to help the board preserve and advocate for Catholic education in the Foothills, adding her role as the parent council chair at St. Mary’s has given her a strong insight into school policy.
She said the role has led to her attending Alberta School Council Association conferences and AGMs.
“I would be a strong voice for [Catholic education] and have been advocating for that through parent council and the Grateful Advocates for Catholic Education (GrACE) group for the last five years,” she said.
A news reporter for the Okotoks Western Wheel for the past six years, Conrad is also the chair of the 187 Foothills Air Cadet Squadron sponsoring committee, which manages the hangar and day-to-day operations of the squadron. She said she’s been involved with other local groups and organizations as well, including the Foothills Kinettes for the last 16 years in various executive and board roles.
“The leadership part is natural to me,” she said.
Also running for the trustee position is Andrew Gustafson.
A long-time business owner and basketball coach in Okotoks, Gustafson said his motivation to run for CTR Catholic’s Ward 3 Okotoks seat was his desire to be a part of “a winning team of dedicated people.”
Gustafson said his personal involvement with CTR started 23 years ago as a basketball coach. At the same time, his wife was starting her career with the division as a teacher.
The husband of a wife who is currently a vice-principal in the division and a father to three kids who attend CTR Catholic schools, Gustafson said he has seen first-hand how important the school division is to the region’s Catholic community.
“I don't have a 'change' agenda,” Gustafson said. “The current reality isn't broken. But the world and our community is evolving, and staying the same is akin to falling behind as the world moves ahead. The school board needs to move and adapt with it.
“I really do feel like strong leadership is needed to ensure continued advancement. The issues that we will face as trustees are, as of yet, unknown. Those things that lie ahead, they'll require leaders who have a proven track record.”
Like Conrad, Gustafson has been involved with the GrACE group as an advocate for local Catholic education. He’s also a member of the local Knights of Columbus and his local St. James parish in Okotoks.
He said he wants to see Catholic education in the Foothills “strong for generations to come,” adding he and his wife chose the Catholic school system for their family because of the morals and values they wanted to instil in their own children.
“We understand the need for continued Catholic education in our province,” he said. “We understand it's not just about the continuity of the institution itself, but the integrity of what Catholic education is supposed to be, what it's supposed to feel like in the hallways and classrooms, and what the morals and values-based propositions are that kids need to take with them when they leave school.”
In terms of his local community involvement, Gustafson said he’s sat on “dozens” of boards in Okotoks and Calgary and has held leadership roles with various local organizations. He was the president of the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce, was the chair of the Sheep River Health Trust, and is the current executive vice-president of Calgary Minor Basketball and commissioner of Okotoks Minor Basketball.
As a self-described “faith-filled person,” Gustafson said he wants to ensure CTR Catholic maintains connections between families, their schools, and their church.
“We need to have a leader who is actively engaged with all three of those spaces so we can make sure the integrity of Catholic education is maintained,” he said. “Every decision that is made needs to be made through that lens.”