“My family has been trying to persuade me over my last three elections that it really should be my last. I had always planned it — three years ago I said I’d be done in three years. I love being a trustee for the school division, I’m absolutely going to miss it.”
Having served 30 years as a trustee, Holtman reflected on her motivations for getting involved as a member of the board over three decades ago.
“It was a great lady, Mary Cunningham, who 30 years ago invited me to run for a school board position. She was stepping down herself and phoned me and encouraged me to run in the next election. Mary arrived at my doorstep the same evening with nomination papers signed by ten rate payers endorsing my nomination. Our children were in Grade 5 and 7 and I had noticed once your children were in junior high the climate in schools for older children was different. As a trustee it was a wonderful experience to govern all schools in the Taber area at that time.”
Holtman wanted to achieve a working interpersonal relationship with school administration, something she asserts was less accessible in the early 1980s. Joining the board of trustees seemed like an ideal way to have the conversations and provide the input.
“When education is really important to you, in those years — that was quite a few years ago — people just sent their kids off to the institution and didn’t have any contact. But I wanted to have contact, so I did it through being a school board member.”
Once she had taken on the role, Holtman realized there is often a difference between public perception and the reality in making educational decisions.
“I found it absolutely exciting. There are excellent things happening in this region, in our whole Horizon School Division — that was the old Taber School Division. When you’re there making decisions, you’re one of seven members, and it’s always a group thing, and you always go along with a decision once it’s made. But when you’re at a board level, you understand all of what a decision entails. Sometimes you sure see the big picture.”
Holtman thanked the people of the community for the support she has enjoyed throughout her political career.
“Working with all of the teachers and support staff, the excellent staff that we have, we think that we have the best and the brightest. I’m very positive about the people that work in the school division. And just a big thank you to the citizens of Taber that have allowed me, and voted for me to be there with the school division and be able to do the work I did. A big thank you.”
She encouraged local parents to consider running for her vacant position as a way to inject some fresh perspectives into the board’s regular discourse and duties.
“I’ve thought a lot about it, and I really hope that people with children in the system will become board members,” said Holtman. “I think it’s very, very important to have people that are very close to the system, and have children in the system. It’s very rewarding. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding. I would advise anyone that has the time to go ahead and do it.”
Holtman lists the creation of an alternative school for the division, ACE Place, as a top highlight of her decades of service to the board of trustees.
“One highlight of my school board experience was when we opened our alternative school Ace Place. Many young teens were living on their own, working and going to school, paying rent and sometimes raising children. This new idea of schooling was a great success as many stakeholders throughout Taber put their ideas forward and we spent an entire year exploring options and making this a realized dream for these students. Graduation at ACE Place has always been a favourite and highlight because these students graduated in spite of many circumstances and proved to themselves they could do it.”
Amalgamation of the previous Taber School Division into the more regional entity now known as Horizon School Division occurred under Holtman’s tenure on the board.
“Regionalization was another time I was very proud of the participation of the old Taber School Division. The respect, co-operation and fair treatment for all was paramount and worked out well for all concerned. As a new Horizon School Board we combined policies from three different boards and developed new policies which worked out well. I am proud to have been on a policy driven board that opened many doors to sit on other boards. To have had many years of working with great people is a compliment to the brightest and best staff. Their dedication to students in this Horizon School Division is exemplary.”
Holtman emphasized the group effort involved in serving on a board of trustees, rather than an adversarial relationship more common at other levels of government.
“I leave very happy with the work that we’ve been able to do. It’s never one person, it’s always a group. I have just fully enjoyed it.”