Member Spotlight from July 20, 2017
Some might say that to reach your potential as a school business official, you have to be fearless about taking on challenges. Meet Ed Latka, secretary treasurer for St. Thomas Aquinas RCSRD in Leduc, Alberta.
Ed began his school business career as a director of finance 22 years ago and for the past 14 years has served as a secretary treasurer. Prior to arriving here about a year ago, he had served in four public school districts, learning something new in each one and bringing that experience to his next position.
While public school districts can cover vast geographical areas—his last district was 6,000 square miles—Ed explains that Catholic school districts are formed based on the Catholics in a given area seeking a Catholic education. St. Thomas Aquinas RCSRD spans about 1,000 square miles and its student population is growing. Enrollment has increased by 33% in the past five years, naturally leading to capital facility growth.
“Approximately every four years, we look at whether we need new facilities,” Ed says. In January of this year, the district opened its 11th school (serving grades K–8); the 12th school (grades 4–9) is slated to open in September.
For Ed, who describes himself as either a “beacon for change” or, jokingly of course, a “cautionary tale,” says his biggest challenge has been to hold off on making immediate changes when transitioning to each new district. He recalls advice from his mentor, a previous superintendent, who advised him to honor the past as he moved into the future.
“I focus on the fact that I am a new person coming into their environment,” Ed says. “I adapt to how they think and the district culture and processes. Everyone is working to accomplish the same thing, just perhaps via a different road. I see what their road looks like and where have they traveled. They managed before I got there, so I adapt and then gradually introduce improvements to the way things are done.”
This approach throughout the years has endeared him to his trustees, who have said to peers in other districts, “You’re stealing our Ed!” upon his transition to a new position. “Having such a strong relationship with elected officials is great,” Ed says. “I stay true to the sense of trust that I’ve earned.”
For one who had never been east of Alberta until he left for college in Ontario, Ed is now a well-seasoned traveler and his sense of adventure certainly spurs him. He has been to six of the seven continents—only Australia remains on his bucket list—and has never been known to turn down a dare. Should you meet him at an upcoming conference, ask him to share the story of swinging off a rope attached to a tree top on the edge of a cliff, barely missing the rocks before landing safely in the lake below!