Sisters board with one another

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A pair of Foothills trustees is not only bonded by blood, but also in striving to do what’s best for students.

Just like eating at their Okotoks family’s dinner table a few decades back, sure they’ll get along, but Jeannine Tucker and younger sister Jennifer Kristiansen are allowed to disagree now and then.

“There are going to be times where we don’t necessarily agree — we aren’t the same person,” Tucker said. “But, there will be a few things that we will agree on. We both think alike.”

The sisters were sworn in as Foothills School Division trustees on Oct. 25. Tucker will serve her second-term as trustee for the Longview-Black Diamond-Turner Valley and Kristiansen is starting her rookie stint as trustee in High River.

They come by their love and concern for education honestly – dad Jerry was a long-time teacher with the Foothills division, teaching at Oilfields High School, Okotoks High School (now OJHS), Foothills Comp and finishing off his career at Highwood High in High River.

No wonder his daughters sit at the board table with pride.

“Having graduated from the same division he taught and having my children in the same division I graduated from, I feel a huge sense of pride with Foothills School Division and what it does to help our kids,” Kristiansen said. “I want to carry on that greatness that my dad had with his career.”

Jeannine, who is a decade older, was long gone from high school when Jennifer got there, but a path had been cut.

“By the time I got to high school some of the teachers had taught my older sisters (Jeannine and Shannon Wells),” Kristiansen said. “Being a teacher’s daughter, there was an expectation on how you behaved.”

It turns out Jerry didn’t mind using his daughters as a mythical example when teaching about the Bard.

“We used to get woven into my dad’s lessons,” Tucker said with a laugh. “When I was in Grade 9 (at OJHS) my dad was teaching Romeo and Juliet and all these Grade 10 girls came up and said, ‘I can’t believe you have a marriage contract and you would agree to that.’

“My dad had us play along so the class would have a sense of what it was like.”

There was no marriage contract but Jeannine did wind up with a Capulet-Montague type wedding. The Okotokian is married to Jim Tucker, a standout with the rival then-Senator Riley Mustangs of High River.

The sisters represent a unique history of education in Okotoks. Tucker was in the first class to attend the first three years at Foothills Composite High School (Sept. ’84 to June ’87), while Kristiansen was a member of the first class to attend all three of the initial years at the Alberta High School of Fine Arts (1993-’96).

“I was in arts and played sports as well (volleyball),” Kristiansen said. “I got into the Mainstage in Grade 10, played in the orchestra for Guys and Dolls, and that got me into the fine arts stream.”

It was a sisterly ‘hrumph’ that got Kristiansen to run as trustee — hey put up or shut up.

“There were some challenges in High River that I was concerned about,” Kristiansen said. “She basically challenged me to do something about it — basically she said why not be part of the solution so I did.”

It caught Jeannine by surprise.

“I though she might join school council and then I found out she put her nomination papers in,” Tucker said. “I told her, ‘It’s not what I expected, but that’s exciting.’”

Although Tucker helped sis with some of the nuts and bolts stuff about becoming a trustee — all public knowledge — the actual campaigning was done by Kristiansen and husband Matt.

They kept the sister thing mum.

“It was actually pretty easy — it helps when there are two different last names and you live on opposite ends of the division,” Tucker said.

Although proud of being a Blake, it was important for Kristiansen to run on her own name and not on family legacy. Now that they are both on the board, there are some ground rules.

“We both agreed that when we are at non-work events we don’t talk about work,” Tucker said. “We don’t collude — no conversation between her and I that isn’t happening in front of everyone else.”

It’s an important rule.

“We don’t want anything from work to upset our home life or Christmas time dinner,” Kristiansen said. “Both of us are of the personality types that we can respect each other even if we don’t agree with one another… We are both for the greatness of the division.”

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