Features

Carole Karbonik – Edmonton Catholic Schools 

Advocating for students and families 

The general counsel of a school division plays a crucial role in providing legal guidance and support to the division’s trustees, administrators, teachers and staff. They advise on various issues related to education law, contracts, labor relations, student rights and legislation compliance. The general counsel also represents the school division in legal proceedings, drafts and reviews contracts, policies and other legal documents, and ensures that the division operates within the bounds of the law. But above all that, the job is to ensure the division is doing right by its students, teachers and staff.  

Carole Karbonik | General Counsel | Edmonton Catholic Schools 

Carole Karbonik | General Counsel | Edmonton Catholic Schools

At Edmonton Catholic Schools, Carole Karbonik is general counsel, and within the division, she is a versatile force, often referred to as a one-woman multidisciplinary team. Each day, she navigates various legal intricacies, providing invaluable guidance. From deciphering the statutory intricacies of school jurisdictions in Alberta to delving into the nuances of family law, privacy law, public access law, labor law, and human rights law, Karbonik approaches each challenge with enthusiasm and a determination to uphold justice and fairness. 

Beyond the confines of legal intricacies, Karbonik’s work is a testament to her dedication to the well-being and success of the Edmonton Catholic Schools community.  

“My efforts extend beyond the law, as I actively engage in initiatives to foster inclusivity, promote diversity, and safeguard the rights of students and staff alike,” Karbonik tells Vanguard during an interview in April.  

With an eye for justice and a compassionate heart, she navigates the complexities of her role, ensuring that every action she takes is aligned with the overarching mission of providing a safe, supportive, and enriching environment for all members of the school community. 

Expert legal support 

Beyond providing legal counsel, Karbonik plays a vital role in shaping the culture and operations of Edmonton Catholic Schools. One notable initiative she is privileged to lend her skills to support is the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism (EDIAR) program. This program aims to foster an environment of respect and inclusivity within the school division, ensuring that all students, staff, and parents feel valued and supported. 

Additionally, Karbonik is actively involved in managing the school division’s response to significant enrollment growth. This includes supporting the division’s response to student learning accommodations and supporting school operations to meet the needs of a growing student population. She collaborates with human resources services staff to recruit and retain qualified educators and support staff to maintain high education standards. 

Carole Karbonik | General Counsel | Edmonton Catholic Schools 

Regarding legal initiatives, Karbonik is instrumental in ensuring compliance with Alberta’s statutory framework governing school jurisdictions. She guides on various legal matters, including family, privacy, public access, labor and human rights laws. Her expertise enables Edmonton Catholic Schools to navigate legal challenges effectively while upholding the rights and well-being of students and staff. 

“I am also actively involved in initiatives to improve student outcomes and create a positive learning environment,” she says.  

Whether advocating for student rights or promoting diversity and inclusion, Karbonik’s contributions are integral to Edmonton Catholic Schools’ success. 

Teamwork and leadership 

Karbonik is in a one-person department, supported by administrative staff. Despite the small team, recruiting and retaining talent poses ongoing challenges. The decision to expand internally or rely more on external counsel is a delicate balance, complicated by perceptions about workload distribution. 

In navigating these challenges, Karbonik emphasizes the importance of teamwork and leadership. While she may be the sole legal expert in her department, she recognizes the value of collaboration and communication with other departments and stakeholders. Building strong relationships and fostering a spirit of teamwork enables her to effectively address legal matters that impact the entire organization. 

Carole Karbonik | General Counsel | Edmonton Catholic Schools 

For Karbonik, leadership goes beyond managing legal issues; it involves inspiring others to contribute their best and fostering a culture of trust and collaboration. Despite being the sole member of her department, she ensures that her colleagues across the organization feel supported and empowered to seek legal guidance when needed.  

“We cultivate an environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to work towards the common goal of supporting students and families,” Karbonik says.  

Reflecting on her own journey, Karbonik acknowledges the importance of confidence in leadership. Overcoming power dynamics and gaining confidence in her voice has been transformative. By leading with authenticity and integrity, she sets an example for others, encouraging them to speak up and contribute their ideas. 

Karbonik’s approach to teamwork and leadership revolves around building relationships, fostering open communication, and empowering others to reach their full potential. Through collaboration and effective leadership, she ensures that legal matters are addressed comprehensively, contributing to the overall success of Edmonton Catholic Schools. 

The path to law 

Karbonik has forged a remarkable path to success driven by her early passion for justice and advocacy. Despite initial doubts about pursuing a career in law due to societal norms, Karbonik’s determination to stand up for what is right led her to embrace litigation after law school. Initially unaware of the diverse legal career opportunities, she found her calling in providing legal services for educational institutions. 

Carole Karbonik | General Counsel | Edmonton Catholic Schools 

Born and raised in Edmonton, Karbonik completed her formal education at the University of Alberta, earning her Bachelor of Commerce and LL.B. degrees. Her dedication and contributions to the legal profession were recognized with her appointment as King’s Counsel in 2022, a prestigious designation in Alberta and the Commonwealth. Beyond her professional achievements, Karbonik finds joy in her family life, cherishing moments with her husband of over 25 years and their three daughters, all of whom have been the source of endless support and inspiration. 

Karbonik embraces diverse interests away from work, from indulging in family vacations to Maui or British Columbia to pursuing hobbies like stained glass projects, cooking, golfing, and gardening. Always eager to learn, she and her husband recently embarked on a new adventure, mastering the art of kayaking in anticipation of future trips to the Northwest Territories and Alaska. 

In addition to her professional and personal pursuits, Karbonik actively contributes to her community through volunteer work. She serves on the board of an independent living facility, St. Andrew’s Senior Centre, and the nonprofit Covenant Foundation, which supports the operations of Catholic healthcare facilities throughout Alberta. Her commitment to her profession and community exemplifies Karbonik’s dedication to positively impacting wherever she goes. 

“My role with Edmonton Catholic Schools has allowed me to experience the real connection between the law and its impact upon people. As lawyers, we cannot lose sight of the responsibility accompanying our advice. But at Edmonton Catholic Schools, this is not difficult,” Karbonik says. “I am surrounded by people whose sole focus is on what is best for kids, and as a result, my professional journey has been aligned perfectly with my personal values and goals. What an incredible opportunity.”  

Published on: May 22, 2024

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