LAYOFF NOTICES HANDED OUT
Government blamed for funding formula problems
Regional school board lays off 28 educational workers.
Twenty-eight local education workers have been handed layoff notices by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
The layoffs occurred last Wednesday and come on the heels of news the elected board voted to increase their own wages. But Mary Jessome, CUPE Local 5050 president, says it’s not the board’s fault.
“I don’t blame the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board,” says Jessome. “I blame the government. If they put a proper funding formula in place, then we wouldn’t be in this mess all the time … the board can only work with what they have. It’s the government that needs to fix this problem and I hope people realize that on election day.”
Twenty-three of the layoffs are believed to be teaching assistants and the Post has confirmed Baddeck Academy and Harbourside Elementary are two school affected by the decision. It’s a decision Jessome thinks will have negative implications in the classroom.
“There is going to be an extra burden on the teachers … We’re maxed out now. Our workload keeps getting higher and higher,” she explained. “But it’s the government. The government is not providing the funding needed to hire the support and staff we need.”
There is a chance those layoffs might not happen. Darren Googoo, chair of the CBRVSB, says those layoffs are only proposed because the board is working with a draft budget.
“We have prepared a draft budget to meet the numbers presented to us by the department of education,” he says.
The board is required by law to have a balanced budget and once the board submits the draft budget, the provincial government must approve it before moving forward. Googoo says with the continuous decline in student enrollment balancing the budget given to them by the provincial government becomes more challenging every year.
“I have been on the board for 11 years and every year we have experienced a decline,” says Googoo who points out Cape Breton isn’t the only area with a declining school enrolment.
“Only one or two schools in all of Nova Scotia have experienced increased student enrolment. Otherwise enrolment is steady or declining.
“What would help us in the long run would be stabilization of student enrolment. Then we could have the funding needed.”
The timing of the lay-offs comes the same week the board voted to increase the stipend of elected board members which Jessome admits makes the news harder to hear.
“I understand they haven’t had an increase in their stipend for many, many years. But it is a slap in the face to hear one day in the news that the elected board members got an increase in their stipend and the next day my members are being laid off. So it is a bitter pill to swallow.”
Along with the 23 teaching assistants given layoff papers were two secretaries, two supervisor cleaners, one cleaner, one bus driver and one inventory clerk.
“I hope people stop and realize what this Liberal government has done,” says Jessome. “They are just not stepping up to the plate with the promises they made. They aren’t providing the funding that is required to allow the board to continue the level of staffing that is needed. And I hope people really stop and think about who they are voting for on election day.
“This is their opportunity to make a change.”
This was the scene outside the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board offices Friday.