Anger, frus­tra­tion and tears

Par­ents con­cerned about re­cent lay­offs of 23 teach­ing as­sis­tants

Cape Breton Post - - Front Page - BY NIKKI SUL­LI­VAN CAPE BRE­TON POST nicole­j­sul­li­

Par­ents con­cerned about re­cent lay­offs of 23 teach­ing as­sis­tants.

Anger, frus­tra­tion and tears are some of the re­ac­tions of par­ents in the CBRM af­ter last week’s news the Cape Bre­ton-Vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board was lay­ing off 23 teach­ing as­sis­tants.

Mar­lyce MacMullin, a former TA and mother of three from Florence, is very con­cerned. Her son has a learn­ing dis­abil­ity and she thinks the cuts will di­rectly af­fect him.

“Luck­ily he doesn’t need a TA. We’ve adapted his work to him,” she ex­plains. “But he’s on a list to have psych test­ing done, for us to see what he can and can’t ac­com­plish. I put him on the list, again, at the start of this year be­cause he hasn’t been tested since Grade 3 . . . we still haven’t got­ten a call.”

MacMullin be­lieves be­cause her son’s learn­ing dis­abil­ity isn’t con­sid­ered se­ri­ous that he will be bumped to the end of the line and his test­ing won’t get done. It’s test­ing she feels is needed.

“As a par­ent, it is very im­por­tant. It will show us what his ca­pa­bil­i­ties are and what he can do when he goes into high school (next year). I don’t want him to get lost. And with the num­ber of stu­dents in the class­room th­ese days that can hap­pen.”

Karen Leon from Cox­heath agrees. Her youngest has a learn­ing dis­abil­ity but hasn’t been able to get the nec­es­sary test­ing done to help de­ter­mine what will help her keep up with the class be­cause of cuts done in pre­vi­ous years to the staff that do th­ese tests. Her old­est suf­fers from an anx­i­ety dis­or­der that makes it hard for her to go to school.

“Kids are fall­ing through the cracks. It’s 2017 and you have kids drop­ping out of school. Why? They’re not do­ing it to help their fam­i­lies. They don’t have to work. It’s not the De­pres­sion. So why are they drop­ping out?”

Tears start to run down her face. “There are no dis­pos­able kids. There are no kids who de­serve any less than the high­est ed­u­ca­tion in this prov­ince and they aren’t get­ting it.

“You have stu­dents who re­quire men­tal health re­sources, who can’t get in to see a guid­ance coun­cil­lor be­cause there is one guid­ance coun­cil­lor for 600 or 700 kids. “We need more re­sources. More men­tal health, more TAs, more guid­ance coun­cil­lors. Not less.”

Be­cause of her anx­i­ety dis­or­der, Leon’s old­est daugh­ter has dif­fi­culty be­ing around large groups of peo­ple. Leon re­calls how get­ting her to go to school was a daily fight un­til she started Ma­cLen­nan Mid­dle School last year.

Be­cause the num­ber of stu­dents was low, her daugh­ter’s anx­i­ety wasn’t as bad. She en­joyed school, started tak­ing the bus and talk­ing about go­ing to univer­sity to be­come a writer. Then McLen­nan was closed, her daugh­ter moved to Mal­colm Mun­roe Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School and the strug­gle re­turned.

“I was told don’t worry about it. She’s re­silient. Kids are re­silient,” Leon says, with anger com­ing through the tears. One of the peo­ple who told Leon this was Karen Casey, Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion.

“But she’s stopped writ­ing,” Leon con­tin­ues. “We’re down to (her go­ing) three days a week to school. Four if I am lucky. She’s missed more time in the last three months of this year than all of last year com­bined.

“It’s frus­trat­ing to see adults mak­ing de­ci­sions for th­ese kids. It’s as if they don’t care,” she adds, “Not all kids fit into the same box.”

MacMullin was a TA for seven years be­fore be­ing laid off and knows first-hand what cuts to re­sources, es­pe­cially TAs, does to a class­room.

“What I don’t un­der­stand as a mom is why they keep cut­ting at the school level,” she says. “Why are there not more cuts at the school board level?

“Any ex­tra money should be go­ing right into our schools for our kids. Call me crazy but . . .” she adds, sar­cas­ti­cally.

Leon agrees. “I couldn’t be on a school board and sleep at night be­cause I couldn’t do this to kids.”

She hopes par­ents will start to be more vo­cal in their protest of the cuts and make their opin­ions heard to their elected school of­fi­cials.

The news of the lay­offs came days af­ter it was an­nounced the elected board mem­bers were get­ting a 24 per cent in­crease to their yearly stipend. Ac­cord­ing to the au­di­tors’ re­port from March 31, 2016, the elected board mem­bers’ stipends were be­tween $10,500 and $17,300.


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