Anger, frustration and tears
Parents concerned about recent layoffs of 23 teaching assistants
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.