Bay Roberts meet­ing on K-12 ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem full of ideas

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON

The first pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion for the pre­mier’s task force on im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion out­comes in New­found­land and Labrador’s K-12 sys­tem fea­tured lots of sug­ges­tions on what to do.

Some ideas speak­ers men­tioned last Mon­day at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts are likely fa­mil­iar to many in the Con­cep­tion Bay North area. There were calls for de­creased class sizes, the re­place­ment of Co­ley’s Point Pri­mary, im­proved stu­dent trans­porta­tion and more re­sources for teach­ers.

Kim Crane, a par­ent who serves on the school coun­cil for Holy Redeemer in Spa­niard’s Bay, said funds made available to schools are not go­ing far enough when it comes to sup­port­ing the work of teach­ers.

“Every time I’m at school, which is a lot, whether it’s vol­un­teer­ing or pick­ing up chil- dren or what have you, I al­ways see (teach­ers) try­ing to man­age some­thing,” she said. “Try­ing to man­age an is­sue, try­ing to man­age a concern, try­ing to man­age getting some­thing for a stu­dent or the school, and that’s very frus­trat­ing to see be­cause their fo­cus is not teach­ing any­more. It’s not sup­port­ing one an­other, even though they try their very best to do that.”

Noel Hur­ley, a for­mer school board su­per­in­ten­dent who now teaches ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents at Memo­rial Univer­sity, be­lieves the move to­wards a sin­gle en­tity re­spon­si­ble for the en­tire English school sys­tem was a mistake. He’d like to see a re­turn to a model with mul­ti­ple boards and funds for those boards to al­lo­cate in the best in­ter­ests of their re­gion.

“Nova Sco­tia has about twice our pop­u­la­tion,” Hur­ley said. “It has eight school boards. They func­tion very well. Now and then the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ters had to dis­band boards. It’s not per­fect, but it’s demo­cratic and it’s lo­cal.”

Joy Brown and Nancy Reid both spoke about in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion. Brown was part of the ini­tial pi­lot project that pre­ceded the im­ple­men­ta­tion of in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion across the prov­ince. Brown said the in­clu­sive model works great for kids, but she’s not im­pressed with how it’s be­ing man­aged to­day.

“On the out­side look­ing in, I’m sad,” she said. “Sad be­cause I know a bet­ter way that works. Sad be­cause I fear there are more chil­dren than ever fall­ing through the cracks. But mainly con­cerned with the sus­tain­abil­ity of my pro­fes­sion.”

Reid, man­ager of strate­gic ini­tia­tives for the pro­vin­cial Coali­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties, ad­dressed the need for phys­i­cally ac­ces­si­ble schools. Based on in­for­ma­tion she found on the New­found­land and Labrador English School District web­site, 104 schools were not ac­ces­si­ble out of 257 as of last Septem­ber.

“We’ve got in­cred­i­ble teach­ers,” said Reid. “We’ve got an in­cred­i­ble group of par­ents and vol­un­teers out there, but the build­ings them­selves don’t al­low this group of peo­ple to do their work.”

Reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gist He­len Paul spoke about the men­tal health of stu­dents and the need to change how com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ments are han­dled in schools. She said only ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gists should be tasked with this work, and not guid­ance coun­sel­lors.

“Guid­ance coun­sel­lors do not re­quire a leg­is­lated, li­censed sys­tem to prac­tice as a guid­ance coun­sel­lor. Guid­ance coun­sel­lors do not re­quire post-grad­u­ate su­per­vi­sion or a na­tional ex­am­i­na­tion to main­tain the use of the ti­tle of guid­ance coun­sel­lor. Thus, the qual­ity and value of the com­pre­hen­sive as­sess­ment de­pends very much on the train­ing and qual­i­fi­ca­tions of the lead as­ses­sor.”

Kath­leen Burt, a re­tired ed­u­ca­tor, be­lieves the cur­rent sys­tem fails to pro­mote en­gage­ment in a par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy, which she would like to see hap­pen.

“First of all, there’s been an ero­sion of im­por­tance of the so­cial stud­ies com­po­nent,” she said. “In grade school, the teach­ing of so­cial stud­ies is usu­ally left to the late af­ter­noon, and all other ar­eas of the cur­ricu­lum can and do sup­plant it … In high school, the so­cial stud­ies com­po­nent has become a his­tory, geog­ra­phy and busi­ness com­po­nent, rather than a civics com­po­nent.”

She also spoke wearily of treat­ing ed­u­ca­tion as a busi­ness, stat­ing busi­ness prin­ci­ples should not in­form how the sys­tem is man­aged.

Hay­ward Blake sug­gested a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram for teach­ers with con­tin­u­ous learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to up­grade skills is war­ranted in New­found­land and Labrador. He also rec­om­mended ex­pand­ing distance ed­u­ca­tion to more ur­ban parts of the prov­ince.

Alice Collins, who chairs the five-per­son task force, com­mended the speak­ers for their pre­sen­ta­tions, sug­gest­ing they’ve set a solid stan­dard for the re­main­ing con­sul­ta­tion ses­sions sched­uled. Task force mem­bers met with stu­dents and teach­ers ear­lier in the day and are sched­uled to submit a re­port to gov­ern­ment this spring.

Joy Brown

Kath­leen Burt

Noel Hur­ley

Heather Paul

Nancy Reid

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