Ed­u­ca­tion re­form mov­ing ahead

Prov­ince in­tro­duces leg­is­la­tion to re­move prin­ci­pals from NSTU, dis­solve school boards

Valley Journal Advertiser - - NEWS - BY JEN­NIFER VARDY LIT­TLE AND SARA ERICSSON KINGSCOUNTYNEWS.CA

Sweep­ing changes were in­tro­duced to Nova Sco­tia’s Ed­u­ca­tion Act March 1.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Zach Churchill an­nounced the changes, which in­clude re­mov­ing school ad­min­is­tra­tors from the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union and dis­solv­ing school boards.

“This is about fix­ing a frac­tured sys­tem for the sake of our kids,” Churchill said.

The changes come in re­sponse to Dr. Avis Glaze’s rec­om­men­da­tions, an­nounced ear­lier in Fe­bru­ary, but do not in­clude all of the changes Glaze rec­om­mended. Churchill said the de­ci­sion to elim­i­nate her sug­ges­tion of cre­at­ing a Col­lege of Ed­u­ca­tors was dropped af­ter he met di­rectly with school ad­min­is­tra­tors and de­ter­mined there wasn’t enough buy-in for the idea.

He said he found the process “en­light­en­ing,” adding that pro­to­col had pre­vi­ously pre­vented him from meet­ing with front-line staff in schools, in­stead re­quir­ing him to meet with elected board of­fi­cials.

“I’ve been on the road, meet­ing teach­ers and prin­ci­pals di­rectly in ev­ery sin­gle re­gion, and there’s a cou­ple key things in here that rep­re­sent the con­cerns that have come for­ward,” he said. “There didn’t re­ally seem to be buy-in for the Col­lege of Teach­ers, and that makes hav­ing a self- reg­u­lated, pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tion dif­fi­cult to achieve if the ma­jor­ity of the pro­fes­sion doesn’t nec­es­sary want to par­tic­i­pate in that fash­ion.”

But, he said, Glaze’s ob­jec­tive to have “stan­dards of ex­cel­lence and lead­er­ship and teach­ing” will pro­ceed and Churchill said he feels con­fi­dent that ad­min­is­tra­tors will “see their voice re­flected in here.”

The prov­ince met with the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union ear­lier this week fol­low­ing a re­quest from union pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet.

The NSTU had voted Feb. 20 in favour of il­le­gal job ac­tion, with 82 per cent of the teach­ers who voted sup­port­ing strik­ing. Doucet, in an­nounc­ing the re­sults the fol­low­ing day, im­plored the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter and pre­mier to “do the right thing” and meet with the union be­fore in­tro­duc­ing changes to the Ed­u­ca­tion Act.

Churchill said he’s hope­ful the union will ul­ti­mately sup­port the changes.

“It mat­ters to our kids,” Churchill said. “So, if we’re all fo­cused on our kids and we look at the ev­i­dence — which tells us teach­ing ex­cel­lence and lead­er­ship ex­cel­lence are the two pri­mary fac­tors that are im­por­tant to stu­dent out­comes — there is no rea­son we should not be able to work to­gether to achieve this.

“Those kids bring us all to­gether at the end of the day. We can dis­agree on govern­ment di­rec­tion or govern­ment de­ci­sions but at the end of the day, we all have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to those kids and I’m com­mit­ted to work­ing with ev­ery­body to make sure we do that.”

That meet­ing prompted a brief de­lay in the in­tro­duc­tion of the bill, but on March 1, Churchill an­nounced ed­u­ca­tion re­form changes that in­cluded dis­solv­ing the prov­ince’s seven English school boards, with ex­ist­ing board mem­bers re­ceiv­ing a one-time pay­out in March to cover the re­main­der of the stipend un­til the end of their cur­rent term in Oc­to­ber 2020, to the tune of $2.4 mil­lion. Af­ter that, the es­ti­mated $2.3 mil­lion in an­nual stipends and other ex­penses for board mem­bers will go back into the schools, with a por­tion of those funds go­ing into new School Ad­vi­sory Coun­cils.

The French board will con­tinue to ex­ist sep­a­rately.

Ex­ist­ing school board of­fices will be­come “re­gional ed­u­ca­tion cen­tres” that will be re­spon­si­ble for lo­cal de­ci­sions, such as snow day clo­sures and bussing de­ci­sions.

A 15-mem­ber pro­vin­cial ad­vi­sory coun­cil will be es­tab­lished, with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from all re­gions and di­verse back­grounds rep­re­sented. There will also be a ded­i­cated re­source in the pro­vin­cial om­buds­men’s of­fice and a tran­si­tion team will be es­tab­lished that in­cludes mem­bers from vary­ing back­ground, the prov­ince said, to ease these changes.

School Ad­vi­sory Coun­cils will also have an en­hanced role in the prov­ince, but what that will look like is not yet known. That will be de­vel­oped, the prov­ince said, fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with ex­ist­ing SACs to de­ter­mine what an ex­panded role might look like and what sup­ports might be needed.

Prin­ci­pals, vice-prin­ci­pals re­moved from union

One of the key stick­ing points for the union — re­mov­ing school ad­min­is­tra­tors from the NSTU — will move ahead.

Un­der these changes, ad­min­is­tra­tors — which in­cludes ap­prox­i­mately 1,000 prin­ci­pals, vice-prin­ci­pals and other peo­ple em­ployed in man­age­rial po­si­tions — will be re­moved from the union and will not have the right to strike. They will also be ex­cluded from bar­gain­ing.

Ad­min­is­tra­tors will now be­long to the Pub­lic School Ad­min­is­tra­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, but are pro­hib­ited from form­ing a union of their own. The as­so­ci­a­tion will en­sure se­nior­ity and com­pen­sa­tion are pro­tected and ad­min­is­tra­tors will con­tinue to have the ben­e­fits and pen­sions they do now. An as­so­ci­a­tion will be formed for these ad­min­is­tra­tors, the prov­ince said, that will give them op­por­tu­ni­ties for pro­fes-

Li­ette Doucet

Zach Churchill

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