PORT HAWKESBURY: The Strait regional school board (SRSB) is holdings its last monthly meeting tonight (March 7) following the introduction of new legislation to dissolve the province’s English school boards.
“Since the provincial announcement that the regional elected boards would be dissolved, the Strait regional school board has been focused on ensuring a smooth transition for students, staff and school communities,” said SRSB coordinator of communications Deanna Gillis in an e-mail sent last Friday.
“As the Education Reform Act was only introduced by the government yesterday, board members and staff are now taking some time to review it closely.”
Last week, SRSB superintendent Ford Rice sent a letter to parents and guardians providing information on the impending changes. Under the new legislation, school board offices and staff will remain in place, and will be renamed regional education centres. The superintendent will become the executive director of education for the region.
Rice directed parents and guardians to contact their local regional education centre with any questions they would previously have referred to an elected board member. He added that the public can also access the Ombudsman’s Office to resolve concerns or complaints about education.
“These changes are intended to streamline and focus the education system on student success, and ensure provincial education policies and programs are delivered equitably and consistently for all students, regardless of where they live or go to school,” said Rice.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) announced this week that teachers will not pursue job action in response to the new legislation. The NSTU had voted in favour of a strike mandate on February 20. The legislation was introduced following talks between NSTU officials and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.
The government will proceed with the dissolution of elected boards despite opposition from the NSTU. According to a March 1 release from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the $2.3 million in annual board member stipends and expenses will be put back into the classroom.
However, the government has abandoned its proposal to create a provincial College of Teachers, which the NSTU said would have created an unnecessary level of bureaucracy. Instead, the province will work with the NSTU to develop professional standards for teachers. Although the government will proceed with its plan to remove principals, vice-principals and senior supervisory staff from the NSTU, they will remain affiliated with the union and their compensation and seniority will be protected.
In a March 1 statement, NSTU President Liette Doucet said although it was positive that the government had shown willingness to listen on certain points, the NSTU still opposes the legislation.
“We are well aware of the short-term impact a strike would have on families, and while the government has done enough to avert job action, they still have much more to do to improve our public education system. We will hold them accountable,” Doucet added.