2018 in Canada has already gotten off to a bad start. After a happy and uneventful January, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are preparing for an illegal strike after a report submitted to the provincial government by consultant Avis Glaze containing life-altering recommendations that could be fatal for the education system.
“Our education system is once again under attack from the McNeil government,” NSTU president Liette Doucet said in a statement on Tuesday. “We cannot sit on our hands and let Stephen McNeil do this to our schools. We need to be prepared to fight for what is right and just.”
The union is seeking a mandate from its members to implement a job action “if the government is unprepared to back down from implementing the Glaze report.”
On February 21st, Doucet said 93% of the union’s membership participated in a vote, with 82.5% voting in favor of authorizing an illegal strike or some other job action.
Last February, the Liberal majority government led by Premier Stephen McNeil passed legislation to impose a contract on the province’s 9,600 public school teachers after three tentative agreements recommended by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union executive had been rejected by the membership over a 14-month period.
The union is staunchly against the province’s decision to largely endorse the Glaze Report, which made 22 recommendations. The province has said it will act on 11 of the recommendations immediately, with legislation coming as early as Tuesday.
Dr. Glaze’s report is titled Raise the Bar: A Coherent and Responsive Education Administrative System for Nova Scotia.
The review is the first in more than 20 years to look at how public schools are administered, including elected school boards and their central office administration, along with administration at the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (EECD).
Last October and November, Dr. Glaze met with more than 500 stakeholders during 91 consultations across the province. Another 1,500 people responded to an online survey on the issues.
The report says right now the administrative system can seem like nine disconnected bodies: the department and eight individual school boards, often with conflicting priorities, and unclear roles and responsibilities. That has led to a model that distracts from achievement and learning for the province’s 118,000 students.
“The administrative system should be realigned to reflect a unified, coordinated, provincewide focus on students to help them reach their full potential, regardless of where they live or their personal circumstances,” said Dr. Glaze. “And any savings that are realized from this plan must be directed to the classrooms.”
Some of the recommendations include:
- eliminate the seven governing regional school boards to reduce conflicting priorities and foster a coordinated provincial approach to challenges in the system. The seven regional administrative boards retain their boundaries and names and operate as regional education offices. Non-core administrative roles should be reviewed as part of a shared services model to reduce administrative costs and create a more nimble, unified system. Examples might include: IT, payroll, facilities, finance, freedom of information and protection of privacy and access to information and privacy operations, and human resources;
- superintendents should become regional executive directors of education. They would be responsible and accountable for student success, education programming and policies in their schools. They will report directly to the deputy minister of EECD and oversee the regional education offices;
- maintain the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) board structure, with the superintendent responsible to both the deputy minister and CSAP board. CSAP should control cultural and linguistic matters, while also following provincial curriculum guidelines;
- ensure a local voice with the creation of vibrant school advisory councils in all communities with greater influence and ongoing input to the minister, drawing on parents, students, principals, and community members;
- ensure the voice of Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotians is heard at the ministerial level. The Council on Mi’kmaq Education (CME) and Council on African Canadian Education (CACE) should have enhanced roles, providing policy counsel to the minister;
- move teaching support specialists (literacy leads, math mentors, etc.) out of board offices and into classrooms four days a week, with the fifth day dedicated to the assessment of progress, collaborative planning, and preparation for the next week;
- take assessment responsibility away from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and establish an independent Student Progress Assessment Office (SPAO) to develop high-quality student assessments and report directly to the public
- establish an education ombudsperson, an independent officer to investigate and resolve concerns or complaints on administrative decisions and practices that affect education;
- create a provincial college of educators, an independent body to license, govern, discipline and regulate the teaching profession, and to improve public confidence in the education system;
- remove principals and vice-principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and into a new professional association. Seniority, pension, and benefits should not be impacted and there should be an option for those administrators who may wish to return to teaching and the union;
With potential job action on the horizon, students are worried that certain extra-curricular activities, such as sports and musical activities, will be cut off for the rest of the year. Not only that, but several other organizations and groups, such as the Royal Canadian Army, Air, and Sea Cadets, use schools as space for their own programs.
Job action is expected to be announced within the next 2 weeks, and until then, both students and parents are awaiting the final decision from NSTU officials.
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