YARMOUTH, N.S. – The province’s education minister started a series of stakeholder sessions in this region earlier this week to ensure, he says, that people get accurate and proper information about the recent Glaze report and how it will, says Zach Churchill, better the province’s education system.
The Tri-County Regional School Board, meanwhile, has set up its own session where it says people can collectively ask questions and express their views on the Avis Glaze report, which reviewed and made recommendations on the administrative structure of the education system.
At its monthly meeting last week, the Tri-County Regional School Board approved a motion to have a “town hall-type” meeting regarding the report. One of the 22 recommendations in the report, which the government has accepted, is dissolving the province’s English speaking elected school boards.
The school board announced Wednesday it will host an information session on Monday, Feb. 19, from 7-9 p.m. at Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School, on Forest Street.
“This session will provide an opportunity for the public to express their concern, ask questions, and make comments,” reads a release from the board. “We realize this is a holiday; however, the board is under a tight time frame and therefore needs to have this meeting as soon as possible.”
This is because in the next sitting of the Nova Scotia Legislature, which begins Feb. 27, the government will be introducing its legislation to dissolve the elected boards.
The board has also said it doesn’t have time to organize and hold meetings in each county prior to when the legislature resumes on Feb. 27, so it selected Yarmouth as a central location meeting place.
The Glaze report was once again the subject of much discussion at the board’s February monthly meeting. For instance, board member Michael Alden Fells expressed concern that the report’s author, Ontario education consultant Avis Glaze, had not met with some groups in the African Nova Scotian community to discuss how recommendations in the report may impact African Nova Scotian learners.
There was also concern still expressed over school advisory councils (SACs), which will take on an “enhanced” role to make decisions for their school communities, given that some SACs in rural areas still struggle with membership and forming quorums at meetings.
MINISTER'S STAKEHOLDER SESSIONS
The education minister, meanwhile, says the sessions he is holding with invited stakeholders will be taking place over the next two weeks. Zach Churchill is meeting with school board superintendents and senior staff, SACs, teachers and principals. He kicked off these meetings Feb. 12 in Yarmouth.
The government has accepted the Glaze report’s 22 recommendations. This was announced the day after Glaze presented the report publically.
There have been individuals and groups – including the Nova Scotia Teachers Union – who have questioned why there wasn’t more widespread public consultation called ahead of the government accepting the report’s recommendations. (And the union has since announced it will hold a strike vote on Feb. 20, even though it is not in a legal position to take strike action.) Churchill says the report and its recommendations are aimed at fixing an education administrative structure that hasn’t been working and that there was consultation gathered during the preparation of the report.
“The intent of Avis Glaze’s recommendations are to unify our system operationally so we can have a clear strategic focus on student success and achievement, so they can empower our frontline staff by giving them more authority in their classrooms and their schools,” Churchill says. “These recommendations are meant to empower communities so that they have a greater say in what happens at the local levels.”
Churchill says the recommendations in the Glaze report echo a lot of what has been said in previous reports and it is time to move forward, not stay stalled in a system that needs fixing.
“The people that are suggesting that consultation needs to happen are defending the status quo,” he said.
Churchill freely admits the Glaze report is not aimed at fixing all that isn’t working in the education system, nor does it address all of the concerns that were brought forward by teachers a year ago when they made presentations at the law amendments committee in the days leading up to the provincial government imposing a contract on them.
“The Glaze report is only about the administrative structure of the education system and how we better order that to better serve our kids. This is about how we manage the system. How we organize it,” he said, saying other work carried out by the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions and the Commission on Inclusive Education will address other concerns that teachers and the public have raised.
SOME OF THE GLAZE REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS:
• 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.
• 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.
• ensure a local voice with the creation of vibrant school advisory councils (SACs) 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 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.