School

Nova Scotia set to eliminate school boards

Government also set to remove principals, vice-principals from province's teachers union

Education Minister Zach Churchill  and Sara Halliday, executive director of strategic policy, speak to media Wednesday.   Matt MacNeil

The Nova Scotia government says it will eliminate its elected school boards in favour of a provincial advisory council, as recommended by an independent education consultant.

Education Minister Zach Churchill made the announcement Wednesday. It comes one day after the consultant, Avis Glaze, said “the status quo is not working” and suggested 22 changes.

Churchill said the province will implement all of Glaze’s recommendations.

“We really do believe that these changes will put more resources into our classrooms over time,” Churchill said.

“With more direct input from classroom teachers, principals, parents and community leaders, we believe it will create a more responsive education system that is better able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our students as we move forward.”

The decision will see the province’s seven English language school boards dissolve and replaced with a government appointed advisory council. The Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the province’s francophone school board, would remain intact.

In addition, principals and vice-principals will be removed from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and there will be a new independent College of Educators to act as a professional association for teachers.

Churchill said principals and vice-principals’ salaries, pensions and benefits would not be affected by the changes. He stressed the moves were more about system changes than saving money. Although any savings, he said, would go directly towards helping students in the classroom.

“This isn’t necessarily about savings; this is about changing a system so that it’s more responsive to meet the needs of the kids,” said Churchill.

‘Disgusted’

Churchill said the government is willing to work with the teachers union to slowly implement the changes. He said the government does have the ability to remove principals and vice-principals from the NSTU without consent, but he wants to work with them during this transition.

NSTU president Liette Doucet said she was “disgusted” at the idea of principals and vice-principals being removed from the teachers union.

“Mr. Churchill, today, mentioned that the NSTU serves a great purpose, serves our members well,” she told reporters after the announcement. “Our administrators are our members and if those administrators are taken out of the union, we cannot serve them any longer. And I believe that they will be very upset by that.”

Doucet said the NSTU plans to fight the move.

Hank Middleton, the president of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, also disagreed with the government’s plans. He came to the defence of the local school board model.

“When people have an issue, they go to the local school board member, and that school board member brings it forward,” he said.

Churchill could not specify when the changes would be finalized, as they require changes to the Education Act. He said the government’s goal is to have the new model in place by the start of the school year in September.