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'System problem' behind province's decision to dissolve seven school boards: Churchill

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill. - Tina Comeau

Education minister Zach Churchill says separate mandates of seven school boards didn't support students' needs

NOVA SCOTIA – The province has announced its plans to dissolve seven regional schoolboards and replace them with one province-wide advisory council.

The Education and Early Childhood Development department announced the decision Jan. 24 after a report written by international education consultant Dr. Avis Glaze recommended a ‘coordinated provincial approach’ would offer a clearer alternative to seven separate boards.

Department minister Zach Churchill confirmed he met with school board members this morning, in a meeting he said “was difficult for all of us,” where he announced the department’s decision.

“Members disagreed with our decision, specifically on two of the recommendations – to dissolve the school boards and to reallocate resources to Student Advisory Councils,” he said.

Decision to dissolve due to 'system problem'

Churchill said the decision did not come as a result of poor performance of school board members, but rather on what the department sees is a “system problem.”

In her report, Glaze said the eight independent school boards – including the francophone school board – operating with their own mandate slowed the education system’s ability to respond to changing student needs.

The Francophone school board, Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial, will not be affected by the change.

“This unified approach will make us… coherent and focused at a provincial level,” said Churchill.

Churchill said no layoffs will happen as a result of the dissolution, but that roles may change as directives are issued to school boards and superintendents this Friday.

Any job loss that does happen will be due to attrition, according to the minister.

He added there will be a redeployment of resources, and that experts will be moved from current office roles back into schools.

“Our focus will be ensuring resources currently there are redeployed into our classrooms… to support our front lines – the teachers and principals,” he said.

Role of elected officials to be released Friday

Department spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said the roles of elected officials during the transition will be made clear once directives are issued to school boards on Friday.

Churchill noted the “class, respect and thoughtfulness” of school board members, despite their disagreeing with the department’s decision.

“They’ve assured us they will work with us to support the kids,” he said.

The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board is not currently issuing comment.

The Tri-County Regional School Board held a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the report and the decision to dissolve the elected school boards. 

Updates to follow.

Read the full report here: https://www.ednet.ns.ca/sites/default/files/docs/raisethebar-en.pdf

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