YARMOUTH, N,S. – Slow down.
This was the consensus and message of those who attended a session in Yarmouth Feb. 19 to talk about the Glaze report.
“This whole process is going too fast. Way, way, way too fast,” said Tri-County Regional School Board (TCRBS) member Donna Tidd. Tidd said the education system didn’t get to where it was overnight, and it can’t be fixed that way either.
People at the session, hosted by the TCRSB, asked: Where is the public consultation about the report’s recommendations?
Ontario consultant Avis Glaze made her report public Jan. 23. The next day the government announced it had accepted all of the recommendations.
One of the recommendations is to dissolve the elected English-speaking boards. The legislature will sit again starting Feb. 27 with legislation introduced to get rid of the elected boards. The Glaze report calls for the seven regional administration board offices and board staff to remain in place, under the leadership of regional executive directors who were formerly superintendents. It also calls for an enhanced role for school advisory councils to make school-based decisions.
The government says there will also be an appointed provincial advisory board in place of the elected boards.
“I sat in on more than one meeting with Dr. Glaze where she started every single meeting saying, ‘I am fully in support of elected school boards, that is not why I am here. I do not believe in getting rid of elected school boards,’” said Tidd. Referring to the day the report came out, Tidd said, “I felt like I had been stabbed in the back. I felt as if I had been lied to not once, but many times.”
The public meeting was organized to give people the chance to ask questions and share comments, which will be forwarded to Education Minister Zach Churchill.
Former principal Gary Archibald questioned why the province wouldn’t wait for another major report that is due to come out at the end of March – that one on inclusive education – before moving forward on the Glaze report.
“There’s going to be major, major changes recommended in that,” he said.
Archibald also said centralization seems to be a recurring theme with the government. It happened with the health-care system and now it’s the education system.
Archibald, who has grandchildren in the education system, said he’s read the Glaze report three times. Each time makes him “more angry,” he said.
“There are some glaring errors. She says most provinces in Canada have the principals and vice-principals not in the union with the teachers. There’s three provinces. That’s not most. She says the college of teachers is very popular. There’s one province that has one, Ontario. British Columbia started it and threw it away,” Archibald said. “She says the NSTU is in charge of discipline. Nothing is further from the truth, the school boards are in charge of discipline.”
“And if the school boards are not working in the present sense, fix them, don’t destroy them,” Archibald said.
He said there are recommendations he likes. He pointed to numbers 17, 18 and 19 that speak to a strategy to recruit and retain teachers, developing targeted education strategies for specific challenges in the system and providing supports for emerging immigrant communities.
But about the report overall he said, “It’s much too much to deal with in one report. It’s going too quickly. They should be consulting.”
PC MLAs Chris d’Entremont and Kim Masland attended the session. Both also commented on the “lightning speed” of this report. The MLAs were asked by people in attendance to bring their questions forward to the government. One teacher wanted to know specifically how removing principals and vice-principals from the union, dissolving the elected boards and setting up a college of teachers will directly help her and her students in the classroom?
Another teacher said the government needs to consult more with teachers.
“The government says, ‘we want to talk to teachers,’ well they’ve never talked to me. I have a masters in teaching math. No one has ever asked me what’s right, what’s wrong with the curriculum,” said the CSAP teacher. He also questions what the implications will be of only keeping the elected CSAP board.
“I know the only reason we get to keep ours is because of the charter. But that’s also very scary because now the government is going to have its way with every school in the province but not us,” he said. “Is that going to create an antagonistic relationship between the province and the CSAP? I think it will.”
He added there should be public consultation.
MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED
Jude Fulton has spent her education career both in the classroom with students and working within the Tri-County Regional Board, including time as its RCH (Race Relations, Cross Cultural Understanding and Human Rights) coordinator. She had just returned from a trip to Mexico where she said it was hot, but the Glaze report, she said, makes her even hotter.
Fulton said she’s seen many reports prepared in the past dealing with aspects of the education system and she’s never before seen one implemented in such short order.
She questions what the projected costs of implementing the recommendations will be. Who will be charged with consolidating and re-writing the policies for the seven regional school boards? What will become of teaching principals and vice-principals? And if there are a large number of principals who return to the classroom, what will that mean for schools and students who will see new, junior principals in these leadership roles?
As someone who advocates strongly for social justice, she says trust is important in any relationship and many people have felt betrayed by Glaze.
One of these people is TCRSB board member Pat Nickerson of Shelburne County, who reiterated how Glaze told them she was not looking to get rid of elected boards.
“I have a feeling when Ms. Glaze came she was told what to put in her report,” Nickerson said, adding elected board members are not just a rubber stamp and she wants to continue on with the work that the board has been doing.
“I have 30 years of teaching and a lot of life experience. I don’t want to drop the ball right now for somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about to pick up the ball,” she said.
Board chair Michael Drew mocked the title of the Glaze report: Raising the Bar. He said the report doesn’t even pass the bar. “There is no research that would justify the dissolution of an entire system throughout this province,” he said. “Regardless of what Dr. Glaze says about being respectful of Acadian rights, the only reason why the French board is not being dissolved along with the seven (elected) English boards is because of the charter. If she could have gotten rid of all of them she would have gotten rid of all of them.”
“Where is the research that justifies taking principals out of the union into a separate association and creating a divisiveness within this system?” he said. “Where is the research that no longer supports a collaborative system, but is now a system of dissention, of fighting between different factions?”
Board member Dolores Atwood expressed her support for the recommendation to dissolve the elected boards. She said students leaving the public education system are not prepared for university and the system is failing the students. She said she believed in school boards and believes in local voices, but when something is broken it needs to be fixed or done anyway with.
“Honestly, if I were the minister I would have dissolved the board myself,” she said.
Her fellow board member Sandra Fitzgerald, however, puts the blame on the government.
“The boards did not write the curriculum. Our teachers did not write the curriculum. The government wrote the curriculum, they gave it to our teachers, they told our teachers what to do. The teachers are following their lead,” she said. “Why are they telling our teachers if children don’t get it, just push them along?”
Board member Michael Alden Fells strongly disagrees with removing elected school boards and taking with them the representation of elected African Nova Scotia members. He called this is a bad decision for everyone.
“We cannot allow this to happen without standing up and speaking out loudly and clearly and strongly,” he said. “The decision that has been made concerning education in Nova Scotia is not in the best interests of Nova Scotia learners.”
It was also mentioned during the session by Queens-Shelburne MLA Kim Masland that the report is an assault on democracy.
Even though there are board members who are acclaimed, others are elected by the people to represent them and the government is doing away with this right. There is also concern about where the calls school board members receive will go once the boards are gone. Will it be MLAs fielding those calls? Municipal politicians? Someone in another part of the province?
“I have so many calls from parents,” said board member, and mother, Andrea Huskilson-Newell, providing examples. “A parent of a student with a learning disability who needed more resources. A parent of a student at a bus stop at the end of a driveway of a sex offender. A parent who had the concern of their child with a mental illness and a bullying issue. This has been in the past two weeks. Who is going to be there to help those parents? Who is going to help them navigate the system?”
“You’re going to have somebody in Halifax to call? Try calling them from Lockeport and telling them how to get there.”
She believes centralization will be very detrimental to rural Nova Scotia.
“Another of my main concerns, what about the job security for school staff? What about them? Why do they have to continue to get dragged through this crap? Why not ask them what changes need to be made and implement those?”