School board amalgamation moves ahead despite protests

James McLeod
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Education Minister Clyde Jackman (right) stands on the site of the new St. Teresa’s school on Mundy Pond Road with Jim Sinnott, director of projects and corporate planning with the Eastern School District. During question period in the House Wednesday, Jackman answered questions about the amalgamation of  the four English school districts into one. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The provincial government is charging ahead with plans to fold all four English language school boards into a single school board, even as the province’s teachers express misgivings.

On Wednesday in the House of Assembly, Education Minister Clyde Jackman announced the transition team for the amalgamation, just hours after the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA) issued a news release titled “Regressive Education Cuts Will Have Negative Effects on Students.”

Education Minister Clyde Jackman has been insisting for weeks that people are focusing on the school board issues, or the people being laid off, but what they should really be looking at is the student-teacher ratio, which he says will remain the same.

The school board transition team will be led by Lorne Wheeler, a former educator and former deputy minister in the Department of Education.

The committee will also have two trustees from each of the four current school boards: Goronwy Price and Guy Elliott, Labrador School Board; Donald Brown and Nada Borden, Western School Board; John George and Kim Cheeks, Nova Central School Board; and Milton Peach and George Sheppard, Eastern School District.

During question period in the House Wednesday, Jackman said the province’s ratio of students to teacher is “the best of all the provinces in Canada.”

Lily Cole, executive director of the NLTA, said even if the government isn’t increasing class size caps, by eliminating other workers in the school system it’s going to hurt the education of students.

“Teaching is just not about curriculum. It’s about all those extra things that happen in the school, and those will be the things that will probably be first to be eliminated,” she said. “The whole school system is not just a teacher and 25 students.”

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball has been calling on the government to slow down. He said it’s “literally impossible” for it to amalgamate the four school boards by September this year, and instead it should aim for September 2014.

“Extend this for a year so that we can actually get some real meaningful input,” he said. “I don’t see where this government actually has any understanding at all of what the true impacts will be in the classroom.”

NDP education critic Dale Kirby said the move to a provincewide school board basically neuters the whole reason for having arm’s-length boards. Kirby said that with appointed trustees managing the transition, and with one mega-board running the province’s school system when things are done, democratic representation will be almost completely gone.

“The decision to have one provincewide board in itself runs counter to contemporary notions of what democratic local school governance is,” he said. “This is ... the furthest we can get from that without basically abolishing school district boards and trustees altogether.”

Jackman said he’s mostly hearing complaints from opposition politicians, school board trustees and former board bureaucrats, but he’s not hearing much in the way of protests from parents.

He told reporters the Department of Education hasn’t been hit with the kind of cuts that some people are talking about.

“As minister of education I feel quite confident, and to be honest with you, when you look at other departments that were cut 10, 12 per cent,” he said.

“The Department of Education took a cut of three per cent.”

Twitter: TelegramJames


Organizations: NLTA, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers, Department of Education.The committee Labrador School Board Western School Board Nova Central School Board Eastern School Board.In Department of Education

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Bill
    April 26, 2013 - 06:45

    So we have a hasty decision to merge boards to make things better for the future. Why then is the appointed chair of the transition committee a 76 year old individual who has been out of the system for over 10 years. While a nice man, he is just a political hack moving from one government appointment to another, and this time being asked to use education rationale from the 80's and 90's to create a system to serve us into the next 20 years. I don't think so!

  • Tony Rockel
    April 25, 2013 - 09:47

    Another example of politicians thinking that pigheadedness is a sign of strength.

  • Sheila
    April 25, 2013 - 08:32

    No keep separate schools boards so that all the religious can keep passing along their fairy tales to new generations. A Board that offers factual education ONLY is a must. Now tax payer dollars hopefully will stop being wasted

    • Byron
      April 25, 2013 - 15:33

      I can see that you're right on top of everything happening Sheila..... In the 1990s!

  • Zero on Leadership
    April 25, 2013 - 08:01

    Get ready for another tory task force. Just like Muskratfalls, they are right and everyone else is WRONG! Government can't run like the wallMart effect. Why is government going around trying to bundle services like those junk pickers. Pretty soon there will nothing outside the over pass for the tourists to look at, only what could have been.