Bennett ‘thunderstruck’ by minister’s letter

Andrew Robinson
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Suggests new English school board won’t be ready to review existing multi-year plans

The Official Opposition critic for education is suggesting the province’s new English school board may not be equipped to review the existing multi-year plans of the four school districts it will replace.

In early July, Jim Bennett wrote Education Minister Clyde Jackman to get a sense of the government’s plan for St. Peter’s Elementary in light of concerns with overcrowding at the Mount Pearl school.

“I went out, I had a look at the school, and I spoke with someone from the (school) council, and the consensus generally with the council is that you’re not going to make the changes that’s needed right away for this season,” said Bennett, referring to the upcoming school year.

After bringing those concerns to the minister, Bennett received a letter from Jackman dated July 29. Jackman said school boards are ultimately responsible for “the administration and organization” of schools like St. Peter’s Elementary.

“The Eastern School District is currently reviewing the Mount Pearl system as part of its 2011-14 multi-year plan,” wrote the minister, who went on to add stakeholders within the Mount Pearl system will be encouraged to work together to address such concerns.

Jackman said issues at St. Peter’s Elementary in relation to the fire code, student and staff safety, and school maintenance were investigated and addressed where necessary.

Bennett was particularly surprised by the letter’s focus on the work of Eastern School District.

“I got this letter back, and I was kind of a bit thunderstruck by the letter,” said Bennett, “because if you would read the letter, you would think that there was no school board reorganization.”

Given Eastern School District is set to be dissolved and brought in as a part of the new prov-incewide English school board, Bennett says, the transition team responsible for overseeing that process should be responsible for such a review.

“Maybe the transition team should be dealing with this if the new mega-board isn’t ready to do it, because the transition team was put in place for the transition.”

In an emailed statement to The Telegram, Jackman said the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District will come into effect at the beginning of September.

Bennett also questioned the value of working with Eastern School District’s 2011-14 multi-year plan, given all other school districts have their own plans that will all now come under the watch of the new provincial English school board.

“Does that mean the mega-board is going to apply the ongoing plans of the existing boards, or does it mean they have their own plan?”

Addressing concerns about the existing multi-year plans, Jackman said the new district will review all of those plans.

“This process will be a continuation of planning and priorities work that has begun, including the review of school organization in Mount Pearl,” said the minister in his statement.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: English school board, Mount Pearl school

Geographic location: Mount Pearl

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