By Clyde Jackman
Allow me this opportunity to respond to a recent article in your newspaper which quoted former Eastern School Board trustee Derek Winsor expressing concern that there was no individual on
the current Newfoundland and Labrador English School Board representing the metro St. John’s area.
It was a curious complaint, given all the new board trustees were selected from the previous boards — and Mr. Winsor and two other trustees who represented St. John’s zones had resigned their positions, for various reasons, as of this spring. The pool of potential candidates was therefore quite depleted.
The Newfoundland and Lab-rador English School Board has 15 representatives, composed of the four elected chairs of the previous school boards and 11 other trustees who had served on the previous boards — three from Labrador, three from Western, three from Central and six from the Eastern region, where the majority of the student population resides. The trustees are from both urban and rural settings. There are two women and one individual whose region includes northern aboriginal communities.
I would hope and expect that all of these trustees would represent all students and parents in their respective regions and, indeed, throughout the province. The time for territorial approaches to school board governance has passed. We need individuals who can see the big picture, and who can approach educational issues with a broad perspective.
I remind your readers that the four former English-language school boards had 60 elected trustee positions. Given our student enrolment stands at about 67,000, one might question if that level of governance was necessary, particularly when every school in the province is also required to have a school council, with elected parent and community representatives.
The school board is, however, an important governing body. It has legislated authority for the organization of schools and educational services in the province, and the individuals who offer to serve in this capacity perform a tremendous service to the larger education community. And yet, in 2009, just 2.4 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot for their elected school board trustee.
We all have a part to play in improving that figure. I sincerely hope that when the election is held next year, we will see a healthy number of candidates — and a healthy voter turnout.
Finally, I can assure Mr. Winsor that I am not now, nor have I ever been “ashamed” to say I was an educator. I am proud of my years as a teacher, as a principal, as a school district program specialist, and most especially, proud of being a part of a government that continues to put students first when it comes to resourcing the education system.
Clyde Jackman is minister of the Department of Education.