GUYSBOROUGH – Although the Strait Regional School Board is disappointed with the decision and swift action to dissolve elected school boards in the province, the board chair says the SRSB will work with the province during the process.
Last week the province received a report on public education administration by consultant Avis Glaze which, among other things, recommended the dissolution of all English school boards in the province. The province quickly accepted the recommendation to eliminate elected school boards and moved forward with plans to create a single provincial advisory council.
On Monday, January 29 the province issued letters to board members and superintendents outlining specific directives for the school boards to follow during the transition.
The directives issued Monday include required approval from the minister before any board takes the following actions:
- approval of any new school board policies
- entering agreements, or making substantive changes, including decisions on transportation, finance, operations and staffing
- initiating any new school reviews
- boards must continue to work with the department to implement universal pre-primary programming.
The SRSB covers a wide geographic range including Inverness, Richmond, Guysborough and Antigonish counties; administering a total of 21 schools.
SRSB Chair Jamie Sampson, who was elected to that position on November 1, 2017 and has served as the SRSB representative for East Antigonish since 2012, spoke to The Journal about the recent developments on Monday evening.
On the benefits of having locally elected school board members, Samson said, “Individual elected members of the school board, all along we have been working really hard in the communities where we live and which we represent. We're the boots on the ground people. We are talking with the communities, students and parents. We bring that broad level of feedback to the board.”
The decision to accept the report's recommendation on school board dissolution was swift and the wheels were quickly put into motion by the province. Samson said of the fast turnaround, “With all respect to Dr. Glaze and Minister Churchill, although we are disappointed we're waiting to see where things go.”
With decisions soon to be taken completely out of school board hands, the remaining months of the organization resemble those of any elected body whose mandate is nearing an end. When asked if the board felt like their hands would be tied in future decision-making, Samson said, “The Strait Board has always strived to ensure that our decisions were made with learning achievement and success a top priority. And going forward we will work collaboratively with the government during the transition process. Until that time our focus will be providing students within our board with the best possible learning opportunities regardless where they are within our region.”
Samson was unable to make any comment on staffing issues that may be affected by the dissolution.
The report is available online at https://www.ednet.ns.ca/sites/default/files/docs/raisethebar-en.pdf.