The new Liberal government remains committed to staging the first-ever elections for the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District within the next 12 months.
- Liberals would have school board elections within 1 year: Dale Kirby
- Work starting on school district consolidation, says minister
A statement provided to CBC News Friday by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development says an election will take place within the next year, and preliminary discussions have already taken place.
That's in keeping with a promise made by the Liberals during last fall's election campaign.
The one-year commitment is also spelled out in Premier Dwight Ball's mandate letter to education minister Dale Kirby.
Kirby will meet with Darrin Pike, board CEO and director of education, chair Milton Peach, and other officials in the coming days, the statement said. Elections will be on the agenda.
The English School District was established at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year following a decision by the former Progressive Conservative government to consolidate the four English boards into one province-wide entity.
The 14 members were appointed by government, with representation from the eastern, central, western and Labrador regions.
The board is headquartered in St. John's, and has offices in Gander, Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
According to its website, the district includes 259 schools, 67,000 students and more than 8,000 employees.
There is also a French board called Le Conseil scolaire francophone provincial de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador.
Federation wants democracy restored to education
There were suggestions at the time of the board's creation more than two years ago that elections would be held within a year, but that never happened.
One of the groups calling for quick action is the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School Councils.
The group's president, Peter Whittle, stated in a news release this week that it's important to restore "democratic principles" to the district's governance.
"Elections are vital to the restoration of autonomy and revitalization of schools. Local input and accountability ensures that civic oriented individuals with strong community ties are making decisions about our children's education," Whittle stated.
He went on to say it's time to give parents and the public a say in who manages the education of their children.
"A board of trustees is accountable to the people they serve and they should be locally-elected representatives elected by the public, not imposed by government."
Kirby was one of those pushing for elections during his time as an opposition MHA, where he served as the education critic for both the New Democrats and the Liberals.