Opposition says new school board stacked with 'Tory hacks'
Transition team will oversee consolidation of English school boards by fall
The Opposition claims Newfoundland and Labrador's governing Tories have stacked a new school board transition team with political friends.
Education Minister Clyde Jackman on Wednesday unveiled the nine administrators who will oversee the consolidation of four English school boards into one by September, and keep it running until a new board is elected.
But both Liberal and NDP critics saw party colours in the new appointments.
"The only thing this committee ensures is that the minister has loaded this up with enough Tory hacks to get whatever response he wants," Liberal MHA Jim Bennett told the house of assembly.
"This is purely a rubber stamp for the minister. If what he was doing to education was not a tragedy, the appointment of this committee would be a farce," said Bennett.
Speaking with reporters later, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was a bit more measured in his assessment.
"Are they going to appoint obviously people that are friendly to government? Well, of course they are," Ball said.
Dale Kirby, the NDP's education critic, said the Tories will rely on politically sympathetic administrators to handle a consolidation that has been met with opposition from numerous educators and municipal leaders, particularly in rural areas.
"It looks to me as though the government's assembled a transitional board that in the least includes some of their Progressive Conservative Party friends," said Kirby.
"I guess that's convenient when you're trying to do this sort of work," he said.
Kirby said the complex task and short timeframe is a recipe for disaster.
Deputy minister to chair committee
Jackman told the house of assembly that the transition committee will be made up of members of the four current boards, with Lorne Wheeler, a former deputy minister of education, as chair.
"Each of these volunteer school board representatives has agreed to assist in the transitioning process to ensure the delivery of educational programs to students, teachers and staff will flow smoothly in September," said Jackman.
The other members of the transition committee are Goronwy Price and Guy Elliott of the Labrador District School Board, Donald Brown and Nada Borden of the Western School District board, John George and Kim Cheeks of the Nova Central School District board, and Milton Peach and George Sheppard of the Eastern School District board.
Jackman said the position of CEO for the mega-board will be advertised this week.