A group of retired school board leaders says they're not happy with the Newfoundland and Labrador government's plan to merge four English-language school boards into one.
"In our opinion, they [government officials] have provided very little rationale for what we consider to be a major public policy decision," said Bill Lee, a spokesperson for the Retired School Board CEO Action Group and the former superintendent of the Avalon Consolidated School Board from 1989 to 1996.
In the March provincial budget, Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy announced government will collapse the five school boards in the province into two by Sept. 2013 — one English-language, and one French-language.
Lee said his group wants the government to cancel its decision to make one provincial English-language school board, and to establish a independent commission to determine how many school boards the province needs.
Consultation used to happen, says Lee
Lee, who worked in education for 40 years, said most premiers as far back as Joey Smallwood held extensive consultations before making major school board changes.
He was also a school board leader in the years leading up to the end of the Newfoundland and Labrador denominational school system, and he said out that the public was was widely engaged in that issue.
Lee pointed out that last month's changes have been the second time the province has decided to make significant school board changes on its own. He said in 2004, when Danny Williams was premier, the province decided to reduce the number of school boards from 10 to five without consultation.
Lee admitted that public consultations may not change the government's decision, but he is also concerned about the quality of his grandchildren's education.
'That doesn't mean we should just sit back on our haunches and capitulate.'—Bill Lee, retired school board superintendent
"What we're saying is, study the issue, consult the people," said Lee. "And then if it's determined that yes, one school board can do the work, and it can be located in St. John's, and that's the best place to be located, well, so be it."
"That doesn't mean that we should just sit back on our haunches and just capitulate to what they're saying."