School administrators given 1 year to decide on exiting union or going back to classroom

The province will give Nova Scotia’s principals and vice-principals one year to decide whether they want to remain in their jobs and exit the union or stay in the union and return to the classroom, says Education Minister Zach Churchill.

'This will give them more time to consider their options,' education minister says

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill speaks during a news conference in Halifax on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

The province will give Nova Scotia's principals and vice-principals one year to decide whether they want to remain in their jobs and exit the union, or stay in the union and return to the classroom, says Education Minister Zach Churchill.

Churchill made the announcement in a statement released Thursday, saying he's been travelling the province this week to "listen to those impacted by changes coming to our education system."

The principals and vice-principals will have until January 2019 to decide whether they're in or out for the start of the September 2019 school year, Churchill told CBC News.

"They really expressed a concern over a tight timeline and their ability to make an informed decision," he said.

"We recognize that these are real people that have a difficult decision to make and we want to make sure that people have time and space to reflect on that decision and to be able to absorb all the accurate information possible before a decision is made," he said.

Tensions running high

Tensions between the Liberal government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) have been high since Churchill said he would largely accept the recommendations outlined in a consultant's report that will usher in sweeping changes to the province's education system.

The most controversial of the 22 recommendations include dissolving Nova Scotia's seven elected regional school boards in favour of one provincial advisory council, and moving principals and vice-principals out of the union.

Union president Liette Doucet said in a statement that while it's positive the minister is keeping the lines of communication open, "it is unfortunate he is still not open to doing the proper thing for our education system."

"It is clear from these discussions that the public is not comfortable with the government's implementation of the Glaze report."

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet said the implementation of the Glaze report will "bring chaos to our education system." (CBC)

Doucet reiterated in Thursday's statement that the union wants the government to stop the implementation of the Glaze report, which will "bring chaos to our education system at the expense of students."

The NSTU announced earlier this week it will hold a strike vote next Tuesday. If teachers vote in favour of a strike mandate, it would clear the way for the union to launch job action, which the NSTU recognized would be illegal as a contract agreement is currently in place.

Last year, during the contract dispute with the provincial government, teachers adopted work-to-rule, doing only the minimum amount of work required by their contract.

'This is not good'

Churchill was in Cape Breton on Thursday afternoon, where he was greeted by about two dozen protesting school teachers and their supporters in Sydney Mines.

Milton Bonnar, the first vice-president of the Northside-Victoria local of the NSTU, said teachers want greater input into any changes.

"We'd like for them to stop and … let's look at it and let's get back to the table and discuss some of the changes that are happening," he said.

"This is not good. This is not good for the classroom, definitely not good for the teachers. So we're just hoping that he'll take the time and listen to us."

Bonnar said it "baffles" him that the department wants to remove the positions of principal and vice-principal from the union.

"It's disruptive," he said. "Why do that?"

With files from Gary Mansfield, Jean LaRoche and Peggy MacDonald

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