New Brunswick

Packed house in Sackville for first stop on green paper consultation road tour

About 85 people attended the first stop on the green paper consultation tour in Sackville, though a notable absence was that of Dominic Cardy, the minister of education and early childhood development.

Dominic Cardy missed the meeting, but many people in Sackville did not

Participants at Sackville's green paper meeting were asked to come up with strengths and challenges within the education system and governance structure, and describe what roles parents and communities should play within those systems. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

About 85 people attended the first stop on the green paper consultation tour in Sackville, though Dominic Cardy, the minister of education and early childhood development, was notably absent.

George Daley, deputy minister for anglophone schools, took Cardy's place, leading groups through a series of four questions aimed at getting people thinking and talking.

Reporter Tori Weldon spoke to some of the people who attended the consultation. 5:24

Participants were asked to come up with strengths and challenges within the education system and within the governance structure (district education councils, school districts and departments), as well as roles parents and communities should play within the system.

Attendees ranged from senior citizens to high school students, with parents, grandparents, university students and teachers rounding out the crowd.

They voiced concerns about issues such as the delivery of bilingualism, class sizes and a lack of student engagement.

Eleanor Reiffenstein, a Grade 10 student at Tantramar Regional High School, said, "I was not prepared enough to come to the high school and get started in the French immersion program."

She said there was a gap between what was expected in middle school compared to high school.

Reiffenstein said she spent her evening at Sackville's town hall because she cares about her education and hopes to make it better for others. 

Daley did his best to address issues, saying that violence in the classroom is, "on my front burner."

Eleanor Reiffenstein is a Grade 10 student at Tantramar Regional High School. She didn't feel prepared to enter French immersion when she was going into high school. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Some said they were concerned about a lack of educational assistants and the low pay that EAs get.

Daley said some EAs were acting as personal care workers because that's what was demanded of them. 

They don't necessarily know how to deal with all the student demands, he said.

The meeting lasted for more than two hours as the groups brainstormed answers to the questions, and a microphone was passed from table to table.

Kate Crawford, a mother of two young children, said she attended because she wants to know what's happening in the school system.

"After hearing the back and forth, I am hopeful there would be systems change," said Crawford.

Kate Crawford is a mother of two young children. She attended the Thursday night meeting in Sackville because she wants to understand what's going on in the school system. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Daley admitted there is already a 10-year plan in place for the coming changes to the school system, but he said, "we're filling in the spaces on how we want to achieve particular parts of it and the information that is here tonight, it will contribute."

"Whenever citizens get a chance to share and give us feedback, it always makes an impact, right?"

There are 11 other stops planned for the green paper tour. The next meeting will take place in Edmundston at Cité des Jeunes A.-M.-Sormany on Jan. 29.

Cardy's green paper on education reform was published last fall. The 25-page document discusses eliminating grade levels, more use of artificial intelligence in the classroom, more partnerships with the private sector to boost education in the trades and the introduction of second-language programming in daycares.

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