New Brunswick

Loss of diversity jobs necessary to deal with teacher shortage, Cardy says

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says diversity and inclusion coaches, also known as leads, are being moved to other jobs in the school system because more homeroom teachers will be needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

70 leads will be needed for teaching positions because smaller class sizes are in works

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says school leads are being redeployed because of COVID-19. (CBC News file photo)

Education Minister Dominic Cardy says diversity and inclusion coaches, also known as leads, are being moved to other jobs in the school system because more homeroom teachers will be needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province has decided to redeploy 70 people, including 10 diversity and inclusion leads, across all four anglophone school districts. The other jobs included in the redeployment were not identified, but the province said it was working on finding out. 

The districts said there will be no layoffs because of the decision, but some teachers will move to different positions.

The loss of the diversity leads was criticized by diversity advocates this week, but Cardy said the pandemic forced the province's hand.

"It starts and ends with COVID-19," he told Information Morning on Tuesday.

"If parents [want] a school system that's going to be clean, fit for purpose and able to carry on their kids' education, despite the sort of changes that we're looking into having to make to deal with the virus, we're going to need more teachers in classrooms."

'Not being hyperbolic'

While it's unclear what school will look like for students come September, one thing is certain: increased physical distancing requirements will require smaller class sizes and more teachers.

Earlier this week, Gail Costello, co-chair of the Pride in Education Committee, said she was concerned about losing the diversity leads, the trained teachers stationed at district offices who travel to schools to assist educators with making schools more welcoming for diverse student bodies.

"What they were saying when they created these positions was that, 'We see the issues, we recognize that there's issues out there in the education system, and that we want to address this,'" said Costello.

"What does it say about cutting it? I guess the opposite of all of that."

Gail Costello, co-chair of the Pride in Education Committee, says this isn't the time to drop diversity leads. (Gary Moore/CBC)

Cardy rejected this interpretation, saying that not redeploying resources would have hurt students.

"The alternative is saying that 'Well, we decided it was so important to have someone in a district office that kids, I'm afraid you don't have a classroom teacher today, because we couldn't find one, there aren't any available inside the province," he said.

"I'm not being hyperbolic here."

The future

Cardy said he hopes technology will make it easier for leads to assist with classes. Before COVID, one of the complaints he often heard was that leads were not using technology.

"There was a lot of frustration about the fact that at the district level we had a lot of people with real expertise that was needed in schools, but because they were assigned to so many different schools, and we didn't use technology until the virus forced it on us, that they would spend a lot of their time driving from place to place," said Cardy. 

"I heard that from the leads themselves."

Cardy said he can't guarantee the leads will go back to their normal jobs once the pandemic is over and class sizes go back to normal.

He said the department is finalizing its plan for the coming school year, and he didn't want to share any details.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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