Boards approve teacher cuts in N.S.

School boards in Halifax and Cape Breton have voted to eliminate dozens of teaching jobs.
Nova Scotia is cutting teacher positions around the province. (CBC) (CBC)

School boards in Halifax and Cape Breton have voted to eliminate dozens of teaching positions.

In a vote on Wednesday night, the Halifax Regional School Board opted to issue layoff notices to 40 teachers who have probationary status.

The board will deliver the layoff notices before May 15.

Despite last-minute pleas from teachers, board members voted to uphold a plan from their staff and cut the positions.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union condemned the decision Thursday saying the move puts the future of students in jeopardy.

"The loss of these teaching positions … will have a direct impact on students, as we see class sizes at the lower elementary level increase," said union president Alexis Allen.

School board chair Irvine Carvery said of the 40 teachers who received layoff notices, he hopes that only about 14 are actually going to be laid off. He said the board could further reduce that later this year, as it reviews its budget to try to find more savings and save more jobs.

Carvery said he and the school board are interested in talking to Allen and the teacher's union about a way forward.

"Let's sit down at a table and let's discuss what's in the best interest of not just our students in the classroom but also our staff, our teachers. Our board is more than willing to sit down with the Nova Scotia Teacher's Union to have a very frank discussion and to try and lay out a strategy to go forward for the future."

On Wednesday, the Minister of Education said the decision to cut jobs was difficult.

"These are friends of mine, you know. These are people I worked with," said Ramona Jennex. "These are people that I know. These are people that I love. And I know that this is a time of anxiety. This is the hard work that needs to be done."

Jennex says the cuts are justified given the reduction in the number of students entering the system.

Teachers in Cape Breton also made last-ditch appeals to keep their jobs.

Fourteen teachers received notification in April that they would be terminated. They appeared before the board to plead their case on Tuesday, but were unsuccessful.

"Most of them told the board that they had subbed for about four or five years before they were hired," said Beth MacIsaac, director of human resources for the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board. "Most were hired in 2008 and they have been on permanent staff since that point in time."

She said the decision was challenging for everyone involved.

"They told the board of the number of activities that they have been involved in and they also revealed a little about their personal circumstances and what a hardship this was going to be to them and how disappointed they were," MacIsaac said.

Declining enrollment and the subsequent loss of education funding forced the board to terminate the teachers, said MacIsaac. Enrollment for next year is down by 738 students in the Cape Breton region.

Support staff, including 50 teachers' aides, are also being cut.