Nova Scotia

Former school board superintendent thanks cabinet ministers in email to parents

The McNeil government's decision to eliminate school boards and replace them with regional education centres has given the governing liberals unrestricted access to thousands of email addresses and an opposition critic is worried they are being used to disseminate pro-government messages.

Elwin LeRoux thanks Churchill, Regan for supporting new school

Elwin LeRoux, the regional executive director of education for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, thanked two cabinet ministers in an email to parents announcing a new school. (Robert Short/CBC)

Dissolving school boards and absorbing their administrations within government has given the McNeil Liberals the ability to communicate directly with tens of thousands of families.

One opposition MLA is worried those email addresses have been used to disseminate pro-government messages.

Dartmouth East representative Tim Halman said a letter sent to the parents of children served by the former Halifax Regional School Board last week included praise for two cabinet ministers.

The four-paragraph letter addressed to parents and guardians from Elwin LeRoux, regional executive director of education for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, informed them of a change of configuration at Rocky Lake Junior High School in anticipation of a new school in the Bedford Ravines area announced last month.

"The announcement of a new school is exciting news for a community and I want to thank the Minister of Education, the Honourable Zach Churchill and the Honourable Kelly Regan, MLA for Bedford, for supporting the project," he wrote. 

Clear distinction needed

Halman said in his experience as a former classroom teacher, "I never saw things of that nature."

Dartmouth East MLA Tim Halman said there needs to be a clear distinction between the executive directors of the regional centres for education and the government of Nova Scotia. (CBC)

"In my opinion there needs to be a clear distinction between these executive directors and the government of Nova Scotia because at the end of the day, we don't want any of those positions to be simply talking points for government messages," Halman said.

'This isn't really new'

The associate deputy minister of the Department of Education, Karen Gatien, saw nothing wrong with the letter or the language LeRoux used. She said he was simply notifying his community that a new school is coming.

"The announcement of a new school is exciting news, which it is. It's news that probably that community has been asking for. In fact, I'm guessing from the other MLA who's copied it has been a big pressure cooker in that region and that's why.

Karen Gatien, associate deputy minister for the Education Department, said she saw nothing wrong with the letter or the language LeRoux used. (CBC)

"It's certainly not meant to be political, it's meant to be informative," she said. "I as a parent of a child in the former Halifax Regional School Board — now the Halifax Regional Centre for Education — often received information that came from the minister or the department.

"This isn't really new. I would have received information like that in the past."

Although it is true that the Department of Education would pass along information to the boards, as independent bodies they were free to do what they wanted with it. That meant some information was passed along to parents, some was not.

Former board employees, including ex-superintendents, are now department employees. The minister of education is their boss.

Overnight, parents would have also received information about the changes announced by the minister Tuesday regarding Churchill's decision to hire 190 people to bolster the services and programs offered to children who need extra help at school and home.

Mobile users: View the document
(PDF KB)
(Text KB)
CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

now