Nova Scotia

More diversity needed in HRM teachers: board chair

The chair of the Halifax Regional School Board is calling for more diversity in teachers in Halifax schools.

The chair of the Halifax Regional School Board is calling for more diversity among teachers in Halifax schools.

Irvine Carvery says there are not enough black and Mi'kmaq teachers in Halifax Regional Municipality. (CBC)

Irvine Carvery says given the number of cuts in education, now is the time to pay special attention to number of black and Mi'kmaq teachers in the city.

Many black and Mi'kmaq students are not seeing themselves reflected in the schools, he says.

"We want to see our board hire more African Nova Scotian and Mi'kmaq teachers into the system until such time as the number of teachers working in our school board is reflective of the percentages in our society," Carvery told CBC News.

However, Carvery says he doesn't know how exactly how many teachers are needed to fix the equation. He's asked staff for the numbers.

He says he's asking staff and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to "fully implement" the equity clause.

"It isn't so much the teacher in front of them being either African or Mi'kmaq, but that there's a presence within the school where they can see themselves," he said.

"So when they're having issues that are culturally-sensitive, they have somebody in that school like themselves that they can take those issues."

Alexis Allen, the president of the teachers' union, says while she supports the idea, hiring teachers of visible minorities isn't easy.

Alexis Allen says layoffs mean it's difficult to hire anyone, let alone visible minorities. (CBC)

"At this point it's going to be very difficult," said Allen. "We certainly support it and we have because it's in the collective agreement, but also within the collective agreement are seniority rights."

In Nova Scotia, 185.2 positions have been eliminated through budget cuts, Allen said.

Teachers facing layoffs will be moved into any vacancies. But that's based entirely on seniority — something a lot of black and Mi'kmaq teachers don't have.

"Really there aren't that many positions in Halifax available for any new hires," Allen said.

"We as educators know it's important to be reflective of our community, and for students to see. At the same time, we need positions for them, and that's where the difficulty is."

Improvements have been made in the numbers of black teachers in the system, according to Carvery, but classrooms are severely lacking when it comes to First Nation instructors.