Nova Scotia

Almost 800 teachers apply for 9 spots on classroom conditions council

Almost 800 teachers have responded to an open call for applications to sit on a council to review and improve classroom conditions.

School board superintendents will have final say of who gets to sit on council

Almost 800 teachers have applied to sit on a new committee tasked with addressing concerns about classroom conditions. (CBC)

School board superintendents in Nova Scotia are about to be tested on their ability to get through paperwork.

A total of 779 teachers from around the province submitted applications by the Feb. 28 deadline to fill nine position on a new council to improve classroom conditions.

School board superintendents are tasked with making the final selections, which must be ready so the council can be in place by next Tuesday. The selections will be made in consultation with human resources, program directors and other board staff, according to a Nova Scotia government news release.

A government spokeswoman said the response is encouraging, and that "there will be further opportunities through the work of the council for teachers to engage in the process and share their ideas."

Heather Fairbain said in an email that teachers not selected for the council would be asked if they want to be considered for any working groups the council might establish.

A part of Bill 75

The council is one of the elements included in the contract the Liberal government recently voted to impose on teachers. Bill 75 also included a legislated wage, the end of the long-service award and a committee to review inclusive education.

The classroom conditions committee is intended to address concerns teachers have repeatedly voiced about the workplace.

It will have $20 million spread over two years to do that work, with a priority focus on: data collection and reporting; assessment and evaluation; student attendance policy; technology such as PowerSchool; complex classrooms; scope of practice; class sizes at all grade levels; and student discipline policy.

Committee makeup

The teachers, who will represent all parts of the province and include three each from the elementary, junior and senior high levels, will be joined on the council by three people appointed by the government, including at least one student and a parent.

The group will be co-chaired by a representative from both the Education Department and Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Education Minister Karen Casey has said initial recommendations from the group are to be in no later than April 28.

Concerns about process

Teachers union president Liette Doucet said the very short timeline to sift through nearly 800 applications seems rushed.

"We have concerns that we are not part of that process," she said. "We have a postilion on that council as co-chair, however we have not be consulted in any way as to how those nine teachers will be chosen."

Doucet said trying to get through so many applications in a week or less "seems ridiculous." Had the union been involved, it might have been able to help with criteria to ensure the selection process finds the best people, she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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