School board elimination gets thumbs-up from P.E.I. education groups
'For far too long there's been two groups that seem to be competing for control over education.'
Thursday's announcement to eliminate the Island's English Language School Board is being met with approval from the official Opposition and groups representing teachers and parents.
"We are cautiously optimistic," said Bethany MacLeod of the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation. "Anything that brings back collaboration with teachers and students and makes for a better learning environment for our students."
MacLeod said the province's plan to create new advisory boards will put all the stakeholders in the education system within reach of policy makers.
"Teachers are going to be working with the principals and students and talking about what the needs are in the classroom," she said.
"We're excited about working together with the government."
'Tremendous promise' in plan for parents
Peter Rukavina, president of the P.E.I. Home and School Federation, echoed that cautious optimism.
"It's a set of empty vessels waiting to be filled up," said Rukavina.
"It seems on the surface that there's only more opportunity for us to make our policy voice heard. For 60 years we've been sending policy resolutions to the boards and to the government."
Rukavina said it looks like parents will have a more direct pipeline to decision-making, through district advisory councils announced Thursday.
Competition for control
Opposition education critic Steven Myers agrees getting rid of the school board is a step in the right direction."The focus is going to be back on the learner, it's something as Opposition we've been pushing for since I've been elected," said Myers, saying he looks forward to hearing more details soon.
"For far too long there's been two groups that seem to be competing for control over education: the board and the department," Myers said.
Although the trustees have already been dismissed, Education Minister Hal Perry said change will be gradual.
"There will be no changes in the immediate future. There will be an integration of some of the school board operations into the department, but the majority of the HR and the operations will stay within the Crown corporation," said Perry.
"At this time, we can't say. We'll have to see how the process evolves," said Perry when asked whether there would be staffing reductions.
Government couldn't wait
Although some might consider the late-fall timing of the announcement a bit odd, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said at a news conference Thursday government wasn't prepared to wait to make changes that could improve student outcomes.
"To take away from the focus on excellence any issues of confusion or jurisdictional questions that may have been there in the past, and to have this clearer way so the principals have a central role to play, the teachers and students and community come together," said MacLauchlan.
Government said any possible school closures are now on hold, at least until the end of the 2016-17 school year.
The premier made it clear today the changes only apply to the English board, not P.E.I.'s French school board.
With files from Kerry Campbell