School board superintendent role dropped in P.E.I. education system overhaul

The role of school superintendent will disappear as the functions of the English Language School Board are integrated into the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, confirmed Minister Doug Currie Thursday.

Aim is to create a successful 'made-in-P.E.I.' system, says Education Minister Doug Currie

Parents and students will have 'unprecedented' say in how the overhauled education system will work, says Education Minister Doug Currie. (iStock)

The role of school superintendent will disappear as the functions of the English Language School Board are integrated into the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture, confirmed Minister Doug Currie Thursday.

The Island school system is currently undergoing a process to create what it calls a "learning partnership."

Currie joined Bill Whelan, co-chair of the new Learning Partners Advisory Council, on CBC Radio's Island Morning Thursday to explain how the revamped education system will work.

"There could possibly be, through this new creation, a director of public schools inside the department, so we're looking at models of high-functioning school systems across this country right now and trying to create a made-in-P.E.I. version to move the work forward," said Currie.

In November, the current English school board superintendent Cynthia Fleet said there was a need to "adjust the structure" of the education system and agreed the school board operations should be taken over by the Department of Education.

She said she would continue in her role for six to nine months and didn't know what would happen to her personally after the department took over in September 2016.

'Unprecedented' access for parents, students

When asked how the new education system will be held accountable without elected representatives on boards, Currie said the new advisory councils will allow for direct input to decision makers with a priority being engagement of parents and students as "key stakeholders."

He said the eight new Family of Schools District Advisory Councils will allow students and parents, in particular, "unprecedented" direct access into how the province's education system operates.

Learning Partners Advisory Council co-chair Bill Whelan and Education Minister Doug Currie spoke with Island Morning Thursday about education system changes. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)
Discussions about major issues such as rezoning and school closures will start with these councils and move through the new system, with recommendations eventually landing on the minister's desk, said Currie.

Despite the disparity in the councils' enrolment numbers, the Department of Education is "certainly paying very close attention to the needs of the smaller family of schools," assured Currie.

Teachers 'very well represented'

Earlier this week, Bethany MacLeod, the president of the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation, told CBC News she is frustrated that the province has denied classroom teachers a seat on any of the eight councils.

But Currie said Thursday that teachers are "very well represented" across the three councils. Though the teachers on the councils are there as parents, and not representing the union.

"I feel very comfortable with the balance," said Currie.

Both Currie and Whelan stressed the councils will be open and transparent, posting reports, documents and decisions online for public access.

The district councils are set to meet for the first time next week.

The Principals Council and the Learning Partners Advisory Council are also planning inaugural meetings for this month.

Neither Whelan nor Currie were able to answer what council will have seniority on decisions.

Whelan said there will be overlap between councils.

The new system is "quite involved" but the public will understand more once the councils start working and providing direction to the minister, he added.


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