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Report on Meeting with Minister of Education, Zach Churchill re:Changes to NS Education System

Dear School Board members,

The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour recently organized a meeting between the Unions representing school support staff and the Minister of Education. The meeting was held on April 17, 2018 at the Minister’s office.

Present at the meeting were Robin MacLean (NSGEU), Nicole McKim (NSGEU), Grant Dart (CUPE), Penny Foster (SEIU), Zach Churchill (Minister of Education), Mark Fury (Minister of Labour Relations) as well as a number of Department of Education and Early Childhood Development staff.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the many current and impending changes to our public education system and the potential impact to our members.

The Unions raised concerns over the lack of discussion/consultation with support staff Unions and front-line workers through the creation of both the Glaze and Inclusion Reports.

Minister Churchill committed to seek information through the Commission on Inclusive Education to determine who was included in the consultation process. The Minister further committed to ensure that the voice of support workers in the public school system is heard in the future.

Regarding the Glaze Report, we spoke on concerns brought to us from you, our membership. We indicated that members are feeling distrust and worry about their future in the education system and that many believe this to be step one in a plan to amalgamate School Boards.

Minister Churchill responded by saying that they have no intention of creating a Super-Board, and would have done so already through Bill 72, if that were the intention. He said that the implementations of the Glaze report recommendations were meant to bring efficiencies and to adjust the governance of the education system. He said “we don’t anticipate any impact to your members, at all”.

The Department indicated that the processes normally performed by members of the Board (which have been dissolved in the English Boards) such as, ratification of collective agreements; budget allocations, and school closures, have not been yet entirely worked out, but in most cases, those issues are being vetted through the Department of Education. “School Board” will be replaced with “Regional Centre for Education” throughout the seven English school entities. These individual bodies will remain as the Employers.

Regarding the Inclusion Report, Minister Churchill indicated that the goal of the Commission was to enhance support for the complex challenges faced in our schools. Decisions on recommendations will likely occur by September and he committed to further conversation before implementation of the recommendations.

The Unions reiterated that there is a severe need for more front-line workers in the schools. There is a shortage of qualified workers in almost every classification who work directly with students. We believe this to be due to low wages and financial hardships in seeking the required education. The Minister spoke to the recommendations in the report regarding continued education for Educational Assistants. He said that the intention was to equip Educational Assistants to better deal with the needs in the classroom through professional development. When asked what we believe to be some of the dominate issues facing our members, we spoke about violence in our schools, lack of information regarding student conditions and behaviors (from a care and OH&S perspective), job security and access to training.

With regard to the expansion of the Pre-Primary program, we raised concerns about inconsistent wage rates, shortage of qualified workers, as well as potential impact to current employees who do not possess the level of training determined by the government. The Department indicated that they are seeking information on regional differences and looking at options to further educate workers.

Minister Churchill indicated that the system is failing our students in terms of achievement and that these changes are meant to bring consistency to achievement levels regardless of where a student attends school.

We hope you find this information useful and we will continue to send updates with any new information we receive.

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