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Churchill tours N.S. on system reform

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill.
Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill. - The Chronicle Herald

Nova Scotia’s education minister is hitting the road to sell the Liberals’ plan to drastically change the province’s school system.

Zach Churchill will visit every school board region over the next two weeks. He started Monday in the Tri-County region and will wrap up on Feb. 26 in Chignecto Central.

Those school board regions will disappear as administrative entities in favour of a provincial advisory council with input from local educators and school advisory committees.

“Obviously we want to talk to teachers, principals and community members about these changes, what their intentions are 

and what they can achieve for our system by unifying the system, by empowering our front lines and putting more resources into the classroom,” Churchill said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

“These are transformative changes and so while we are very committed to achieving change for our system, which we know is necessary, we also want to make sure that implementation is smooth so that our kids and our front lines benefit at the end of it.”

Churchill announced last month that he intends to dissolve the seven English-language elected boards as part of government’s adoption of education consultant Avis Glaze’s 22 recommendations on a responsive education administrative system for the province.

Besides scrapping the boards, Glaze recommended moving school principals and vice-principals out of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and creating a provincial college of educators to govern licensing.

That raised the ire of the NSTU, which said the moves would bring disorder to the system, and it pulled its representative from the Council to Improve School Conditions.

And the minister didn’t get off to a promising

start to his tour, at least for one school advisory committee chairwoman. Jennifer Huber, who heads the Hawthorne Elementary School SAC in Dartmouth, said her invitation to meet with Churchill and Halifax School Board superintendent Elwin LeRoux on Tuesday night was rescinded last week.

“I received an email (Friday) stating that they had an overwhelming response, they weren’t able to accommodate everyone,” Huber said in an interview Tuesday after the Nova Scotia NDP quoted her in a news release about the pulled invitations.

“(The email said) certain chairs from certain schools were — they said randomly but I think there was some thought to it — selected based on geographic areas so that all schools could be represented.

“I replied immediately saying I was quite disappointed, that obviously you know if they had such an interest by chairs that they should make some accommodations either at a second meeting, or to expand the venue,” said Huber, adding she never received a response to her concerns.

Huber, who has three children at Hawthorne, has volunteered on her school committee for twoyears, one as chairwoman. She said her questions for Churchill would have

focused on why the Liberals decided to move first on some recommendations, such as the administrative changes, and delay action on expanding the Schools Plus initiative.

Churchill welcomed the interest in the meetings but “we do have to have a number that is conductive to having a productive conversation as well. So I think right now we do have representatives from each of the major areas in HRM.”

The minister defended the government’s quick moves on education system changes.

“Really, you know, we’ve delayed necessary reforms in the education system for so long, it’s time that action is taken,” he said.

“And we’ve got to move forward boldly and decisively to make sure that we have a system in place at the end of the day that’s going to better meet the needs of our kids, it’s going to empower our front lines and ensure that there’s more resources in the classroom.”

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