School board rep scolds move to axe school boards

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STELLARTON – A school board veteran is reacting strongly to the province’s quick intentions to eliminate Nova Scotia’s school boards.

Ron Marks, who chairs the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board’s financial services committee, said the intention announced by Education Minister Zach Churchill to dissolve the province’s seven elected school boards will not allow the government to reach its goals of providing more support for students and give communities more input.

Churchill said the McNeil government will review the administration of education in Nova Scotia and act on recommendations by Dr. Avis Glaze, a world-renowned education consultant, who assessed Nova Scotia’s system and share her conclusions on Tuesday.

“She has challenged us to do better for our kids and I accept that challenge,” Churchill said. “Our kids deserve the best education we can give them and, as Dr. Glaze rightfully points out, our children cannot wait.”

Glaze’s report is called Raise the Bar: A Coherent and Responsive Education Administrative System for Nova Scotia, contains 22 recommendations.

“I’m disappointed,” he said. “I believe our board and the people on our board made education better for children, and I think the minister’s model will fail and fail in a big way. I’m at peace with it today, but I think the children are going to suffer.”

Marks first served on the Stellarton School Board in 1980 and the Pictou District School Board when those boards were established in 1982. He was later elected to the regional school board when those were formed in 1996.

He previously chaired the Nova Scotia School Boards Association (NSSBA).

“One of our advantages was strength in numbers,” he said. “The province took notice because we were a group of people that was willing to say what was right and what was wrong.”

Churchill outlined the government’s other changes to education, besides axing school boards, that include leaving the French language school board intact.

Plans also include directing money saved toward enhancing school advisory councils’ role under a provincial advisory council as a way to strengthen the local voice in schools, changing the name of school board superintendents to regional executive directors who will report to the education minister through the deputy minister, creating a Provincial College of Educators, removing principals and vice-principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and moving teaching support specialists (literacy leads, math mentors) out of regional education offices and into classrooms four days a week, with the fifth day dedicated to planning and preparation.

“This is a moment where we need to press forward together with a focus on those who need us most – our students,” said Churchill. “We have great people working in the system who are completely committed and dedicated to our kids. It’s our system that’s fractured.”

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