ANNAPOLIS VALLEY – People are feeling a range of emotions after the province announced it will remove principals and vice principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
This is but one of several changes outlined in Nova Scotia’s new Education Reform Act – changes the public is mixed on whether to support or not.
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With this, along with the dissolving of the province’s seven English school boards, parents are wondering whether job action will happen. Parents like Alicia Graveline, who says last year’s strike is still fresh in her mind.
“I hope it doesn’t come to it, but I definitely see a strike happening. I would support the teachers if they did that,” she said.
Direct impact on students
Graveline is a Kingston resident and and said the province’s decision to remove administrative staff from the union is a concerning one.
She believes it will inhibit clear communication between teachers and their management – principals and vice principals – which will then directly impact students like her son, aged seven, who has unique challenges he faces in school.
“My son has issues in school, and the relationship of teachers and the principal working together has always been a great one that I’m thankful for. Once they are removed and that separation is there, that could really change,” she said.
“My son could suffer as a consequence.”
While she would support a strike, Graveline said she feels the government’s recent changes will mean teacher and principals approach their jobs differently.
“A lot of the teachers are in it for the children. So are the principals. Will this change that? It’s hard to say, but I think it could,” she said.
Not enough for a strike
Kings County resident Matt Boates feels discussions between the province and teachers union have been about one thing on both sides: control.
“I think it comes down to the union doesn’t want to give [them] up because it’s union money, and I think the province is trying to likely further degrade the strength of the union, so I think they’re both playing games,” he said.
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Boates says he is not worried the province’s move to remove administrative positions from the union will cause a strike.
He feels it would take a whole lot more.
“There are broader issues the union is likely using as a further wedge to justify their cause for job action. I don’t think there has been enough consultation with the educators – it parallels with the medical situation, the Health Authority, not consulting with the doctors. It’s interesting,” he said.
An attack on democracy
Albert Johnson, of Middleton, is a former NSTU provincial executive member. He feels removing principals and vice principals from the union is a “very poor move on the part of government.”
“Administrators have always been looked on as colleagues, and it’s a collegial model that’s normally used in all schools so [they’re] all one and the same. This is another example of McNeil’s attitude towards divide and conquer, so they can separate them out,” he said.
Johnson added he feels these decisions appear to be anti-union tactics, limiting the administration’s choice on who they belong to.
“It’s a bad thing – simply another attack on democracy and democratic rights of people. We don’t have enough democracy, really, in our society, and they’re taking away another aspect of it,” he said.
“Those people were elected into elected positions – that was only a year or so ago.
Local autonomy is lost. It’s another way of centralizing and making a bigger bureaucracy.”
Comparing this situation to Ontario’s
Jessica Isenor is a professional working in Windsor holds a Masters’ in Education and says she has concerns with how discussions have taken place.
“It doesn’t feel like there’s been enough discussion with people who are impacted by this: teachers, parents, people who attend school,” she said.
While she doesn’t oppose principles behind consolidating the school boards, she worries about how it will impact teachers looking for permanent jobs in their respective areas.
“[People are] on the substitute list for many years to get the seniority… and now there are people who can sort of move around and may rejigger the system. I’m just afraid certain people will lose out. I don’t see a lot of winners coming out of that,” she said.
As someone who’s lived in Ontario, a place she says has been negatively impacted by the removal of administration staff from the teachers union, she said she feels concerned the same will happen here.
“It makes the workplace a little more contentious whereas within the same union, they can bring in mediators and things can get resolved in a more amicable manner before it has to escalate,” she said.