Minister of Education, Doug Currie and his Deputy Minister Susan Willis appeared before the committee to talk about the restructuring process of PEI’s Education system.
Minister emphasized to Committee:
- The new system is “learner focused”
- The District Advisory Councils, will start to hold meetings next Tuesday night
- The Principals Council will hold their first meeting Feb. 18
- Stressed that there are 13 parents who are teachers and noted that principals in some schools also teach
- Stated that the councils will be open and transparent and that work is currently underway to develop the websites that will allow for access to information
- Meetings themselves however are not open to the public – PC Committee members (Steven Myers and Matthew MacKay) questioned why teachers were not included in the councils and why members of the public are prohibited from attending meetings – Minister suggested that perhaps as the process unfolds there would be an opportunity for broader conversation at that time – no firm commitment
- PC Committee members also questioned the accountability factor in terms of non-election of representatives – Minister said that students, Home and School Associations, professionals, parents, etc. are representatives on councils – and he questioned how effective the previous process was in terms of ensuring decisions were made in the best interest of the child
- A transition team is in place overseeing the breakdown of the English Language School Board and the integration of the new duties of the Department of Education. There was mention that the process is complicated involving contracts, union agreements, Legislation etc. but it was hoped the process would be well underway by April
- The new Crown Corporation will be in charge of finances, human resources, budgets, busing and school maintenance
- The Learning Partners Group will be drawing information and recommendations from various councils, discussing curriculum and make recommendations to government
- Each council will be charged with identifying their own education priorities within their own district and provide advice to government on important education issues such as rezoning, enrollment declines, class composition,
- Minister said he envisioned the creation of a “new culture of learning” to deal with the social needs, and learning challenges of today’s classrooms including a growing number of students who do not have English as their first language; mental health issues such as anxiety and depression; early childhood education and Autism services;
Basically – he said, it is a matter of determining student services in the realm of “what do the schools need to support a learning environment that is learner focused: and how to give the principals and teachers the tools they need to be effective”
- MLA Steven Myers stressed that small schools are key to the future of prosperity in the province and that the future of schools in communities must be a part of a bigger plan to strengthen and rebuild Island communities
- PC MLAs also raised the issue of social promotion and standardized testing
- The Minister said the system needs a vehicle and tools to evaluate the performance of teachers, students and principals and seemed to indicate that he was open perhaps to a more balanced approach to the performance evaluation process
- Willis stressed that the Department will have oversight of the entire restructuring process and the Minister said “he” or the next Minister will be accountable for how this process unfolds.
- There were questions regarding the hiring back of retired teachers for substitutes with the concern that many young people are finding it hard to break into the teaching profession in this province
- The Minister noted that there are 62 schools with 1,363 teaching positions and that with enrollment flatlining they would be holding the line on positions and that the reality is that there are more teachers than there are positions – Ms. Willis pointed out there is a tremendous shortage of French teachers
- Minister said government was also looking at redundancies within the system and streamlining the system
Dates are being sought for a review of the impact of HST on the Construction Industry as requested by PC MLAs as well as a date for a meeting with Bell Aliant and the provision of high speed internet across the province again, as raised by the PC MLAs
FYI – District Advisory Councils are made up of:
- A member of each school council/home and school association in the family of schools.
- Two students from high schools within the family of schools; a regional director of the PEI Home and School Federation for the family of schools.
The District Advisory Councils will provide a stronger voice for students and parents in shaping public policy in K-12 education. The Principals Council will enable focused conversations on learning perspectives and learner needs from the perspective of school principals.
Pat Campbell has been organizing District Advisory Council meetings and will act as a facilitator and liaison with the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture.
The District Advisory Councils will consider local issues as well as topics that the Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture is seeking advice on, including:
- Length / time of school day
- Learner supports
- Technology in learning
- Experiential learning opportunities
- Student transitions from primary to secondary levels
Learning Partners Advisory Council will advance a learner-centered culture of educational excellence from birth, through post-secondary and the workforce.