NOTE: The following is an op-ed piece from Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Over the last week, I have had the opportunity to meet with superintendents and senior staff at five of the eight regional school boards in the province. I have also met with teachers and principals in each of those regions, and representatives from school advisory councils from the boards’ family of schools.
The goal is simple. I want to engage in conversations about Dr. Avis Glaze’s Raise the Bar report, talk about government’s response and why the changes are needed. It’s also a chance to listen to thoughts, ideas and concerns. I have been encouraged by the discussions I’ve had so far, and I thank the many people who have taken time to sit down with me.
I appreciate there are many questions and am committed to sharing what we can and keeping Nova Scotians informed every step of the way. The discussions have been frank and honest, and at times, emotional. Change is never easy, but I want to assure parents, teachers and other education partners, our students are at the centre of every decision we make. We all want our children to succeed and that’s what is motivating this change.
We are putting more resources in classrooms, including moving more math mentors and literacy leads into schools, we’re giving teachers more input in curriculum and the ability to choose their own textbooks. They know their students and what’s best to help them learn. We also want to support teachers. We are creating a provincial College of Educators run by teachers, for teachers. The college will focus on teaching excellence, setting standards for its members just like other self-regulated professions such as doctors, nurses and accountants.
Quality teaching and instruction leads to higher student performance. We’re also streamlining the system and we’re empowering school advisory councils giving them more say in school priorities. The principals, teachers, parents and community members who make up these councils know their communities and their schools and understand their local needs.
As I travelled the province this week, I have listened. There was a great deal of discussion around removing principals, vice- principals and other senior supervisory positions from their union. As a result, government has decided these individuals will have one year to decide whether they want to remain in their current role, or stay in the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union and return to the classroom. It’s an important decision and we want to give them more time to consider their options. At the heart of this change is giving our instructional leaders more autonomy. We know their leadership will have a positive effect on student achievement.
Government remains committed to strengthening our education system for our students. Over the next week, I will continue to travel the province until I have had the opportunity to visit every school board region. I look forward to sitting down with even more parents, teachers and principals.