ANNAPOLIS VALLEY – Parents and PTA groups are split on how they feel on more changes by the province to its school board system and an upcoming teachers' strike vote.
Some parents, like Jaclyn Fredericks, say the current climate is concerning, but would support teachers if a significant majority voted to strike.
Others, like Michelle Young, would not be behind a second strike in two years. Other groups, like the Cambridge and District School’s Home & School Association, feel concerned the entire system is falling apart.
“As a parent, absolutely I’m concerned. The province has created a crisis within our education system,” said Tobi Sampson, the group’s chair.
‘Taking away the students’ voice’: Sampson
Tobi Sampson, President of the Cambridge and District School’s Home and School Association, said her group is still feeling “quite upset” following the province’s announcement to dissolve seven school boards in favour of one centralized body in Halifax.
She says her group has always had a great relationship with Nancy Bigelow-Acker, their elected representative on the board, and that she’s attended nearly every one of their meetings since elected to the board.
Sampson said the group also feels concerned with the province’s latest announcement on removing principals and vice principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
With the union set to vote on a strike this Tuesday, Feb. 20, she says she’s feeling worried her children’s education will suffer.
“It’s upsetting to know the province is so willing to take away the voice of the children, and now the voice of the parents,” she said.
Sampson compared the province’s move to the consolidation of the various local health boards into the singular Nova Scotia Health Authority, a move she said was also made for the wrong reasons.
She said she believes health care and education are the two most important things in life, and that they are lost without a more local voice.
“We all know how well that panned out – not well at all,” she said.
Yes to the central board, no to a strike
Michelle Young has two sons who attend Evangeline Middle School. She said that she doesn’t have a problem with the province’s consolidation of the education system and is excited to see how the change is handled.
She also agrees with the province’s decision to pull principals and vice principals from the teachers’ union, saying she is “150 per cent in favour of a college for teachers,” saying the union’s primary focus is the teachers, not the students.
“I think there are still plenty of regional oversights to make sure no one is left out, but I do think that should be very carefully implemented,” she said.
Young said she has always supported teachers during past strikes, including last year’s work-to-rule job action, but that this time she will not.
“A strike, legal or not, will do nothing to help the students. I also truly believe that neither the NSTU or the provincial government are in this fight for the students,” she said.
“I believe they are both trying to further their own agendas and are using the kids as leverage.”
Supporting strike if vote a significant majority
Jaclyn Fredericks has a son who attends Kings County Academy in Kentville and disagrees with the province’s decision to dissolve seven school boards and create one provincial advisory council.
- Board meeting ‘business as usual’ as province adds to education changes, NSTU sets date for strike vote
She believes the province’s latest decision to remove school principals and vice principals from the teachers’ union show it is viewing schools as a business, and that the move will create a “toxic” environment that will trickle down to students.
“If these admins end up becoming business managers, their focus will be the bottom line, and I’m not comfortable with that,” she said.
Fredericks fears rural voices will be lost once things are centralized in Halifax, comparing the move to the centralization of the previously independent health authorities, which she said isn’t working either.
“The city is so far removed from the rest of the province. Everything outside the HRM is rural, and this new body won’t have a clue what’s going on beyond the city,” she said.
With news of a strike vote set for Tuesday, Feb. 20, Fredericks said she will support a potential strike only if a significant majority votes in favour.
“My fear is that the union speaks for them, so if I knew the vote really came from the teachers themselves, I’m all in,” she said.