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Nova Scotia teachers resist system changes

February 27, 2018 Kim Dewar, ATA News Staff

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is ramping up efforts to counteract a government proposal for sweeping changes to the province’s education system that include removing administrators from the union.

Liette Doucet
NSTU president

Liette Doucet, president of the 9,600-member teachers union, said the changes will erode the collective rights of teachers and will create a larger and less democratic education bureaucracy.

“Nova Scotia’s current collegial model places emphasis on conflict resolution and healthy staff relations; this creates a positive work environment that benefits teachers and their students,” Doucet said in a news release.

On Feb. 20, 93 per cent of Nova Scotia teachers voted in favour of illegal job action that could include work-to-rule activities, a rotating strike or even a walkout.

The Nova Scotia Liberal government announced this month its plans to make sweeping changes to the province’s education system. Consultant Avis Glaze created a report outlining 22 recommendations, which included dissolving Nova Scotia's seven elected regional school boards to create one provincial advisory council, moving school administrators out of the union and creating a college of educators with the intent of providing teachers with greater professional standing. Education Minister Zach Churchill said in January that the province will accept all the recommendations.

The province’s 800 to 900 public school principals and assistant principals make up about nine per cent of the NSTU’s membership.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Greg Jeffery says Nova Scotia is facing an almost identical situation as Alberta did in 2014 when Progressive Conservative education minister Jeff Johnson introduced the controversial Task Force on Teaching Excellence.

Similar to Nova Scotia’s Glaze report, Alberta’s task force produced a report that recommended the removal of principals from the Association and the creation of a separate professional college of teachers.

“The possibility of this happening in Alberta is certainly something Alberta teachers should be thinking about. But we have proven that we have the organization and resilience to fight off these kind of attacks on the teaching profession,” Jeffery said.

“I don’t have a crystal ball and one never knows what may happen in the aftermath of the next provincial election. It’s possible we could return to this scenario and we are prepared to fight this off again.”

Jeffery noted that one of his priorities is to build up the professional responsibilities of the Association as exemplified by the recent signing of new professional practice standards for teachers, school leaders and superintendents.

Canadian Teachers’ Federation president Mark Ramsankar said that governments with agendas for education reform rooted in standardization, privatization and government control will lean toward this “task force” type of approach.

“These types of actions by government attempt to show the public that the government is in control, that they are delivering education cheaply and can account for public dollars through the reporting of standardized tests,” Ramsankar said.

“It is not a healthy approach to education reform, nor will it produce the desired outcomes — attacking and dismantling teachers’ organizations only serves to disrupt and destabilize public education.” ❚

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