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Northland bill good news for teachers

Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
Education Minister David Eggen talks about the government’s Northland School Division Act, which aims to bring elected trustees back to the northern Alberta school division.

A government bill to bring elected trustees back to the Northland School Division is welcome news for the division’s teachers, said Mark Burke, president of Northland Local No. 69.

On April 4 Education Minister David Eggen introduced the Northland School Division Act, which aims to introduce a governance structure with between seven and 11 wards, each with an ­elected trustee.

“Teachers are welcoming any change that brings back elected boards. It will bring some stability to the division,” Burke said.

The division has been operating with a single government-appointed trustee since 2010, when then education minister Dave Hancock fired the entire board, amid ongoing issues with student achievement and board governance.

Since then, there has been a lot of uneasiness among teachers and in the broader community, Burke said.

“Now that we know what the process is, the community — and teachers being part of that community — can move on and stop guessing what might happen.”

Currently, there are 23 local school board committees (LSBCs) that represent all schools within Northland School Division. The new legislation seeks to replace these committees with school councils that have similar roles and responsibilities to those of other school councils in Alberta.

The bill comes as a result of an extensive review, discussions and engagement with community members on the future of education in the division, said Eggen.

He believes the bill is an important step toward improving student attendance and learning in the region. 

“We are committed to protecting and improving education in Northland School Division,” he said. “We are taking the step of re-establishing an elected board of trustees during municipal elections this fall to make sure the communities served by Northland are able to make decisions democratically to support student success.”

The bill would also establish a formal engagement process aimed at strengthening community voice by involving elders, youth, First Nations, Métis and all other communities to whom the division provides education services. The government will also be working with the board to find ways to improve teacher retention, transportation service and other services that support student learning, Eggen said.

The division operates 24 schools throughout northern Alberta and serves about 2,700 students, most of whom are aboriginal. The previous governance structure comprised a 23-member overarching school division board, whose members were selected from 23 local boards. ❚

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