'Lighter and leaner' P.E.I. education system says Minister Currie

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 30, 2016

Education Minister Doug Currie says government will pursue a more focused approach to education with structural changes happening this year, including 32 administrative job cuts.

©THE GUARDIAN/Teresa Wright

Reorganization, remove duplication of duties will decrease 32 administration positions, but no teacher cuts  

A total of 32 positions will be eliminated when P.E.I.’s English Language School Board is eliminated later this year, but no teachers or education front-line workers will be cut.

Education Minister Doug Currie provided an update Wednesday on the changes to P.E.I.’s education system that will see the school board integrated into the education department.

This reorganization and removal of duplication of duties will see a decrease of 32 positions in administration.

The number of front-line positions — teachers, educational assistants, youth service workers — will not decrease, Currie said Wednesday.

FACT BOX: Summary of Education changes

“We recognize how important it is for everyone to know, as early as possible, the number of front-line staff for the coming school year,” Currie said.

“The whole principle of this, besides the focus on the learner, is that the number of teachers in front of Island students is not changing… We’re holding the line on the number of teachers.”

Of the 32 positions that will be eliminated, 22 are senior positions within the department and school board as well as curriculum positions and coaches. The remaining 10 positions are board support staff, mainly to be eliminated through attrition, Currie said.

No layoffs are anticipated as a result of these positions cuts, he added.

A number of the individuals working in these positions were on secondment from Island classrooms, and have teaching jobs to return to. The rest will have the opportunity to apply for openings as existing teachers retire.

An average of 30 to 35 teachers retire every year, Currie said.

Anyone affected by the cuts can also apply for several new positions to be available in a new Public Schools Branch that will be created within the education department. It will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the school system, including hiring front-line educators and school staff, student transportation and student services.

A new Education Act will be introduced in the upcoming spring session of the legislature outlining the new education structure.

The newly integrated education department will have a total of 118 staff supporting the early learning and education system.

“You’ve got an organization that’s going to be lighter and leaner,” Currie said.

“It’s going to be more effective and more strategically aligned with a new set of priorities.”

Currie stressed the new education structure and position cuts are not cost-saving measures. Rather, their aim is to streamline P.E.I.’s top-heavy education bureaucracy and place focus back on classrooms and students.

“This is about the learner, achievement and moving toward excellence.”

Opposition education critic Steven Myers says he was hoping to see more detail about the structural changes happening within the department.

He was cautiously optimistic about Currie’s assertion front line teaching positions would be protected.

“Those teaching positions are ones we’ve been fighting for a long time for, but just to keep the numbers that they have but I know there are increases needed in some areas,” Myers said.

“We’re going to continue to keep an eye on that to make sure government at least lives up to their promise to not reduce those numbers, but we want to ensure that all the schools are treated fairly and have the adequate resources that they need.”

The integration of the school board into the department is expected to be complete before the beginning of the September 2016 school year.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

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Education changes at a glance

- The English Language School Board will be eliminated/ integrated into the Department of Education. This will reduce duplication and create efficiencies.

- The new education structure will have 32 fewer positions

- The newly integrated department will have a total of 118 staff

- A new Public Schools Branch will be created within the education department to run the day-to-day operations of the school system

- The Public Schools Branch will employ 1,395 classroom teachers and 332 educational assistants and youth service workers, along with student services, transportation and maintenance staff.

- There now will be 70 staff working in English and French curriculum development, curriculum delivery, assessments and supporting schools.

- Approximately 45 of these positions will be advertised competitions over the next few months, including senior positions, coaching positions and consultants.