CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Newly minted Education Minister Jordan Brown believes now is a time of “tremendous opportunities” in the education system, but threw cold water over the idea bringing back elected school boards.
Brown was sworn into cabinet at a ceremony at Government House in Charlottetown Monday afternoon.
He replaces former education minister Doug Currie, who abruptly resigned from office last Thursday, citing a desire to explore other professional opportunities.
Brown says he is excited and nervous to take the reins of the second largest department in government.
“I’m coming in with a lot to learn, but I’m keen to do that, and very excited to be coming in at a time when we have tremendous opportunities in this province to grow with the work that we have done in education over the past couple of years.”
Brown takes over education on the heels of a year of public debate and controversy over proposed school closures and rezoning.
He said the last few years of transformation within the school system – which included disbanding the English language school board and bringing school operations under the Department of Education as the Public Schools Branch – have created potential for growth and evolution.
“With things like economic advisory councils now in place, I think we have a great opportunity all across Prince Edward Island to really do something special with our education system and to have the community be part of that.”
But when asked whether he would heed the call of newly elected Progressive Conservative Leader James Aylward and re-establish elected school boards, Brown says he would rather focus on the three education advisory councils that were created by the premier.
“We’ve gone through a pretty quick ramp-up of their activity and I think we need to work with them,” Brown told reporters.
“I think we need to focus on that and we need to move forward as a community with the different groups that we have in place right now and we need to see where we can go with that.”
Premier Wade MacLauchlan said he believes now is the “time to build on the foundations that are there” in education.
He acknowledged the work of Doug Currie as outgoing education minister, but veered away from focusing on it as the loss of an experienced voice around the cabinet table. Rather, he said it presented an opportunity to promote others within his Liberal caucus.
‘This is the moment… in government when we look to the talent that we’ve got in our ranks,” he said.
“We are at that very right point in our mandate, we are looking, as others seem to be too, at further elections, and it’s a time when you reach to the talent, build the team, it’s the nature of public life.”
Brown had few details to share about his first tasks as minister, citing the brief amount of time he has yet held the portfolio. Instead, he said he would be heading into his new job “with both ears open,” drawing also on the advice and experience of his staff as well as his wife, Amy Boswell, who works as a teacher in P.E.I.’s education system.
P.E.I. Teachers Federation president Bethany MacLeod welcomed the Brown to his new post Monday, but noted the need to ensure the new minister has “a realistic picture of the current situation in Island schools.”
“We have consistently communicated the challenges of the system that need to be addressed. I look forward to discussing these challenges with Minister Brown and working together on possible solutions and pathways forward.”
Brown has been an elected MLA for the last two years, winning his District 13 Charlottetown-Brighton seat in the 2015 election. He has since served as government whip, vice-chair of the public accounts committee and chair of the special legislative committee on democratic renewal.