The Chinook Board of Education is raising public awareness of potential changes to education in our communities as a result of the Educational Governance Review Report by Dan Perrins. Mr. Perrins, former Deputy Minister to Premier Lorne Calvert, was hired by the current government to study the future of education and to produce a report on possible changes. Some of the proposed changes include consolidating all public school boards, even so far as having one, province-wide, and replacing locally elected board members with government appointed members. Following the report, Deputy Premier and Education Minister Don Morgan announced the appointment of a six-person Advisory Panel to lead consultations with the education sector and the public on the presented governance options and implementation implications. The panel consultation will close in less than a week, on January 23rd.
The Board is very concerned about the impact the potential changes will have on children and families in Southwest Saskatchewan. Centralizing services and cost-cutting measures will greatly impact the classroom and individual students directly. Decisions need to be made at a local level, by those who live in and are connected and accountable to the community who will do their best to ensure that stakeholders – parents and families, students, teachers and staff, community members – are heard.
“Amalgamations and centralization to find cost efficiencies and improvements was proven to be financially counterproductive the last time it was done. Doing the same thing again and expecting a different result seems a display of faith beyond reason. We need to continue to work together with other school boards to optimize the educational environment thrust upon us ten years ago,” said Board Chair Larry Caswell, “Reports and consultations around one of the most impactful areas for children, education, are being done in a very tight timeframe. If the voices in our communities are heard, it will be clear that the focus needs to be on students and our current division structure is critical to this as school boards are autonomous and elected by our communities. This means we are able to respond effectively to the needs of children and their families while being transparent and accountable.”
The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) and school boards in Saskatchewan feel strongly that the focus should be on ideas to strengthen and improve governance. “The potential significant restructuring would be very disruptive for students and school communities, and like before would not result in cost savings,” said Vice Chair Dr. Shane Andrus, “The last amalgamation held back education for at least 5 years. Only a few years ago were we able to get our feet under us and we are starting to see remarkable student success in areas such as reading and math. Another amalgamation could result in more school closures and further centralizing services – pulling supports, services and programming away from the classroom at a great cost to our children.”
The Chinook Board of Education is urging community members, groups and stakeholders to make their voice heard this week and share their thoughts and comments on the report through the public consultation process led by the Government of Saskatchewan. Online submissions can be made until January 23, 2017 on their website.
Several Chinook School Community Councils and community partners are also sending letters to their local MLA and collecting signatures. Information, sample letters and MLA contact information can be found on the SSBA website.
Community members are welcome to contact their Chinook School Division Board Trustee or their local School Community Council as well.
Below are documents that SCCs, community members and businesses may utilize for letters to their MLA, along with providing their own feedback and thoughts on the options.