AMHERST – David Myles has represented students and families at the school board level since 1991.
The retired Anglican minister’s run as an elected representative on the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board is about to end after Education Minister Zach Churchill announced Wednesday that the province will eliminate Nova Scotia’s seven elected school boards in favour of a single advisory council.
“It’s a rather draconian move and I really don’t know what it’s based on,” said Myles, who was first elected to the former Cumberland district board in 1991. “I’m profoundly bothered by the dismissal of the democratic process in favour of a hierarchical system like they have for health care. I’m just left wondering if this is the best option?”
Churchill’s move came a day after consultant Avis Glaze issued 22 recommendations to improve the province’s education system. The province is accepting and moving on 11 of those recommendations and the minister hopes to have the advisory council in place before the start of the next school year in September.
Myles said he is also concerned with the painting of all school boards with the same brush, adding he believes the Chignecto-Central board has been a model and while it too has had some issues, it has overcome them in a professional manner.
He’s concerned that representatives such as himself, Mackie Ross and Adam Davies will no longer be able to represent the needs of rural Cumberland County.
“She says that change needs to happen but there needs to be discussion,” he said. “We’ve brought a consultant in from outside and we’re going to listen to this one person.”
Davis said he’s concerned that local and parental input is being lost.
“Local decision-making has been replaced by local voice, with the promise that enhanced school advisory councils will review progress updates, hold accountability sessions with regional leadership, and have an annual meeting with the minister to discuss priorities, policies and issues,” said Davies, who represents the northern part of Cumberland County.
Davies is also concerned the province is keeping the Acadian board but scrapping all the others, adding it will destabilize the system.
“African Nova Scotian, Mi'kmaq and other community representation has to be on an equal footing,” Davies said.
Finally, without a clear plan for transition to the new model he worries the education system is in for a prolonged period of disruption and that simply is unacceptable for students, parents and staff.
“I wholeheartedly agree that the status quo has to change but I am concerned these changes are going too far, too fast,” he added.