The province’s minister of education says he will ensure there are elected trustees at the Public Schools Branch but said some trustees could still be appointed.
In an interview, the minister said his department is in the midst of consultations about overhauling the governance model of the Public Schools Branch to allow elected trustees. But he also held out the possibility some may still be appointed by his department.
Brad Trivers said department staff has looked at different school board models across Canada.
“Most of them were elected, but they also had a couple of appointed members to represent specific stakeholders," Trivers said.
"I think that both of them have different pros and cons. A hybrid board is nice because then you can have the elected representatives and people, but you can also make sure you have, for example, people with an education background or former administrators."
Under the province’s Education Act, two of the three board members of the Public Schools Branch are currently appointed by the minister of education, while the chair is the deputy minister of education and lifelong learning.
A system of an elected school board was disbanded by the former Liberal government. The current French Language School Board is still elected by members of the public.
During the last election campaign, the Progressive Conservative platform pledged to “honour” a resolution from a 2018 P.E.I. Home and School Federation calling for the reinstatement of elected school boards.
The resolution noted that the appointment of the deputy minister of education as chair of the Public Schools Branch was a “perceived conflict of interest". The resolution called for an elected board of school trustees for each family of schools.
Trivers said a fully elected school board was a possibility. He said consultations would determine the best model.
"If that's going to be a sticking issue, then we'll go with fully elected school boards,” Trivers said.
“We want to hear input from all stakeholders. And if the Home and School (Federation) says they have to be fully elected and not appointed, we'll say, 'yeah, great.'"
Trivers also said consultations will be held over the role and composition of the district advisory councils, which could include representation from teachers. He said discussions have also been held with Elections P.E.I., who have suggested elections for the trustees include electronic or online voting.
Elections P.E.I. has recommended elections for English trustees be held around the fall of 2020, at the same time as those of the French school board, Trivers said.
In an emailed statement, P.E.I. Home and School Federation president Cory Thomas welcomed the consultations.
“We commend the provincial government for moving this forward,” Thomas said.
A statement from the Prince Edward Island Teachers Federation called the possibility of including teachers on district advisory councils was “welcome news.”
“Teachers ultimately drive education in this province and must have a voice to affect change in education,” Smallman said in the statement.
Trivers said he hoped the governance model regarding the school board to be completed by the fall of 2020, with legislative changes to be tabled by spring of 2021.