The potential reallocation of teachers from their schools is what prompted them to march out of the classrooms and into the streets to voice their frustration.
They are certainly not the only ones frustrated, angry, and now confused by the staffing allocation process. Parents and teachers share their exasperation.
Figures sent out last week to the schools, revealing how many teachers from Kensington Intermediate Senior High and Kinkora Regional High would be moved to other schools, compelled the students to action.
In Kensington, the parent council reported the school would lose 5.36 teachers over the next three years, starting with 1.69 positions in September.
Even though it was the rural school students holding demonstrations, the urban schools, like Three Oaks in Summerside, were not escaping this teacher reduction. The Summerside high school’s parent council said in the next three years, 7.9 teaching positions would be reallocated, starting with 2.3 this fall.
Just as Islanders were getting riled about these reductions, the P.E.I. government announced 27 new teaching positions. Where they will go is yet to be decided.
P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan said this was not bowing to public pressure, but just part of the staffing process followed every year.
Did we just forget about this annual event?
Except for 10 new teachers added last year to handle the hundreds of newcomer students enrolling in Island schools, notices of reallocating teachers and then adding new positions has not been a normal spring ritual – and certainly not without the schools’ involvement.
Teachers Federation president Bethany MacLeod said school principals were not consulted prior to receiving their preliminary teacher allocations for the 2017-18 school year. She claimed this marked a change in how staffing has been managed previously.
The Public Schools Branch gave principals what the Education Department called preliminary staffing allocations. Government would not release those figures, saying they are “working numbers” that are “changing as conversations continue between PSB staff and principals.”
People across the Island spent most of the winter pushing back against the government regarding plans to close schools. Then on the heels of the announcement that no schools would be closing, there were staffing allocations taking away teachers.
As the demonstrating students pointed out this week, moving teachers to other schools will mean students will follow if they can no longer get the courses they want. That is likely to erode the future of these rural schools Islanders have been fighting so hard to keep.
Based on the preliminary figures, it would appear 27 new teachers won’t make up for the losses due to reallocation at some schools.
If enrolments are dropping at some and increasing at others, then reallocations may be necessary. However, moving and adding staff must be done in consultation with the school principals. They know best what their schools need.
Sending out notes to principals saying teachers will be removed and then announcing new teachers for locations unknown, is only causing confusion, frustration and walkouts.