CORNER BROOK While the Western School District welcomes comments from the public on matters in education, Ross Elliott said it’s important when discussing the issues in public that the facts are clear.
Elliott, the district’s director of education, made the comment in response to a press release issued by Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce earlier this week.
In the release, Joyce, who represents the Bay of Islands district, questioned an apparent increase in the number of administrative and support staff at the district despite a drop in student enrolment. He said since 2004 the student population has decreased by 23 per cent, and put the number of administrative and support staff at 770.
“I think it’s very important to understand what is included in that number,” said Elliott, “In essence what Mr. Joyce is referring to is every non-teaching position in the district. His numbers are also including every casual employee in the district.”
That includes managers, secretaries, bus drivers, maintenence staff and other support workers like those who work with autistic children, conduct assessments on students with learning difficulties, provide support to children with psychological challenges and program support in reading and mathematics.
Elliott said the board has a total of 2,228 employees and about 20 of those are non-union employees who fall under the heading of management. Besides himself, they include assistant directors, middle management and supervisors of maintenence, busing and cleaning. These managers are spread throughout the district from southern Labrador, to the Northern Peninsula, to Deer Lake, Corner Brook, Stephenville and the south coast.
Elliott said it’s unfortunate, and he’s sure unintentional, that an impression may have been left that the board has an inordinate number of administrators and managers. But, he said, anyone looking at the numbers and responsibilities would see that in any organization.
He did agree with Joyce that the student population has been declining since 2004 but, while the number of students has dropped by 23 per cent, teacher allocation has only dropped by seven to eight per cent. Elliott said government should be commended for keeping teachers in the system.
Joyce is also a member of the House of Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee and raised the same issues this past September after the school board came under examination following the release of the Auditor General’s Report.
The board met with the committee following release of that report. At the time, Joyce said he requested flow charts outlining the positions which currently exist at the board.
Elliott said the board submitted significant documentation to the committee during that meeting, and the committee submitted a formal request for additional information in January. He said the board is working to complete that request, which includes the flow chart.