Floyd Martens, president of CSBA, speaks to delegates from across Canada at the 2017 annual congress.
“The irony, a little bit, is there, for sure,” says Canadian School Boards Association president Floyd Martens.
Over 200 CSBA trustees from across Canada will arrive in Halifax this week for the organization's annual conference, only a few months after the provincial government dismantled Nova Scotia's elected school boards.
Martens says the event was planned a year in advance and the CSBA—like the rest of Nova Scotia—was surprised by the McNeil government's decision to dissolve its seven democratically elected English-language school boards.
Education minister Zach Churchill made the decision back in January to replace the boards
with a single advisory council made up of ministerial appointments.
It was a recommendation originally made in a scathing report
from consultant Avis Glaze that described the school boards as muddled with unclear roles and filled by acclamation thanks to apathetic voters.
The boards were officially dissolved three months later, ending the terms of 104 trustees across the province who were elected by their communities.
The French school board, Conseil scolaire acadien
provincial, was not affected.
Martens says the replacement advisory council installed by the province is “much different” than elected school boards, with less accountability and no input from parents.
“When you remove elected boards from having that voice, it undermines a community’s ability to have a democratic voice in education,” he says. “The voice of community gets lost in it.”
The provincial advisory council is not involved in this week's event, which will likely be the last time the CSBA comes to Nova Scotia now that there's no local association to play host.
The conference was being organized by the Nova Scotia School Board Association up until its discontinuation. The Ontario Public School Board Association has since had to step in and take over planning, says Martens.
While the conference program is geared more towards professional development than political
discussion, the CSBA president says his members “are aware” of the recent changes in Nova Scotia and he doesn't doubt the topic will come up.
“I’m sure it’ll be part of the dialogue.”