2017-09-20

School board vice-chair calls for more talks amid ‘broken relationships’

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>South Shore Regional School Board vice-chair Theresa Griffin speaking to the Municipality of Chester on September 7.</p>

The vice-chair of the South Shore Regional School Board says its latest judicial review with a group from Petite Riviere suggests there are "broken relationships" with some municipalities which need to be mended.

"But it begins with communication and I think there's been far too little of it," said Theresa Griffin, who also serves as the school board representative for the Chester area.

Griffin spoke to the Municipality of Chester (MODC) on September 7 to highlight, among other things, the changes which she believes need to be made in the school system.

She pointed to the judicial review with the Greater Petite Area Community Association, the high turnover of superintendents, and the controversy around school reviews as examples of some of the board's recent challenges.

But Griffin also made note of the joint-use agreement at Forest Heights Community School and the ongoing work to develop a similar agreement at New Ross Consolidated School as a "shining example" of municipal-school board partnerships that work well.

She said the MODC has demonstrated a "real forward thinking" and advocated for other municipalities to work with school boards in order to drive change.

Warden Allen Webber said Forest Heights has been a great resource for the community, adding, "If you're going to build a school, why leave it vacant after three o'clock?"

Griffin touched on other issues as well, including centralization, viewing schools as a public, rather than private, enterprise and the need to offer additional services, such as mental health, in schools, all of which could help keep young families in rural communities.

"What we need to do is redefine what it means to be a community school here in Nova Scotia," she said.

But Griffin also brought up the pair of public meetings on rural schools the Municipality of Lunenburg hosted.

Some at the first meeting suggested that the school board be fired over its handling of school reviews and closures, but Griffin said there needs to be a sense of "shared responsibility" around schools with municipalities, not just "pointing fingers" at either side.

She also proposed having local school advisory councils turn over their leadership in order to better reflect their communities.

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