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Leave staffing levels alone: McLeod

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Public school board staff who were slated to be cut due to amalgamation and the new funding model seem to have gotten a stay of execution at last night’s committee of the whole meeting here.

Acting education director John McLeod presented trustees with his review of staffing for the board’s schools across the district. He said the newly-legislated pupil/teacher ratio of 25:1 has caused a shift in staffing, which increased staffing at the elementary level for the most part.

But some individual schools saw a decrease in staffing--a drop that may be detrimental to the educational programs they offer.

Saturn Elementary School in Atikokan is one of these, which would see a reduction of three teaching positions under the ministry’s staffing formula.

But after talking with the school’s principal, McLeod recommended to trustees that they hire an additional teacher for the school due to the large size of the grades one and two classes there.

He also noted Saturn School’s music program was in jeopardy unless another teacher was kept on.

“They have an additional music teacher for the whole school--they’re the only school that does that,” McLeod said. “If you take away that teacher, you take away their music program.”

(McLeod also recommended adding a .5 teacher at McCrosson-Tovell School in Bergland, bringing that school’s complement to three).

Other services, such as noon hour supervisors and intervention counsellors from Family and Children’s Services, also entered into the equation as services currently offered in Atikokan but ones no longer offered here.

McLeod recommended to maintain these staffing levels the same as last year until a committee can be appointed to thoroughly review the system to see what services the board can and cannot offer.

“Everything here is good for kids,” he noted. “Maybe the new funding model will provide money to put there services back [in the former Fort Frances-Rainy River board area].

“Let’s see if we can provide the best possible education and hope it fits the money,” he stressed. “If not, we have to make drastic cuts next year.”

Also at last night’s meeting, trustee Dennis Brunn said work has slowed down at the “multi-use” site at Westfort due to a strike by crane operators.

“So they lost a lot of time which they made up early this spring,” he noted.

But progress is still continuing there, with only the landscaping and paving tender remaining to go out plus some work on the auditorium.

In other related news, all seven trustees were appointed to a search committee for the board’s new education director. Also sitting on the committee are principals Larry Brown and Terry Ellwood.

Board chair Gord McBride said they have eight applications on file for the position, adding today is the last day they are being received.

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