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Human resources challenges and progress outlined by Cornerstone deputy director of education

More than 87 per cent of Cornerstone employees are fully vaccinated
Keith Keating Cornerstone
South East Cornerstone Public School Division deputy director of education Keith Keating

WEYBURN - One might suggest that the human resources portfolio is near the top of the list for most important sectors within any school system.

So, on Nov. 17, during the regular business portion of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division’s (SECPSD) meeting held in the conference room at the division’s head office in Weyburn, deputy director of education Keith Keating provided an update on that sector’s state of affairs.

Keating, who serves as the human resources manager as part of his duties, noted the mandate and organizational chart for SECPSD had not changed. There are 503.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching positions being filled showing a decrease of 25.6 positions due mainly to changes in operations attributed to the ongoing pandemic demands that temporarily took students out of physical classroom settings into virtual lessons or home schooling.

He noted that required additions in staffing for the remote learning practices offered by the division’s Cyber Stone Virtual School plus a slight decrease in enrolments.

Keating pointed out there were 42 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions for response to intervention needs and another 38 positions for learning support.

SECPSD also has 145.2 FTE education assistants on the payroll along with 21.43 FTE library technician positions and 47.81 FTE administration assistants.

On the transportation side, Keating said there are 141.5 school bus FTE positions, up slightly due to the fact the division took on some additional routes that had once been contracted out to First Student, a private bus contractor. There were also 80.6 FTE caretaking positions being covered during these vital times of protecting students from COVID-19.

Keating said contracts with CUPE and SEIU, the two unions representing contracted personnel, will be coming to a conclusion in the summer of 2022. They were signed in 2018.

The deputy director also spoke of the various challenges that deal with the ongoing pandemic issues including risk management and staff shortages due to quarantine leaves. He mentioned the challenges of the recruitment of educators and consultants in key positions such as in administration, French, mathematics, sciences and speech language pathology as well as filling roles in smaller rural schools. 

“These have always been a bit of an issue,” he told the board. So not all the challenges were relatable to the pandemic.

Recruitment now has additional challenges since “we can’t always do face-to-face interviews,” he said. But, on the other hand, the division’s remote/virtual recruitment and hiring process is well defined and effective.

A first step in an administrator development and induction project was created but then delayed due to the COVID situation, but will be re-launched in a timely manner, he suggested, as will training and development of educators for specialized assignments.

Students transferring in and out of remote scenarios into classrooms have provided other unique situations but teachers and support staff have been collaborative in their efforts to ensure these student shifts don’t restrict the learning processes.

Keating said SECPSD will again be attending hiring fairs offered by the provinces’ two universities in a virtual format and will accept online applications, as before. He said they have been able to emerge from these sessions with a good pool of applicants, as well as several applicants from Brandon University in Manitoba.

In response to a question from Weyburn trustee Melanie Sorenson, Keating said there is an advantage when interviews are conducted in face-to-face settings, but there is also some efficacy in virtual interview sessions, especially if there is a challenge posed by geographical distances, such as an application by a potential employee in Ontario or Alberta.

There is a current cyber program that provides additional efficiency in recruitment for cross-Canada applications that is gaining ground and is being used by SECPSD right now. Although many of the province’s other divisions have been slow to pick up on it, other provincial school systems have signed on at an 85 to 100 per cent level while Saskatchewan divisions have languished at an eight per cent take up.

“With the new system, you can post a job once and it goes to several sites to be viewed,” Keating noted.

The deputy director concluded his report by giving the trustees a review of the division’s safety management system that will conclude next June and the system that allows SECPSD to track employee certification electronically.

Responding to a question following the report regarding employee vaccination status, he noted that over 87 per cent of SECPSD’s 1,101 employees have been fully vaccinated. Those not vaccinated are required to be tested for COVID on a weekly regular basis and test negative before being allowed to attend.

The integration of regional library systems into schools in the division, is also moving along well in Carlyle and more recently in Maryfield, he said in conclusion.