WEYBURN - Now in her third year as president of the South East Cornerstone Teachers’ Association, Whitney Paul-Joseph brought some items of concern she felt needed addressing by the governing board of trustees at their October 12 business session in Weyburn.
Paul-Joseph, an arts educator from Redvers School, thanked the board for accommodating allowances that give her about half of her “teacher time” to devote to association business.
She said she and the association were grateful for the school board’s actions in building a strong relationship and ensuring that their voices were heard because “I know you value the same thing.”
The pandemic led to additional association challenges she noted, including scheduled retreats that just couldn’t happen before, but they were now on a reconnection path in the post pandemic mode.
She said it is her desire to “see the teachers in the buildings they work in,” and she was eager to keep lines of communication open.
She said a monthly meeting with the director of education is not always easy, “but it is made easier if you have a good working relationship.”
Keith Keating, the newly appointed education director, agreed with Paul-Joseph and noted the communication lines and relationship was open and positive.
Paul-Joseph said she was bringing to the table issues she heard from members in the field.
One issue that topped the current list is the well-noted shortage of substitute teachers. It was a big concern, she said.
“They (sub teachers) are vital members, especially during the pandemic. They are tough to come by now and I believe all divisions in the province have the same problem,” she suggested.
She urged the local executive to engage substitute teachers to get some insight into what their needs are.
The second major issue was government funding. She said the association members were well aware of the difficult decisions that had to be faced and it was encouraging to see some of the funds now coming back.
Facing the new financial regime of re-scheduling and additional supports needed, she said it was felt that both the association and school board totally understand the current situation and were willing to work on it together.
The third item was the concern of mental health within the teaching communities. She said they had hoped that the post pandemic environment would smooth out concern, “but unfortunately it’s more ebbs and flows in an increasingly busier world. We try to do what we can with students to reconnect,” she said, adding that teachers put high expectations on themselves and as an association, and they have a mandate to “help ourselves.”
Paul-Joseph went on to note that with today’s hopes and stressors in the field of educators, they continue to do what they can to support one another.
Chairwoman Audrey Trombley said the board appreciated what was brought to the table. “Our relationship has been a good one and the reconnect has not been as easy as we first thought it would be.” She urged her to “bring concerns to us and be confident you are being listened to.”
Later in the session, Gord Husband, deputy director of human resources and infrastructure, said Cornerstone currently has 21 teacher interns working in the division, some of whom will be convocating in December, so they hoped to recruit a few of them with some of the recently approved additional provincial funding. That, he felt, could address a few of the current needs and stress factors.