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Cornerstone school division receives human resources update

The former principal of the Estevan Comprehensive School handed down his first report in his new role with the South East Cornerstone Public School Division.
Nathan Johnson.

WEYBURN - The human resources portfolio within the South East Cornerstone Public School Division is significantly more than just recruiting and hiring teachers as well as support staffers.

There are risk management issues to contend with, and maintenance of staffing levels in maintenance, if you wish. There are contract agreements that need to be worked out, occupational health and safety issues and projects to oversee and guide to conclusions.

Nathan Johnson who moved into this portfolio as superintendent in the summer, delivered his first report at Wednesday's meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division board. Johnson served the division for eight years as a teacher, another seven years as a vice-principal and then three years as principal at the Estevan Comprehensive School.

Johnson had moved into the head office position this academic season and he informed the board that while the organizational chart was not large, they still tracked the current flow of teachers and others, and that included 616 teachers and 611 support staff who work in the 35 schools and other facilities.

That teacher number, he confirmed, represents 557 teachers in classrooms, while another 59 are on leave for a variety of reasons. He discussed the nuances of partial contracts and how administration times are allocated according to student enrollment.

If investigations into teacher conduct are required, that is also within their purview along with other senior leaders. Job action is another reaction item within the HR department, along with general job discussions, including occupational health and safety issues.

There are 32.63 full-time equivalent (FTE) response to intervention teachers in the Cornerstone system, along with just over 37 FTE learning support teacher positions filled.

The educational assistant positions have increased this academic year to 186 FTE, while other FTE positions are being filled by 52 administrative assistants, 75 caretakers and technicians, 126 bus drivers, 39 library technicians and 14 counsellors.

Recruitment of key positions and hard-to-fill educator jobs were also brought forward for discussion. Those positions have included French immersion instructors, substitute teachers and learning support staff, practical and applied arts educators, and teachers for small rural schools, plus bus drivers.

Two major employee agreements with union members are in place until the end of August 2025, Johnson said.  

HR is the go to, or first step, in such processes as legal actions taken against the division, grievances, collective bargaining and leadership agreements plus recruitment.

Johnson also spoke briefly on the Employee On-Boarding Program that will address safety requirements and education needs for each position within SECPSD, as well as operational procedures and employee responsibilities.

Another project is the E-Docs within the Atrieve system, which is a software program that will support tracking and monitoring items for employees, and will be a key aspect for the on-boarding process, or as he said, “all employee files will be digital, no filing cabinets needed now.”

The Atrieve automated system will also be deployed to book substitute employees through an automatic dispatch system. He said that should cut down administrative office time. This will be deployed within some pilot schools as the system is launched and then will move on to include all employees.

Administration recruitment and selection is another vital program with the HR offices. Johnson said that so far, he has been made aware of the need for at least three principals and three vice-principals for the next academic year to fill positions they expect to be vacated at the conclusion of this school year.

Recruitment efforts and how they are carried out was also discussed with Johnson, as he listed such things as university hiring fairs, visits to the faculties of education, communications with interns within SECPSD schools, yearly job fairs within the division, advertising and attracting potential candidates across Canada and social media presence and usage.

There was added discussion concerning educational graduates from the United States who usually require additional class time in Canada before certification and the general trend of hiring out-of-province educators, who Johnson said, obviously and usually would come from Manitoba or Alberta.

Near the end of his presentation, Johnson said that thankfully there were no legal actions being taken against Cornerstone within his department nor any formal grievances at this stage.

The division is now in the second year of a three-year plan to provide safe work places.

Deputy director of education Aaron Hiske added that recruitment effort numbers show that Cornerstone has reached out to more than 5,000 people with 124 interactions for eight jobs posted so far.

Board vice-chairman Jim Vermeersch asked about the number of teacher graduates from Regina and Saskatoon who stay within the province. That was not known at this juncture, but there were strong efforts being made by all provincial systems to keep them engaged through career fairs, visitations, internships and follow-up recruitment efforts.