Skip to content

SSBA president liked what she heard at annual assembly

It was described as an assembly that passed resolutions to support students and communities. When the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) adjourned its three-day assembly on Nov.

It was described as an assembly that passed resolutions to support students and communities.

When the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) adjourned its three-day assembly on Nov. 13, president Janet Foord of Estevan told The Mercury there were a few areas where earlier concerns had been addressed and progressive steps were being taken in partnership with educators and the Ministry of Education.

"Our budget was passed, that was the first good thing," she said, noting that in the past the motion to approve a budget wasn't necessarily a slam dunk.

"We had the last one rejected, but this one was tied to outcomes and costed out through strategic plans with outcomes being reported," Foord said.

The SSBA passed a resolution that requires it to lobby the education ministry to allow the board autonomy in controlling the acquisition and installation of portable classrooms. This was passed with 92 per cent approval among the approximately 240 delegates.

"The way the purchasing model was going, the larger school divisions were being given the better prices and they were cookie-cutter portables, one size to fit all. Some were priced higher due to the cost of not only building but also moving them to where they were being needed. The ministry recognized the weaknesses in the program so we'll lobby them for a better process. The concept is the same though, a one-builder model, but delivery will be in a more timely manner. I know Saskatoon had issues last year, some schools didn't get the models they ordered and some were delayed due to the fact that newly built units were sent to Alberta after the flood, instead of to Saskatchewan, but that's understandable," Foord said.

A joint-sector plan that was ministry driven before is now going to be driven by the directors of education and the school boards in the 28 school divisions within the province. She said no sector plan will go through without board approval first, giving them "less of a top down approach, more of a bottom to top look."

Foord said she got a feeling there are more allowances being given now for local initiatives, rather than ministry driven ones.

"They realize that we are elected boards, not appointed boards like the health boards are. So that means we (boards) are going to be called to task, we have to prove we're up to it."

When it came to the topic of building schools using the P3 (public, private partnership) model of bulk purchasing on a major construction scale, Foord said the jury is still out.

"We heard from both sides. I believe the decision to go ahead with P3 models has already been made, so the reality will be in how we carry it out. I can say the ministry was certainly there at the table, and they appear to be listening."

On the teacher wage issue, Foord said she could not comment on the fact that the teachers recently voted quite convincingly to reject a government offer of about a 5.5 per cent increase over four-years, because the parties had not yet returned to the table to resume negotiations.

"We have four representatives there when they do get back, three trustees and our executive director, along with the province and the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. I understand that all sides are hearing what the other is saying so things can still go well."

Foord said serving as the provincial representative on the Canadian School Boards Association gives her additional insight into problem solving and common issues that all boards share across this vast country. That's why she sees so many positive things happening in this province.

She said the assembly also spent a good deal of time focused on First Nations issues, including keynote speakers with the Aboriginal council steering a proposed resolution to conclusion regarding a statement of apology to former students of Indian residential schools.

"We must recognize these injustices as a society and by placing this apology in schools, it's a symbolic gesture that will assist in the truth and reconciliation for all Canadians," Foord said.

The SSBA also approved a motion to develop policy and procedures to address the needs of students and staff who suffer from anaphylactic allergic reactions.

"As long as we are talking and listening, we can always work things out," said Foord, who is just now near concluding the first year of her two-year mandate as president of SSBA.