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Nova Scotia education minister defends hiring process for education specialists

Click to play video: '‘No cause for concern’ despite hiring delay: N.S. education minister' ‘No cause for concern’ despite hiring delay: N.S. education minister
Some education specialists say the government is sending "mixed messages" regarding the future of employment for specific roles. – Jun 27, 2018

Less than 24 hours after applicants for term positions as education specialists received an email saying the hiring process had been delayed, the minister of education says things are going “really well.”

“The feedback we’re getting from the regions is that the hiring process is actually going really well. A lot of applications have come in and interviews are ongoing in some regions,”  Nova Scotia Minister of Education, Zach Churchill, told reporters during cabinet.

On Monday, June 25, postings for term positions for Speech Language Pathologists, Psychologists and Social Workers with the Halifax Regional Education Centre [HRCE] closed.
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READ MORE: Future of education specialists in Nova Scotia ‘uncertain’: NSTU

Less than 30 minutes later, an email was sent to applicants stating:

“The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development is working on finalizing terms & conditions of employment for applicants who accept a position that is currently vacant. As a result, the HRCE will delay the filling of these positions until details regarding terms and conditions of employment have been confirmed.”

As of Wednesday, HRCE says the hiring process has resumed as the terms and conditions of employment have been set.

One education specialist says the government is sending mixed messages and there’s been an alarming sense of clarity regarding the future of education specialists.

The person shared their reaction to the email from HRCE and spoke on the condition their identity be protected, as they’re fearful their job may be in jeopardy.

“I was really stunned, really stunned and immediately terrified for what the future looks like. The biggest issue I think recently has been the impact that this has had on morale and just overall uncertainty for all of the specialists across the province who currently work for Department of Education.”

The province plans to hire six new education specialists — school psychologists and speech-language pathologists — by September.

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Minister Churchill says these six new positions won’t be part of the union, where previously these positions would be.

“It’s not about whether they’re going to be in the union or not,” Churchll said. “It’s teacher certification, so these folks are not trained teachers. They have not received their B.Ed., they have other specialized training in speech pathology, psychology and first of all, it’s about recognizing that fact and also allowing us the flexibility to have these employees work beyond the 10-month academic year.”

The education specialists who spoke on the condition of anonymity say those who work on the front lines of school psychology and speech-language pathology already work beyond regular classroom hours and they’re not convinced a 12-month contract is the best approach to help students.

“The idea sounds great in theory, of having these new contracted employees work for 12 months,” one source said, “[but] one of the pillars of a really comprehensive assessment is being able to observe the student in the environment, in the classroom, watching them interact with their peers, watching them at different times of day in their school, consulting with their classroom teachers, getting standardized questionnaires completed by their classroom teacher, and it will be really difficult to observe children, observe students in the summer in an empty classroom.”

Minister Churchill didn’t say in what capacity the two extra months of support would be served.

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“The appropriate office space will be found by the executive directors where they can provide the service, but we know that non-teaching supports are needed year-’round,” he said.

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