‘That’s a bit of a failing on my part.’: Sask. education minister reconsiders Cornwall funding
In an about-face from his statements Monday, Education Minister Gordon Wyant said he now wants to consult with teachers, board members and other people affected by the funding cut to Cornwall Alternative School.
“I make decisions based on the best information that I have, and I think that’s a bit of a failing on my part that I didn’t reach out, that I didn’t ask enough questions when it came to the decisions we made in the budget, but those are the questions, those are the conversations I’m going to have now,” Wyant said.
The minister made his announcement during Tuesday’s question period. Several former Cornwall students and board members were in the gallery, including Delia Delorme.
Delorme is currently a youth programming coordinator, and credits Cornwall for helping her find her way through the education system.
“I was 15 years old, I was pregnant, I was lost and I was actually in a very abusive relationship at that time. I ended up getting referred to Cornwall,” she said.
Kids are referred to Cornwall from both the Regina Public School Division and Regina Catholic School Division. Cornwall board chair David Halverson said Monday that kids are referred to Cornwall for a wide range of issues; gang involvement, addiction, behaviour, attendance and other reasons. A troubled home life is a common theme.
“Cornwall Alternative School opened my eyes and my heart to know that there are people out there who believe and who want to better these kids,” Delorme said.
On Monday, Wyant said the school’s funding was being cut due to the difficulty of student’s transitioning from Cornwall back to mainstream schools in Grade 11.
Delorme said that not everyone fits into the same box. After Cornwall, she took a few years off to raise her kids, but ultimately wound up attending university.
“Kids all learn individually. Some, yes, they learn in a big school setting; some don’t. I was one of the ones that didn’t,” Delorme said. “That doesn’t mean that I didn’t succeed.”
Former Cornwall principal and current board member Eunice Cameron was among the group at the Legislative building Tuesday.
She welcomed Wyant’s change in position, but said this consultation should have come before the decision to cut funding was made.
Cameron hopes to see a prompt resolution, as the looming potential for a funding cut is creating an unhealthy environment in the school.
“We have teachers right now who are stressed to the hilt. They are not sleeping. We have students who have been punted out many areas of their life and now they feel like they’re being punted out again and it is very scary,” Cameron said.
The group met with Wyant after question period Tuesday. After the meeting concluded, Delorme said she felt Wyant did listen to and understood their concerns.
“I think he truly listened to the background, the impact I think is the thing he got the most,” Delorme said.
“Hopefully he’s going to overturn her decision. He’s actually going to go for a tour of the school and meet with the board.”
Wyant could not give a timeline on when a final decision will be made, but restoring the $761,000 is a possibility.
The province did have an agreement with Cornwall Alternative School to provide $761,000 for the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years.
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