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‘The entire class broke into tears’: Calgary students sign petition to save teacher from layoff

Calgary students sign petition to save teacher from being laid off
WATCH: A petition has been started by students at Sir Winston Churchill High School in Calgary demanding the province to reconsider teacher layoffs. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the teenagers are determined to save the job of their favourite social studies teacher.

A group of Calgary students at Sir Winston Churchill High School have started a petition to help save their social studies teacher from being laid off.

Grade 10 students in Shaheen Allibhai’s class said they were told last week that she would be losing her temporary position in January 2020.

“She’s a very intellectual person. She’s very kind and very smart. She understands you as a person,” said 15-year-old student Karmen Naugler.

“Honestly, the best teacher I’ve ever had throughout all my grades,” said Grade 10 student Bryden Jia at the school on Monday.

Naugler said it was an emotional day for the class when they got the news that Allibhai was one of 300 temporary teachers cut by the Calgary Board of Education after the UCP government reduced provincial funding.

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“The entire class broke into tears. It was really sad. We really didn’t want to lose her,” Naugler said.

Naugler was determined not to let her favourite teacher go without a fight so she started an online petition asking that teacher layoffs be reconsidered.

“I felt like somebody needed to say something to make a change, and with this petition, I really hope other students will recognize that we have a voice and we can speak out,” Naugler said.

Last week, Alberta’s education minister announced plans for an independent financial audit of the Calgary Board of Education and a governance review.

READ MORE: Alberta education minister may force CBE to reverse teacher layoffs

An audit of the CBE in 2017 found that the board’s funding, expenses and spending were comparable to the other metro school boards in the province, but the board could look for efficiencies through busing services.

The head of Calgary’s teacher’s union questions the need for the provincial government to demand another audit.

“It does feel like [the CBE] have been singled out and I hate to say it, but trash-talked or bullied and saying that, ‘You should be able to fix this and we didn’t know anything about it.’ I don’t believe that to be true at all,” said ATA Local 38 president Bob Cocking.
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On Monday, a spokesperson for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the minister is still finalizing who will conduct the financial audit and governance review, and until that decision is made, there isn’t a timeline on when the audit will start and end.

In a statement to Global News on Monday, the education minister acknowledged that an internal audit of the CBE was done in 2017-18 but added: “This audit was not from an independent party and did not dive deeply into the systemic issues facing the Calgary Board of Education.”

READ MORE: Alberta government urges more consistency in preliminary CBE audit

In a statement to Global News, the Calgary Board of Education said the layoff of temporary teachers is one of a number of measures needed to present a balanced budget to Alberta Education in January.

“We are still exploring other possible changes and all decisions have not been made. We are still unaware of the full impact on individual schools. Once we work through and finalize decisions, we will have more information to share,” said board chair Marilyn Dennis.