WELLINGTON: PC Party Leader Jamie Baillie isn’t Premier, but he’s getting an earful from parents and teachers about the trouble inside the classrooms and what needs to be done to fix it for the future generation.
Baillie was at the Wellington/Fletchers Lake Station House on Feb. 27 where he held a town hall meeting on education. It’s a topic that has dominated pages of newspapers in print and online for the past several months as the Liberal government under Premier Stephen McNeil and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) tried to come to some form of an agreement, to no avail.
“If we can set each and every student up for success through our schools to go as high as they can go, then this province has a very rich and bright future,” Baillie told the crowd of about 75 people enthusiastically. “That’s why it’s so frustrating when you see Stephen McNeil and the Liberal government think and say, that in their mind, the biggest issue in education is whether our teachers get a one per cent or 1.5 per cent raise in year two and three of their contract.
“I ask you, is that the biggest issue in education today? No, it is the least of our problems.”
Baillie reassured the teachers all the effort they had put in protesting the Liberals Bill 75 before it went through the Legislature and passed was not all for naught, as some have told him they felt it was.
“I’ve talked with many teachers, including those at Georges P. Vanier this afternoon, who feel beaten up, defeated because of the bill passing forcing a contract on them,” he said. “I can tell you all that effort did a lot of good because the every day citizens of this province, who aren’t a teacher or may not have kids in school any more, was very focused on what’s gone wrong in our classrooms.
“Now I, as the Opposition Leader, feel a duty to make sure that attention is held and turned to something positive for our classrooms.”
Most of those in the room were either teachers at local or Halifax-area schools and parents—and also some that were both. They were passionate as they spoke to Baillie and the crowd, which included HRSB rep Bridget Ann Boutilier.
One teacher from Holland Road School said they aren’t treated like a professional, and most times have to ask permission to write what she needs to write on a report card for their son or daughter.
“I also need their permission to retain their child , no matter how much I knew how detrimental it is to the child to pass them on,” she said, showing her care and passion through her voice.
A parent spoke about the need for more core components like cursive writing to be taught in class, and the no fail policy to be eliminated, something Baillie and others in the crowd nodded their head in agreement at.
Another teacher spoke passionately about the workload that teachers have been asked to take on—more than just doing what they’re good at, teaching. She spoke briefly on inclusion as well.
“We’ve been asked to take on so much,” said the teacher. “I am not a trained social worker, but I act like one. I’m not a trained mental health professional, but I act like one.
“All of these things come my way and I’m expected to do them, but I’m not qualified to do that. I need the help of the government to do that.”
The teacher than went on saying how McNeil was a lovely speaker and made her believe voting for him would help education; as did Darrell Dexter when he was NDP Leader; and former PC leader Rodney MacDonald. She then asked Baillie a pointed question.
“Why are you going to be any different than any other politician I voted for, and how do I know that you’re going to do what all the other politicians, no disrespect to you, promised and seriously actually do something for the education in our province?” she said, her passion for her profession and kids clearly evident as she spoke.
Baillie responded to her questions.
“I’ve been getting that a lot lately ‘How do we know you’re going to be any different. How do we know you will do what you say,” he said. “I can’t really blame people for asking me that when that’s been their experiences.
“Let me say something that is a little shocking. I am telling you what I am going to do. I know I’m going to do it, but you don’t know that. Honestly, you don’t because I can sign it in blood, I can scream it from the roof tops but you don’t. There is no answer to that other than you have to kick the tires and assess my sincerity and obviously you won’t know until you try.
“I wish I could prove to you in some concrete way that I mean what I say, but I can’t. All I can do is tell you what’s in my heart and hope you see it to be sincere.”