Staff training nets students days off

NANAIMO: School officials want to bring all employees together for professional learning sessions next spring.

Nanaimo school officials want to bring all employees together for two professional learning sessions next spring.

The proposal, which will go before the school board for final approval at the end of the month, will gather all of the district’s teachers, educational assistants, custodial and clerical staff, school leaders and others together for one full-day in-service workshop in February and a half-day session in May.

“In my time here, it’s never been done and I’m not sure it’s ever been done,” said John Blain, deputy superintendent. “It’s something we feel can continue to move us forward in a positive way.”

The initiative, dubbed Success for All, requires a public consultation process because it means a change to the school calendar and would affect families – students would not attend school for the day and a half that employees are participating in the in-service sessions.

The workshops would orient staff to current school district initiatives, the district’s vision and mission, strategic planning and development and structures and strategies to support student learning, as well as legislative requirements such as the duty to report abuse or situations that put children in danger and the process for doing so.

“We would be able to ensure every employee is working off the same protocol,” said Blain.

The in-service sessions are in addition to the six professional development days that are already in teacher contracts, he added.

While professional development days are intended for teachers to use in improving their skills in specific areas, the in-service sessions are for all staff and the intention is to inform them about things they need to know to work in the district.

Blain said the district does not need to add any time to the school day because even with the proposed calendar change, most schools are still meeting the Education Ministry-required number of instruction hours.

For those schools that will dip slightly below ministry requirements, Blain said the principal and staff can decide what to do – it can be as simple as shaving minutes off a Friday recess or simply deciding that the improvement to instructional practice makes up for the lost time.

Alana Cameron, president of the District Parent Advisory Council, said when she talked with members about this a couple months ago, the general consensus was that they could see the reasoning behind it.

“I’m worried about the parents and that there will be financial hardships,” she said.

“Anytime parents have to pay for daycare when they weren’t expecting it can be a hardship.”

Besides the proposed in-service day on Feb. 1, the month of February also includes two non-instructional, professional development days and the new Family Day holiday.

Feedback on the proposal calendar change will be accepted until Nov. 26 by e-mailing successforall@sd68.bc.ca.

Letters can be sent to the Board of Education, 395 Wakesiah Avenue, V9R 3K6.

The school board will make a decision on this proposal at its Nov. 28 meeting.