A group of former leaders in Yukon’s Department of Education are calling on the government to rebuild trust with teachers, parents, First Nations and school staff.
Last week Ken Taylor, Piers Macdonold, Shakir Alwarid, Fred Smith and Don Roberts signed a commentary that was published in the Yukon News.
“Trust is a rare commodity among those working in the education field right now, and that is unacceptable,” they wrote.
“Communication – real, open, honest communication is often missing among the partners. The education system has become closed with people feeling shut down, left out, or at risk if they speak up.”
The authors were all active in the education system in the late 1980s, when the government was drafting the Education Act.
“The many years we spent fixing the education system, especially writing the Education Act, creating a partnership and the trust with the teachers, with the professionals, with First Nations, with parents – to see it all go down the drain, it’s really disappointing. It’s disgusting, to tell you the truth,” said Alwarid in an interview this week.
He was the deputy minister for education at the time.
“Morale is at an all time low,” said Taylor. “People are working hard. They’re doing their best, but they’re feeling a huge disconnect with the very most senior levels of management.”
The government should set up a series of formal meetings to meet with partners and work on solutions, he said.
Premier Darrell Pasloski has responded to the group in an open letter (see page 6) in which he criticized them for being long on criticism but short on solutions.
“When I saw the response from the premier, it was really sickening, him being so defensive,” said Alwarid.
It’s that “we know better attitude” that led the government astray in the first place, he said.
“The government should just shove aside the bureaucracy right now and listen to those who are most affected by education.”
Pasloski did not respond to multiple interview requests by press time.
Doug Graham, who became Yukon’s minister of education in last week’s cabinet shuffle, also criticized the group for making vague accusations.
“Ken Taylor and Piers MacDonald especially kind of disappointed me with a letter like this, because if there are criticisms of the department, those are things that they should be able to articulate.”
Graham has previously been the territory’s education minister, in the late 1970s.
He said he would be happy to meet with those two to find out what their specific criticisms are.
And he said that meeting with the department’s partners in education is on the top of his priority list, anyway.
“It doesn’t matter what era you look at, in terms of education, there have always been problems or controversies within the department,” said Graham.
“One of these fellows was a deputy minister of education some time ago, and I think it would be very instructional to go back and see what people had to say about that era. I have some personal opinions about that era, and they’re not real complimentary.”
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