Schooling in the Yukon is not very fair.
Some schools have more teachers while others are made to do with less.
But there is hope that a new staffing allocation formula created by a multi-party advisory committee will solve the problem this coming school year.
Last year’s auditor general’s report echoed some of the complaints that school councils, teachers and principals had been making for years, and asked for changes to be made to the territory’s staffing formula.
“Basically, the formula was broken, it just didn’t work any longer and we had to address it,” said Christie Whitley, the assistant deputy minister of public schools branch.
The current staffing formula has been in use since 1987.
But the formula wasn’t fair or credible, said Whitley.
It wasn’t transparent – many school councillors, principals and teachers didn’t know how the formula worked.
It wasn’t fiscally viable and it just wasn’t sustainable.
Plus, the formula wasn’t good at organizing for changing demographics or declining enrolment numbers.
In 1997, there were 6,920 students in the territory.
That number has since dropped to 5,057.
A committee was formed to solve the problem, with representatives from the Yukon Teachers’ Association, Association of Yukon School Administrators, area superintendents, members of four school councils and the Catholic Education Association of the Yukon.
Ken Taylor, the principal at Jack Hulland Elementary School was one of the members of the committee.
“In all honesty, I approached it with a small dose of skepticism, having participated in these types of things in the past,” he said.
“I was pleasantly surprised.”
Jack Hulland has been sharing some of its resources with other schools for years.
Under the old formula, there were 120 full-time-equivalent teachers who were not covered and therefore available to the school that fought hardest for them.
“It’s just not productive for principals and school councils to spend three or four months each year with significant amounts of stress, worry and time invested in trying to beat each other out to get that last (educational assistant). That’s not productive and it shouldn’t work that way,” said Taylor.
“And this formula will provide those three key things. It provides for equity, stability and transparency.”
The number of teachers not accounted for under the new formula will drop to 19.5 teachers.
These extra teachers will be dispatched to schools that have been assessed to have increased vulnerability.
And the formula will become a public document, available to all those who wish to see it.
As the committee went through the ratios for kindergarten, primary, intermediate, principals and learning assistants, Taylor was “rubbing (his) hands with glee,” thinking that his school was going to receive more teachers.
“Then we applied the formula and Jack Hulland came out with a small decrease,” he said.
“After I picked my jaw up off my chest, I had to say in all honesty that this was a great process and that it’s fair and we’ll have to live with it.”
Kelly Collins, the principal of Takhini Elementary School, who was also part of the committee, will lose three teachers under the new formula.
The proposed changes won’t affect a lot of teachers.
There will still be the same number of full-time teachers in the territory.
There are currently just under 476 teachers.
And only nine teachers moved as a result of the changes, although many of these moves will be done through retirements and new teachers.
Most of the increases will be in the communities.
Because of their small size, the Kluane and Beaver Creek schools will not be applicable to the new staffing formula.
The new formula will not affect contract negotiations with the teachers’ union, which will be going into arbitration in May.
“The important thing right now is that we stay committed to this formula and this process,” said Taylor.
“There will be short-term pain but I truly believe there will be long-term gain for the system.”
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