A new report outlines ways to overhaul the school board system in Saskatchewan, including an option to consolidate all 18 existing public boards of education into one provincial board.
Report author Dan Perrins said that single board would be responsible for all 606 public schools in the province and would report to the minister of education.
“The key benefits of this model are strategic direction, effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and transparency,” Perrins wrote in the report prepared for the Saskatchewan government.
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“The key challenge is that this model has not been implemented in an education system of this size (geography and number of schools); as such, there is no precedent.”
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Perrins wrote that while Prince Edward Island has gone in that direction, it is smaller in geography, enrolment and number of schools than most public school divisions in Saskatchewan.
There would be other concerns too.
Demonstrating equity between urban and rural schools would be difficult, the board would be significantly removed from the community and it would take significant time and energy to make it work, he said.
“During the transition phase, the anxiety created by this level of change will impede functioning at all levels,” Perrins wrote.
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However, he said the “one board” model would cost less and be less complex than the system now.
Perrins was asked by the government to look at school governance options with a focus on saving money, improving student success and accountability.
Other options would be to establish four regional public boards of education accountable to the minister, create new boundaries for between eight and 14 public school divisions or realign boundaries of the existing divisions.
Saskatchewan currently has 28 school divisions including 18 public, eight separate Roman Catholic, one separate Protestant and one francophone. There are 252 school board members province-wide serving about 176,000 students.
The current school division boundaries were set more than ten years ago. Between 1995 and 2006 the number of boards went from 119 to 28.
The report says following the 2006 amalgamation, administrative changes took from two to three years. The process of creating the culture in the new divisions took four to five years.
It appears educators don’t want to see a further reduction in school boards.
Perrins noted in his report that he didn’t have formal consultations, but nearly three dozen groups approached him for a conversations, including 19 school boards, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.
There was unanimous support for no more amalgamation, he said.
The groups said the 2006 amalgamation created school divisions large enough to achieve all significant economies of scale. They said additional outcomes would not improve student outcomes or result in other savings.
Education Minister Don Morgan has appointed a six-person panel to consult with educators on the options and present their findings in February.
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