Chinook School Division reviewing staffing levels

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg

The Chinook School Division might have to apply staffing guidelines stricter if future budgets become tighter.

The human resources monitoring report, which was presented at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting on April 11, recommended the school division be more aggressive on meeting staffing targets in case of a tough budget.
The report noted the school division is currently 19.07 teachers over recommended staffing levels. There will be a savings of $1.5 million if the staffing target is met.
In addition, the report recommended educational assistants are deployed on a 40 to one ratio in accordance with support staff guidelines. The current ratio for educational assistants is 35 to one.
The school division’s intention is to achieve these targets in the staff guidelines through attrition and to only use layoffs as a last resort.
“Our approach is always to try to get to those numbers by attrition, but when you take 62 schools throughout our division, many of them are marginally overstaffed,” Deputy Director of Education Kyle McIntyre said after the meeting. “If we were forced to do this financially, that could get us probably 19 teachers, if you add them all up. The challenge is it is in bits and pieces throughout the division. This year, due to retirement and some teacher transfers, we’re probably going to have eight less teachers than we had last year, which bumps that number down to about 11.”
The Chinook School Division currently employs a total of 1,123 people.
There are 470 full and part-time teachers and 482 support staff.
“That’s not until 2017-2018 that we anticipate we’re going to have some adverse budgets,” he said. “We work towards that. Attrition and retirement is always the way we try to get to that rather than reducing jobs, but if we really get some bad budgetary news with staffing being 78 per cent of our division’s budget, you got to look at that.”
The school division’s current ratio of 35 students to one educational assistant was established three years ago after a review committee looked at existing staffing formulas.
“Probably about five years ago we had the lowest pupil-teacher ratio in the province, but we had the highest number of educational assistants in the province,” he said. “We found that to be problematic. We wanted to have a formula that was predictable and sustainable. So we brought in that ratio and two years ago it was 35:1, Next fall we’ll be moving to 40:1.”
According to McIntyre there has been a reduction of about 20 educational assistants as a result of the 35:1 ratio. The implementation of the new 40:1 ratio will result in six fewer positions for educational assistants.
“So really it’s not a significant change for us and we think that we can address that through attrition — people on temporary contract, people retiring or people that might be resigning,” he said. “The key piece is that we’re not super committed to getting that number if we’re not meeting the needs of students.”
There is a still a need for educational assistants, but during the past decade the school division has also added other specialized support services for students with additional needs.
“Every school in Saskatchewan since the amalgamation 10 years ago has really done a better job developing a full complement of student service supports for kids with exceptional (situations),” he said. “We have speech-language pathologists, we have educational psychologists, we have occupational therapists. There are a number of different people that meet the needs of kids with exceptional (situations). An EA is one component.”
The Chinook School Division has a pupil-teacher ratio of 12.138. This is two fewer students per teacher than the provincial pupil-teacher ratio of 14.42.
The Chinook School Division has not strictly enforced the pupil-teacher ratio to be in accordance with the provincial ratio due to the large geographical size of the area administered by the division.
“We’re very sparsely populated and so a lot of our smaller schools enjoy a higher pupil-teacher ratio where there are fewer students for more teachers,” he said. “Although we aspire to get to the provincial average, there’s a couple divisions provincially — in Prairie South and ourselves here in Chinook — where typically we’re a lot lower because of our sparse population.”
He noted there is not a provincial formula for teacher staffing and each school division will approach staffing in a different manner.
“Provincially there is the base instructional unit and part of our funding that we receive from the government for the school division is based on the number of students we have,” he explained. “The more students you have, the larger number of instructional units you have, the more opportunity you have to staff the schools with teachers. Every division has a different response to staffing those teacher units. Ours, because we’re sparsely populated and we have a large geographic area, we have certain ratios for each set of school size. We allocate our staff based on school size.”

via SW Sask News – Prairie Post – Prairie Post

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