Saturday, November 19, 2016


Mr. James Dinn


Mr. Dinn:

Thank-you to you and the NLTA for your active engagement and interest in the 2016 NL English District School Board Election. The NLTA has been a significant proponent of participating in this election. From my perspective the NLTA has done more to promote awareness of the election, and the issues, than any other educational stakeholder in the province.

It has been a pleasure working with you, members of your executive and staff over the last few years in he cause of public education.

I think you will find that my answers to the 4 questions will be in line with the many responses we have presented to government, teachers, school councils and the media.

1. What role should class composition play in determining class size?

As President of the NLFS, I campaigned relentlessly, to bring forth a better awareness of the challenges facing classroom teachers. One of the greatest challenges is the result of the provincial government failing miserably to provide the necessary resources to make inclusive education work.  The number of special needs children (from intellectual and physical disabilities, to emotional and behavioral issues)and  ESL students, in any given classroom can change the dynamics of the whole. Without an adequate number of counselors and teacher assistants to meet the diversity of the student population, teachers are finding it harder and harder to meet the needs of every classroom.  I would like to see composition numbers tat  reflect the reasonable ability of educators to meet the needs of every child. Our teachers should not have to face significantly different workloads based on the composition of a class. 

As stated on my web-page - - 
  • We to meet the serious mental health and addiction issues faced by our students. I would work towards finding the resources to implement the recommendations of the NL Councillors and Psychologists Association and the NL Federation of School Councillors. This would see a ratio of 1 Guidance Counsellor for 250 students and Educational Psychologists at 1:1000 students.
  • I will work towards ensuring that the provincial government provides the resources to make inclusive education work.
  • I am opposed to the slow and methodical policy of the provincial government to increase cap sizes. The province should re-establish the cap sizes recommended by the Teach er Allocation Commission Report.

2. Do you support placing students in combined grades when enrollment supports single grading?

No. As President of the NLFSC, I came out swinging against split grading - unless it is absolutely necessary,  as in the case of small rural schools. The priority in determining class sizes should be the need of students not attempts by government to hire less teachers. At the very least I would like to see split classes abolished for grades undergoing standardized testing.  Additionally, if the practice is going to continue (for fiscal reasons), teachers with increased workloads should be provided with the support and training to teach these classes instead of expecting them to adapt to extra workloads.

From personal experience, as a father  of a child who has challenges focussing, I do not feel combined classes offer him the monitoring or the environment he needs to learn.

3. Do you think inclusive education should be adequately resourced so that all students can achieve success in the school system?

Yes. The provincial government is failing all of our students when the refuse to adequately resource inclusive education. Every classroom in our province is unique, the cookie cutter approach to education is no longer effective. The broad scope of individual diversity in each classroom demands that classroom teacher receive adequate supports  to achieve the highest possible educational outcomes.

Teachers, administrators and all students deserve the resources they need to make inclusive education a success. Teachers and students need the professional training, resource teachers, councillors and adequate teaching assistants for teacher and student success. I do not feel that government or the public appreciate the time and effort that goes into preparing education plans, education material, accessing students and balancing inclusive classrooms with out adequate resources.

4. Do you believe that Full-Day Kindergarten is properly resourced?

Despite the evidence to the contrary, many programs in our schools are not properly resourced. School councils are raising money for computer servers and other educational needs that should be provided by government. Teachers should not be on the hook for resources to teach children. Some schools can fundraise easier than others. All children should have access to the same materials and resources demanded for any program. I asked this question earlier in the year when I was president of the NLFSC, does Minister Kirby have to purchase pens, paper and servers to do his job?

If you, or any member of your organization has further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Peter Whittle


Thursday, November 17, 2016


I am just settling in for the evening, trying to reply to e-mails and phone calls from the campaign trail.

Here is an excerpt of a typical e-mail from the disenfranchised whose access to a polling station was not considered by government or the board. The lady, a new Canadian citizen would like to vote on Tuesday but her local school has no polling station.

Dear Mr. Whittle

My wife and I would like to vote for you in the elections but we do not have a car. You have been front and center at our school as a volunteer and a community leader. My boys look forward to seeing you at the breakfast program because you make them laugh. Without your commitment our community school would have closed and a new school would never had been builted

Why can’t we vote at Virginia Park School? 

Wishing you success.


I have offered her a ride. How many people will not be voting because their local schools do not have a polling station.

Voter suppression?  

I have formally requested that polling stations be added for Virginia Park Elementary and Bishop Feild  but the organizers of the election have not responded to the request.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Public school boards matters, at least I think so, but I wonder if some in the public would be supportive of rolling them into the Department of Education supplemented by regional education councils picked from school council members.

Keep in mind, school councils are democratically elected. Their composition is entrenched in legislation ensuring a balance of parents, the public and teachers. They are local, productive, informed, efficient and cost next to nothing to operate - a Christmas social, an end of school BBQ and a scattered coffee. School councils are as grassroots as it gets.

I have been opposed to the amalgamation of local public school boards. The process of rationalization has led to the demise of local decision making. We now have 17 positions elected from “local zones” that do not even have to publicly display how they vote. Accountability to the public under such a system is, well, less than transparent.

The zones are geographically challenging for trustees to travel, let alone get the real pulse of education stakeholders. What is even more frustrating as a candidate in Zone 16 - which has something like 17,000 eligible voters. (yes if you are eligible to vote for a MP, MHA, or council you can vote) and nearly 8,000 school aged children – is that a very small percentage of the public seem to know the elections are ongoing.

Do me a favor, pick 10 names from the phone book or call ten acquaintances. Ask them if they intend to vote in the school board elections? How many will say yes? How many will say what elections or be surprised that they can vote if they do not currently have children in the system? How many know where to vote or the zone they are in?  

The Chief Electoral Officer for the elections responded to my concerns about public relations surrounding the election by saying “Of course there is the website with ample information. Besides this each school was forwarded the polling stations and advised to post in schools.  We are also planning a message to go home through our synervoice message to get out to parents reminding them of the election.  Besides this there is ads I have heard on the radio etc.”

Ballot box locations do not even reflect our, and government’s, commitment too local and neighborhood schools. Instead of making it as easy as possible for all voters to get to a voting station, entire regions and neighborhood have been disenfranchised. 

Let us keep in mind that these positions are volunteer positions, is it the candidate’s role to expend financial resources to inform the public of their right to vote and where to vote? What is really going on, by design or fiscal short-shortsightedness, is a self-fulfilling exercise in voter suppression with the excuse that democracy is just too expensive to inform voters of their right to participate. A low turnout makes it easier to justify taking grass roots democracy out of public education.

More information on where to vote, who can vote and more voting locations would go a long way towards increasing voter turnout. We were told that these elections were delayed to ensure they were done correctly, to increase awareness and participation.  That now appears to have been just another hollow commitment. 

Don’t let this become a retro-active referendum about the relevance of public school boards.  Please, vote – show that education matters and that public education matters even more.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016



Please read the questionnaire distributed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association to all candidates seeking election to the English School Board.

Many of the answers to these questions are issues that I have already spoken to in the media over the past number of years.  Please see the issues section of this webpage.

I'll be writing a formal reply...and posting it later this evening.

Remember we  are all partners in education, please go to the provincial election website and read the candidates biographies. Ask yourself who might best represent your point-of-view as a trustee. You will find the links on the left hand side of this page.

I would like to think that I have earned your trust and respect as an outspoken, committed advocate for educational issues who is not afraid to speak truth to power.

Your vote is important! Please take the time to make an informed decision. I hope you will make the time to vote.

Sunday, November 13, 2016


Education Minister Dale Kirby was on NTV News tonight urging voters to turn out for the school board elections on Nov 22.