Anglophone South School District eliminates most school intervention worker positions

·9 min read
Twenty-nine school intervention workers with the Anglophone South School District have been laid off. (Shutterstock/Asia Images Group - image credit)
Twenty-nine school intervention workers with the Anglophone South School District have been laid off. (Shutterstock/Asia Images Group - image credit)

The Anglophone South School District plans to eliminate 36 school intervention worker positions in the 2022-23 school year, keeping only two in place for the entire district, the superintendent has confirmed.

The savings will be used to fund 36 educational assistant (EA) positions instead, said Zoë Watson, who plans to retire later this calendar year, following a 41-year career in education.

"Based on our students' current needs and the high demand for EAs, we have prioritized this need for EAs," she said in an emailed statement.

School intervention workers (SIWs) do not deal with students in crisis, said Watson.

"They are typically involved in Tier 1 interventions (social skills and self-regulation/mild-risk behaviour)," she said.

Other positions, such as EAs and Child and Youth teams, will remain in place to deal with students in crisis and with moderate to severe risk behaviour, she added.

Meanwhile, guidance and resource staff at K-5 and behaviour intervention mentor positions will increase through provincial funding announced in April, aimed at increasing inclusive education resources across the system.

Anglophone South has 38 school intervention worker positions, seven of which are "already vacated," said Watson, who will remain in her role for the next "several months" during the hiring and transition process for her successor.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

"Many" of the district's existing school intervention workers will move into EA positions, she said.

Asked for more details, Watson said 29 of the current 31 school intervention workers are being laid-off.

The district has not done the hiring for the EAs yet, she said.

"A permanent SIW can become a permanent EA if they choose to apply. A causal SIW, if they apply, can go on our casual EA list. … Hiring is based on seniority."

School intervention workers and educational assistants are both part of CUPE Local 2745.

EAs are paid $3.03 more an hour than intervention workers — $32.34, compared to $29.31.

Anglophone West 'reassigned' intervention workers last year

"Some" of the other districts have already eliminated school intervention workers, said Watson. She declined to provide any details.

The Anglophone West School District "reassigned" school intervention workers to education assistant positions last school year, confirmed spokesperson Jennifer Read.

"We did this as we were short on EA funding and were looking for a meaningful, consistent manner to address the needs," she said in an emailed statement.

Read did not provide any numbers, but said there is "no net loss in employees."

Asked how the district is able to deal with escalating behaviours and children in crisis, she said EAs can support behaviour as part of their role. The district also has behaviour intervention mentors, guidance counselors and teachers.

"We also do our best to plan for students who need extra support and provide learning opportunities and assistance to our teachers who work with students daily."

No cuts have occurred or are planned at the Anglophone North School District, the Anglophone East School District, District scolaire francophone Sud or District scholaire francophone du Nord-Ouest, according to spokespeople.

District scolaire francophone Nord-Est did not respond to a request for comment.

Districts responsible for human resources

The Department of Education directed inquiries back to the districts.

"As school districts are responsible for their own human resources, they are best suited to answer questions about the resources deployed in provincial classrooms," said spokesperson Danielle Elliott.

"School districts are provided with a global budget, which takes into account many factors — including the number and distribution of students, infrastructure, transportation, and Education Plan initiatives, as well as classroom supports," she said in an emailed statement.

Funding is then allocated at the discretion of the districts, and the district education councils (DECs) must submit a balanced expenditure plan to the minister annually, she said.

EA funding doesn't match need

Anglophone South has "struggled" the past number of years "reconciling" its need for educational assistants (EAs) with its EA funding, said Watson.

For example this school year the district employs 825 EAs, 50 more than the 775 positions for which it receives funding. Their salaries are being paid from other areas of the budget, she said without elaborating.

Positions for school intervention workers are difficult to fill and retain, said Watson, "largely because EAs are paid more and have fewer educational requirements."

There is a high turnover of intervention workers and positions remain unfilled sometimes for "extended periods of time," she said.

In previous years the district has had schools request to replace their intervention worker position with that of an EA or a partial guidance position, said Watson.

School intervention workers are not tied to a specific student or classroom like EAs are, she noted.

"Many" opt to move into an EA role when an opportunity arises, she said.

The district's number of EAs changes each year based on the specific needs of its students, and often through the year as new students move into the district, according to Watson.

Some students will require an EA throughout their schooling, for a variety of reasons, including physical or medical assistance, she said.

"For most of our students, the goal is to give the child the independence and skills so that eventually they no longer require an EA."

Other districts

Anglophone North School District has 10 school intervention workers, which is the same number it had in the previous school year, according to spokesperson Meredith Caissie. "There have been no cuts to these positions in our district," she said.

Staffing numbers for next school year won't be finalized until enrollment numbers are confirmed, said Caissie.

"Last year, we experienced an unexpected late influx of families from out-of-province which greatly increased the demands we had in our district," she said in an emailed statement.

"However, at this time, we do not anticipate any cuts to SIW positions in the coming school year."

School intervention workers, "in the very broad strokes … address behaviour-related support needs," said Caissie, while educational assistants address both behaviour and academic-related support needs.

ASD-N currently has about 360 EAs. "That number does fluctuate somewhat, as needs change and student enrollment numbers adjust," said Caissie.

The district also has five behaviour intervention mentors, with more expected next year, she added.

The Anglophone East School District has six school intervention workers and will continue to have six in the 2022/2023 school year, said spokesperson Stephanie Patterson.

No intervention worker positions were cut this year or in previous years, she said.

Syda Productions/Shutterstock
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

ASD-E also has 29 behaviour intervention mentors to support the work of the school intervention workers, she noted.

There are approximately 560 EAs in ASD-E schools this year, said Patterson.

"We are currently working on staffing for next school year (2022/2023) and have placed 490 EAs as of today," she said in an emailed statement. "Staffing work continues into the summer for next year."

No cuts to intervention worker positions are planned at District scolaire francophone Sud, said spokesperson Jean-Luc Thériault. "Cuts would not be in keeping with our vision," he said in an emailed statement.

Forty-one school intervention worker positions are in the budget plan for the 2022-2023 school year, he said.

Fourteen behaviour management and wellness mentors, added in 2020-2021, are available at all grade levels "to address the diversity and critical needs related to youth wellness and mental health in our schools," said Thériault.

Six behaviour management  mentors are coaching in all of the schools (K-12) "to support teams with behaviour management challenges," he said.

Eight wellness mentors are currently primarily in the high schools but will be available at all schools in 2022-23.

There are currently 498 confirmed EA positions for next school year, Thériault said.

District scolaire francophone du Nord-Ouest does not plan to cut "this type of service" either, said spokesperson Julie Poulin.

"On the contrary. In 2022-2023, we will have more behaviour management mentors and also at least one additional social worker," she said.

Increase in other support positions

This upcoming school year, following the Department of Education's review of New Brunswick's inclusive education policy, the districts will receive funding for additional education support services (ESS).

At Anglophone South, for example, this will mean:

  • Behaviour intervention mentors – eight full-time equivalents (FTE)

  • Guidance — 11 FTEs, elementary

  • Resource positions — eight FTEs, elementary

  • School social worker – four FTEs

  • Speech language pathologist – four FTEs

  • Behaviour specialist - one FTE

The Department of Education announced $5.8 million for the anglophone sector and $2.2 million for the francophone sector, following a review of Policy 322, Inclusive Education.

"This funding will result in more speech-language pathologists, social workers, behaviour intervention mentors, guidance counsellors, resource teachers, and resource specialists in assessment and intervention supporting the province's schools," it said in a news release at the time.

Roughly 150 new professionals will be phased in across all districts in both sectors throughout this fiscal year, according to the spokesperson.

The department has "consistently provided increases to address class composition needs," Elliott said.

"Over the past 10 years there have been steady increases in behaviour intervention mentors – including the addition of 24 in 2017 and another 50 in 2020," she said.

In addition, the department provided an increase of $4 million in 2019-20 toward classroom composition in the four anglophone school districts, which they have used to fund additional EAs, said Elliott.

This is in addition to $12.6 million allocated to support the 143 teaching positions added between 2017-19.

'Changing needs'

"These increases were supported by consistent increases in other student service positions with the goal of providing students with early, targeted interventions to ensure they had timely access to professionals with the right training and skillsets," said Elliott.

The recent signing of an agreement with the New Brunswick Union will also support the recruitment and retention of school psychologists through wage increases and other improvements to working conditions, she said.

"All of these investments aim to improve long-term outcomes for students, and support inclusive practices and services available to students across the education system and we will continue to work closely with the districts on this file."

Watson described the latest additional education support services positions as "very positive" for Anglophone South.

"They will greatly bolster our support services, help offset any loss of the SIW positions, and reflects the changing needs of our district," she said.

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