Unusable machinery, broken promises forces exodus of CamBay shop specialist

Frustrated teachers flee NU


CAMBRIDGE BAY – New table saws, belt sanders, power planers and other pieces woodworking equipment sit unused in the shop of Cambridge Bay's Kiilinik high school, frustrating shop and trades teacher Lynn MacLeod.

Since MacLeod arrived at the school last September, he's waited for the shop to be wired so he can teach students how to use these machines. It's still not done. He's tired of waiting, and plans to leave Nunavut when classes end this year.

He's not alone. At least one in four teachers and principals in Nunavut will leave their jobs after this school year.

Some are returning south to take advantage of a growing number of job opportunities. Others, fed up with the high cost of living in Nunavut and the prospect of a 15 per cent rent hike next year, are taking higher-paying jobs, in Nunavut or elsewhere. Some are simply burned out and looking for a change.

And a few, judged to be unsuitable for the North – mainly due to their lacklustre community involvement or personal issues, have received letters saying their contracts will not be renewed.

About 90 job postings for teachers and principals in Nunavut are listed on the web site educationcanada.com. Last week, these included 18 openings in the Kitikmeot, 55 in the Kivalliq and 25 in the Baffin region. Earlier this spring, the number of job openings listed was even higher. That doesn't include teachers waiting for job offers from other school boards, and who haven't submitted resignations yet.

Junior and high schools will be hardest hit by these departures because most of the job openings are for teachers at the higher grades. Nunavut's elementary schools have more Inuit teachers, who are less likely to leave. However, several jobs for specialists, such as Inuktitut language teachers, are also waiting to be filled.

Many principals are set to leave Nunavut schools. Arviat is looking for new principals for both its high school and elementary school. Rankin Inlet's John Arnalukjuak School needs a new principal, as do schools in Whale Cove and Chesterfield Inlet.

In the Baffin region, Igloolik is losing its assistant principal, and two elementary schools in Iqaluit, Nanook in Apex and Joamie, also need new principals.

In the Kitikmeot, Kugaaruk's school and Kugluktuk's high school will have a new principal. Kiilinik Ilihakvik high school in Cambridge Bay is also saying goodbye to its principal, Paul Theriault, who accepted a top administrative position with the French-language school board in Yellowknife.

Six teachers out of 20 are leaving Kiilinik. Theriault's not surprised. A high school teacher with five years experience who earns $69,000 plus a northern allowance in Nunavut can expect $81,000, plus a similar allowance, in the Northwest Territories.

MacLeod, the shop and trades teacher, handed in his resignation Apr. 2.

He's a journeyman carpenter with years of teaching experience in Rankin Inlet and elsewhere in Canada. The school hired him to start the new shop program and develop a trades centre.

MacLeod ordered all the needed equipment for a combined woodworking, carpentry and welding shop, but the required wiring was never installed, despite repeated promises from education department officials.

Fed up with expensive machines that are only useful as "bookends," MacLeod resigned and took another teaching job in Alberta.

MacLeod says his shop students at Kiilinik took to carpentry "very positively."

"They have the potential to be the backbone of the community," he says.

Macleod's loss is a blow to the education department's Nunavut Early Apprenticeship Program. Its goal is to encourage high school students to enter the trades through a combination of academic study, trades instruction and on-the-job practice. Cambridge Bay, which serves as a hub for the mining industry, is an ideal spot to develop the program.

Finding a replacement for MacLeod should be a challenge. The job posting calls for a certified journeyman, such as a welder, electrician, mechanic, carpenter, or woodworker, who also holds a bachelor of education and professional teaching certificate, a Nunavut vocational teacher certificate and experience working with high school and post-secondary students as well as industry.

During a Grade 9 shop class last week, MacLeod's students work quietly on footstool projects: Kayla Aknagivagak clamps two pieces of wood together, Mary Anavilok smooths out the cover for her cushion, while Jordan Anderson applies a stain to his footstool frame.

Five minutes before the class ends, MacLeod snaps his fingers and the students scurry around the shop cleaning up chips of wood.

Several of them might develop the interest and talent to take the Alberta Trades Examinations and work towards level one or two apprenticeship during high school, MacLeod says. This would lead them to a well-paid job after graduation. Under MacLeod, they could head in that direction.

But MacLeod won't be there to guide them.

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