Officials scold Baffin teacher for speaking out

Baffin teachers say they can’t speak openly about problems in the school system — one teacher says she was reprimanded for talking to the media.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — A Grade 1 teacher at Iqaluit’s Nakasuk School says she was able to talk safely on CBC radio about problems within the Baffin school system only because she’s leaving Nunavut at the end of the school year.

Lorraine McCormack spoke on CBC radio May 5 about the need for more support for students with special needs.

Afterwards, she was called out of class and summoned to a conference call with her principal and the supervisor of schools, Greg Healey.

“I was told that I shouldn’t have done the interview. I wasn’t threatened with anything, but it was mentioned that other teachers in the past had gotten into trouble with talking to the media. I was told that I shouldn’t have done it in the first place.”

McCormack and at least one other teacher say educators under the Baffin District Education Council are unhappy, but don’t want to openly criticize the education council or the system because they’re afraid it will hurt their careers.

“People don’t want to talk because they’re afraid of the repercussions,” said a Nakasuk teacher. The teacher said she and her colleagues worry that they will be passed over for promotions or denied requests if they speak openly about their concerns.

“Because I’m leaving I have more freedom to talk about it. In reality there isn’t a whole lot — you know we live in a democracy and I’m allowed to voice an opinion, but I mean, had I been staying, they can make it difficult for you,” McCormack said.

Council chair says it isn’t so

But Baffin Divisional Education Council director Cathy McGregor says that just isn’t so. She says the board welcomes input from staff, provided it comes through the “proper channels.”

“That would never be done. I’m not aware of anyone who’s ever had their job promotion denied because they’ve expressed a concern,” McGregor says.

“What we would be concerned about is if they go to the press without coming to us, because how would we know what to do about it if we don’t even know they have it? So they’re not giving us a fair chance to speak to the issues.”

McGregor says the board shares teachers’ concerns about funding and student support.

She says funding for education is beyond the board’s control, however, and that those sorts of concerns ought to be directed to the minister of education. Any concerns about board policy should come through the teacher’s union, she says.

McCormack says she believes people need to hear about what’s happening in the education system, especially from people on the front lines.

She says she doesn’t blame the council or even the territorial government for the sparse number of textbooks, insufficient teacher support or large class sizes.

Instead she says the real blame lies with the federal government, which has cut funding to the territories.

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