The president of the South East Cornerstone Teachers’ Association presented her annual report to the board of the South East Cornerstone School Division. The SECTA has a role focused on advocacy and engagement for its membership, which includes roughly 550 teachers in 35 schools in the division.
“Our SECTA executive is currently made up of 14 teachers from around the division who volunteer their time as local representatives,” explained Whitney Paul-Joseph. In addition to being the president of SECTA, she is also a teacher at Revers School. “Member engagement is the key component of our advocacy efforts as a local association. It is a focus we continually strive to improve upon as it gives us the best source of knowledge when it comes to support for teachers and the teachers’ voice.”
Whitney Paul-Joseph is the president of the South East Cornerstone Teachers' Association. (submitted photo)
In her presentation in front of the board last Wednesday, Paul-Joseph highlighted the main stressors being seen by teachers: teacher time and government funding, which go hand-in-hand.
“A lot of the concerns that come forward from teachers revolve around teacher workload,” Paul-Joseph explained. Teachers are amazing people who are extremely busy. We try to do everything and anything that we can to best support our students.”
She noted the balance of the responsibilities that teachers take on, supporting the needs of the students and then life in general results in a very full plate, and it is leading to more issues. One of those issues is teacher burnout, which is already starting to peak even though the school year isn’t two months old.
“Burnout in general, actually, for many of us that work in the education system,” the SECTA president clarified. “We have larger class sizes with less teachers and less paired professionals, and our resources and support for students have really been impacted these past few years.”
The funding for the school divisions has not been keeping pace in recent years with the rate of inflation. In many years, the funding per student has declined, with the funding for the current school year just 3.7 percent higher than the funding in 2015-16. The most recent SECPSD budget saw a reduction in 3.93 full-time-equivalent teacher positions, which was achieved through attrition without the need for layoffs. However, enrolment for the division went up by 128 students, or 1.6 percent from the 2022-23 school year.
“As educators, we put our heart and soul into our classrooms,” Paul-Joseph said. “It is disheartening as teachers when we try our best to support students while realizing that what we can do is very limited because the time, resources and supports that just aren’t there. Being an educator is an amazing career, but it’s definitely a hard one.”
The presentation last week came as negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government hit an impasse. Monday, the STF announced they would be filing for conciliation, and a vote by teachers on sanctions is set to be held next Tuesday and Wednesday. While the negotiations at the provincial level remain tense, things at the division level seem to be a lot more collaborative.
“As a local association, we take great pride in the advocacy work to build trusting and transparent working relationships with our school division,” Paul-Joseph stated. “As SECTA president, I meet with our Director of Education, Keith Keating, every 4-6 weeks. As an executive, we also meet with the school board a few times a year. Communication lines are open, and I think that this is a really great thing when it comes to advocating for teachers in our area.”
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