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Classroom violence and too much work driving away teachers, union president says

The school year is underway across the territory and the Department of Education is still racing to fill 56.5 positions.

Nunavut has a teacher recruitment issue and it's worse than in the rest of the country because of the low teacher retention rate, according to John Fanjoy, president of the Nunavut Teachers' Association.

Nunavut Teachers' Association president John Fanjoy says the Department of Education needs to stop hiring outside consultants and instead must listen to its own teachers to resolve retention issues.
NNSL file photo

An increase in violence in the territory's schools, stressful workloads and covering for vacant positions that the Department of Education hasn't been able to fill are contributing factors to the recruitment and retention problem, said Fanjoy.

The department should stop studying the issue by spending money on consultants from outside Nunavut and instead “desperately needs to start listening to the educators who are here,” Fanjoy said.

“Attendance at job fairs in southern universities is not going to make up for our shortage of qualified Inuit educators,” he said. “It’s time to look within to see what the pressing issues are, and what priorities need to be addressed to maintain current staff and promote and support the profession of teaching in Nunavut, which would alleviate the need for teacher recruitment.”

Asked to elaborate on increasing violence in schools, Fanjoy said his comments are based on first-hand accounts from teachers and community members. Associated statistics have not been kept to date but that's about to change, he said. The teachers' association is working with the Department of Education on a joint Safe Schools and Anti-Violence Committee that will be tasked with devising violence reduction strategies in schools. There will also be a related incident reporting and a data compilation system, he noted.

The greatest need for teachers is in the Qikiqtani region, which had 43.5 positions yet to be filled as of Sept. 3. There were 11 vacancies in the Kitikmeot and two in the Kivalliq, stated Tracey MacMillan, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Education.

The facilities with the biggest shortfall of teachers are Inuujaq School in Arctic Bay and Arnaqjuaq School in Hall Beach, both with 4.5 vacancies. Quluaq School in Clyde River requires 3.5 educators while Kiilinik High School in Cambridge Bay is lacking three teachers.

The majority of new hires for the Qikiqtani region come from Ontario and Nunavut, while most new staff in the Kivalliq relocate from Ontario and British Columbia and the bulk of the Kitikmeot's fresh hires are attracted from Ontario, according to MacMillan.

A total of 15.5 teaching positions ultimately remained unfilled during the 2018-19 school year.

Coping strategies used when there's a dearth of teachers include hiring substitutes; having existing staff complete their work after students are dismissed for the day; and modifying teachers' schedules to meet student needs and programming requirements, said MacMillan.

Prior to resorting to cancelling classes, principals are instructed to switch to teaching duties as are vice-principals, student support teachers and learning coaches. That means those individuals must complete their regular duties after school hours, MacMillan explained.

Other actions taken to prevent the cancellation of classes include moving students into different classes or combining multiple classes under one teacher and adjusting the staff-only dates in the school calendar to reduce the dates students are missing classes, MacMillan added.

Fact file
Inuit teachers in Nunavut elementary and secondary schools

Qikiqtani region
Apex, Nanook School – 3
Arctic Bay, Inuujaq School – 12
Cape Dorset, Sam Pudlat School – 6
Cape Dorset, Peter Pitseolak School – 2
Clyde River, Quluaq School – 14
Grise Fiord, Ummimak School – 3
Hall Beach, Arnaqjuaq School – 10
Iglulik, Ataguttaaluk Elementary School – 13
Iglulik, Ataguttaaluk High School – 2
Iqaluit, Aqsarniit School – 4
Iqaluit, Inuksuk High School – 4
Iqaluit, Joamie School – 4
Iqaluit, Nakasuk School – 6
Kimmirut, Qaqqalik School – 4
Pangnirtung, Alookie School – 13
Pangnirtung, Attagoyuk School – 6
Pond Inlet, Nasivvik School – 5
Pond Inlet, Ulaayuk School – 12
Qikiqtarjuaq, Inuksuit School – 6
Resolute Bay, Qarmartalik School – 2
Sanikiluaq, Nuiyak School – 8
Sanikiluaq, Paatsaali School – 5

Kivalliq region
Arviat, Levi Angmak Elementary School – 7
Arviat, Qitiqliq Middle School – 3
Arviat, John Arnalukjuak High School – 2
Baker Lake, Jonah Amitnaaq Secondary School – 1
Baker Lake, Rachel Arngnammaktiq Elementary School – 0
Chesterfield Inlet, Victor Sammurtok School – 0
Coral Harbour, Sakku School – 0
Naujaat, Tuugaalik High School – 0
Naujaat, Tusarvik Elementary School – 1
Rankin Inlet, Simon Alaittuq School – 1
Rankin Inlet, Maani Ulujuk Ilinniarvik – 1
Rankin Inlet, Leo Ussak Elementary School – 1
Whale Cove, Inuglak School – 1

Kitikmeot region
Cambridge Bay, Kiilinik High School – 5
Cambridge Bay, Kullik Ilihakvik – 3
Gjoa Haven, Qiqirtaq Ilihakvik – 4
Gjoa Haven, Quqshuun Ilihakvik – 10
Kugaaruk, Arviligruaq Illiniarvik – 12
Kugluktuk, Kugluktuk High School – 5
Kugluktuk, Jimmy Hikok Ilihakvik – 1
Taloyoak, Netsilik Ilihakvik – 13
Source: Department of Education