Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 20, 2014 - 1:22 pm

Kivalliq schools fill last teacher jobs as classes begin across Nunavut

Staffing levels on target in Baffin and Kitikmeot regions

PETER VARGA
John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat will be the last school to start classes in the Kivalliq region, on Aug. 26. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat will be the last school to start classes in the Kivalliq region, on Aug. 26. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

Even though schools in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region started 2014-15 short on teachers in most communities, all classes have started on schedule.

On Aug. 18, when all but Arviat’s Arnalukjuak High School were officially back in session, Kivalliq School Operations reported 10 teacher vacancies throughout the region’s seven communities.

Three of those were for the high school, which opens Aug. 26.

Staffing-wise, “this has been a bit of a tough year for us,” said Bill Cooper, executive director of Kivalliq School Operations. “The Kivalliq seems to be growing rapidly, and housing is a concern for us.”

Elsewhere in Nunavut, school authorities in the Baffin and Kitikmeot regions also report steady increases in enrolment, but without major effects on staffing for the start of 2014-2015.

The KSO had about 90 teacher positions to fill before the start of classes, out of a total 237 spots.

Nunavut residents and existing “term employees” took most of the openings, including 14 Inuit beneficiaries — three of whom are graduates of the Nunavut Teacher Education Program. A total of 24 were “southern hires” new to Nunavut, Cooper said.

The director said the 10 positions were filling fast.

Teacher shortages at the start of the school year are not unusual. Repulse Bay began the year with two vacancies, and other communities with no more than one each as they opened their doors.

“Principals know when they’re coming in that they’re going to be short-staffed,” Cooper said.

As they cover the gaps in the short term, schools either rely on teachers to cover two classes, or draw from an extensive substitute teacher list.

“We do everything we can to make sure students are met by somebody in the class, and the year begins for them,” he said.

Staffing shortages were not as dramatic in Nunavut’s two other regions. In Baffin, Qikiqtani School Operations reported it had only 10 teaching positions to fill as of Aug. 18, when only two of the region’s 13 communities had already started classes.

The QSO took on more than 10 graduates of the Nunavut Teacher Education Program this year, said Robert Filipkowski, superintendent of Qikiqtani School operations.

The new hires are in line with the school authority’s long-term goal of hiring within Nunavut.

“Having locally-trained teachers teach in our schools is a big plus for us,” he said.

In western Nunavut, Kitikmeot School Operations reported Aug. 18 that all its full-time teaching positions were filled and at work.

Schools in all communities in the region opened earlier in the month, except for Cambridge Bay, where classes are set to start Aug. 22.

Kitikmeot hired 29 new teachers to fill positions in its five major communities. Unlike the Kivalliq, most of the western region’s new hires are new to Nunavut, said Jonathan Bird, executive director of Kitikmeot School Operations.

Seven of the 29 were already within the territory, and 22 drawn from outside Nunavut.

“We were staffed-up fairly early in the season,” Bird said, adding that teacher turnover was “a little less than normal” this year.

The Kitikmeot has the smallest population of students — amounting to about 1,600, compared with about 3,100 in the Kivalliq and 4,800 in Baffin, Bird said.

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