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AJAs 2020 Finalists

School Advisory Councils


Slug/Label School Advisory Councils
Date Aired or Published Dec 7, 8, and 9 2020
Media outlet where first aired or published: CBC
Name of Program: Information Morning Sydney
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Sydney
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio): Part 1 - 13:25 Part 2 - 10:38 and Part 3 - 10:38

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

The education system has changed drastically in the past few years with the elimination of school boards. As someone who used to work in a small newspaper, it was normal for us to go to school board meetings to find out what was going on in the local school system whether it be issues of infrastructure or busing or bullying. We could ask questions of specific representatives or follow up with the superintendent after the meeting. Since school boards have been eliminated, it's been difficult to determine what is happening in our local schools. School Advisory Councils were not meant to replace school boards but they were meant to provide a local voice lost in the new system. As a journalist, I expected that I could find out what was going on in local schools by simply going on their websites, calling SAC members, or attending SAC meetings, which are supposed to be public. When I and my colleagues on Information Morning struggled to find minutes and even meeting times or basic information on school activities, I realized, parents are probably struggling with this too. So I decided to take a broad look at how the Nova Scotia education system operates under the new system and how the lack of school boards have left us with a far less transparent system of governance.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

I started researching this story in late October but I really started to dig in on November 19. From November 19 to 23 I looked at 333 school websites to determine which ones showed any school advisory council activity. While I was doing that and for about a week or so afterwards, I was also conducting interviews regarding the new system, with disgruntled parents, advocacy groups, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the education minister, and more.I also dug into past articles about the changes to the system in 2018, what was promised at the time. I spent time reading and understanding the School Advisory Council handbook as well as the Avis Glaze Report on Education. I am assigned to Information Morning Cape Breton as their current affairs reporter. I was given the time to spend on this but I was not backfilled. I did file other pieces while working on this project but not as many as I normally would have. Our producer, Don Munro, spent considerable time going over these pieces, helping to organize them into three separate radio pieces and coaching me on presentation. I really appreciate the support I had from the team, which allowed me to focus on something we felt was important not just for us locally but also provincially.

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