Trustees in the Hanover School Division are being asked to reverse a motion they approved last month which gives them the power to hire all music and physical education teachers in all 19 Hanover schools. For the past decade, assistant superintendents were tasked with this responsibility. 

The Hanover Teachers’ Association (HTA) expressed concern about the change and has now submitted a letter to the board, officially asking for trustees to reverse the decision. 

During the public meeting on Tuesday, May 7th, the school board acknowledged receipt of the letter but there was no discussion or comment about its contents. 

HTA President Kevin Martens attended the meeting and says without any board discussion about their request, there is no way to know if trustees have any desire to reverse the decision the made on April 2nd. 

“The letter speaks to two points,” Martens says. “The first one is that it’s really going to slow down our hiring process. We're going into a teacher shortage, we're having situations already where finding candidates to take positions is difficult, and this is only going to get worse. And so, for them to have to coordinate a number of different calendars in order to be able to have an interview is just going to take longer and we're going to lose those potential teacher candidates to other school divisions. 

“The second point in the letter spoke to, just that the motion, when it was made, did not mention the financial implications of the motion. There wasn't, I felt, full disclosure in that discussion because the financial part that impacts their budget wasn't part of that discussion, and they voted on something that didn't have that included.” 

Martens says there are 60 music and phys. ed. teachers in the 19 schools in Hanover and it could cost around $1,000 to pay for trustees to attend each interview. Although previous board discussions involved comments that there would not be many interviews for these two teacher groups since there are seldom vacancies in music and gym departments, Martens says interviews are also necessary when a teacher goes on leave. 

Also during the April 2nd meeting, some trustees commented that it was more important for the board to hire teachers in these two departments because music and gym teachers are more instrumental in connecting with the community. 

These comments hurt the relationship between teachers and trustees, Martens says. 

“The idea of taking these two disciplines of physical education and music and saying that those are the only areas of community engagement, which they were kind of using as their rationale for it, really, it's insulting to the rest of the 90% of the teachers that are involved in conversations with parents, with the community, directly involved with the families and whether it's through emails, texting, face to face conversations, it's all the teachers, not just phys. ed. and music. They do a great job, but it takes the entire community of that school to build a strong school community and to then reach out into your community, whether that be a larger center like Steinbach or some of the smaller communities around here as well.” 

If the school board wants to rebuild relationships with Hanover teachers, Martens says it would start with trustees reversing that motion. 

“I feel that that would send a strong message to the teacher group that they recognize that we're all important within the organization. We all need to be working together and to be singling out only a few and say that's how we reach the community is a step backwards. It's not a step in the right direction.”