Cornerstone deputy director’s duties complicated with HR issues, COVID-19

Submitted by Norm Park, Contracted Reporter for SECPSD

Keith Keating, the deputy director of education for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, accepted the additional duties of human resources manager approximately two years ago during a series of administrative cutbacks deemed necessary when provincial funding for the educational sector was reduced.

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Keating provided an updated human resources report to the board of trustees at the Cornerstone public meeting on Nov. 18. It was the first session following the Nov.9 civic elections that saw four new people seated around the public school division’s conference table.

Keating explained his role now involves oversight of human resources as well as school operations, the same as the last school year.

He noted the organizational chart underwent one minor change this time around with the transportation and facility manager reporting directly to the director of education so that COVID-19 pandemic response needs could receive more rapid responses if and when they are required.

Keating went on to explain the division employs approximately 600 teachers who fill 528.91 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. He noted an additional 13.3 positions were added to attend to increased demands on the division’s online school, Cyber Stone, that now caters to several hundred more students in both elementary and high school classes, due mainly to the pandemic situation.

In other full-time equivalent positions, Keating said there are intervention teachers (43.62 FTE), learning support teachers (39.31 FTE) and unassigned time in schools amounting to just under 28 FTE and unassigned time outside of staffing (12 FTE).

Add to this a team of educational assistants (137.6 FTE), library technicians (21.09 FTE), administrative assistants (47.03 FTE), transportation drivers (126 FTE), information systems (13 FTE), finance, payroll, human resources (9.8 FTE), division office educational assistants (5 FTE) and facilities (101 FTE).

Keating said the facilities group witnessed a hiring hike of 25 per cent that was deemed necessary to increase the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. That group included caretakers and other cleaning and maintenance personnel.

The deputy director also outlined the timelines for future employee contract agreements with two unions and how various risk management duties were carried out, including safety measures for staff and students during the pandemic.

Keating said there is currently a shortage of substitute teachers, casual caretakers and school bus drivers and that was probably due to the COVID-19 situation as well.

He noted key positions such as administrators, teachers for small rural schools, special education teachers, and specialized positions such as speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists, are always in demand across the province.

Some duties were delayed, he said, due to the pandemic and that included vice-principal evaluations, administrator developments and inductions along with special educator training.

Managing investigations, discipline procedures and grievance processes have been carried out as required.

The upcoming opening of the new Legacy Park Elementary School in Weyburn is now ahead of schedule in the construction process, Keating said.

On other files, he noted that recruitment sessions are pretty well all virtual as teaching and other positions are filled via online interviews while communications with universities remain solid.

Finding further efficiencies in the system also becomes part of the HR job, he said, while workers’ health and safety continue to take a priority position within the system.

Administrative procedures such as reviewing breeches of freedom of information policies, tracking employee certifications, managing some collective bargaining agreement issues and resolving solutions to escalation issues as they arise in schools, all become a part of the job.

In concluding his presentation, Keating said the deputy director and human resources position means he keeps working with the superintendents of schools to support consistency across the division and he assists with funnelling information items and communications to a common point as they arrive from managers, co-ordinators, superintendents and principals.