School boards across the province have received direction from Nancy Naylor, deputy minister of education, to exercise prudence in making hiring decisions in light of the upcoming Ontario budget.

Keewatin Patricia District School Board Director of Education Sean Monteith said the direction isn’t a surprise.

“Our approach to staffing for next year is not going to be changed, as it pertains to classroom and school bases staffing. We had been communicated that we should expect a certain percentage in terms of a reduction in overall funding. I think every board is preparing for that,” he said.

He said he believes the direction is aimed more towards the creation of new positions.

“My interpretation of the memo is that the creation of new positions, from funding envelopes that may not be continued, is probably not the best way to go forward. In terms of normal staffing practises, that’s what we’re going to do, we’re in the middle of it right now, that’s not going to change,” he said.

Derek Haime, Director of Education for the Kenora Catholic District School Board, said the prudence suggested by the deputy minister is already common practise for the board.

“At Kenora Catholic it’s always our practise to be prudent whenever we’re spending the public dollar in the best interests of our students. But we always do take the conservative approach to budgeting and planning,” he said.

The deputy minister said boards can expect an update on or before March 15, and Haime is looking forward to it.

“We do anticipate more information to be released sometime in March, and as more information becomes available from the ministry Kenora Catholic will be planning our budget and our hiring accordingly,” he said.

Monteith said it’s also important to pay attention to what the memo doesn’t say.

“School boards and other public sector agencies probably should prepare for some restraint in terms of hiring. I don’t think it would be prudent for anyone to go out and hire a bunch of new staff, and I don’t think anyone would do that anyways. When you hire people in a business like us, that deals with kids and in support of children, you’re talking generally speaking resources and staff. If you don’t have the needs of the kids you don’t need the staff,”

He added that staffing for the education sector is an intensive process.

“It’s a prolonged process that takes a couple of months, ultimately culminating with the submission of a budget at the end of June. That process won’t change, what will change is the amount of money that we have to work with,” he said.

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