MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2003
The responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia requires that the Department of Education provide resources to assure that each Nova Scotia student has access to educational opportunities that enable them to meet basic skills, high standards and personal educational goals and dreams. These resources will enable all boards, large and small, to access quality staff; to support excellence in professional development; to make available program options; to provide age appropriate classes; manageable class sizes and quality facilities, equipment and technology. This can only be achieved if the Department of Education exercises equitable treatment of students in regional boards by funding justifiable cost differences in a fair and objective manner.
Again, in the light of the above statements, we must visit our transition plan that will direct some of our attention in the forthcoming activities associated with the impending budget estimates for school boards. We are in our third year of a four year transition plan. The different ingredients of the plan is centered around three distinct areas of budget reductions. The first area is the reduction of teachers in relationship to declining enrolments. We have two obligations in respect to teacher reduction. We are mandated by the Department of Education to reduce our staff by twenty-three teachers for the ensuing school year, 2003-2004. This calculation is made on a formula which stipulates a reduction of one staff for every twenty-four students that do not present themselves in September. We have a decline of five hundred and forty students as of September, 2002 and our contribution will be the reduction of twenty-three teachers. Secondly, we have to reduce our teaching staff by another twenty-nine teachers to reach our transition target of a fifty-two teacher reduction. Again, as a note of clarity, this number, twenty-nine represents our staff reduction contribution to enable us to come more closely in line with the provincial pupil-teacher ratio range. Our pupil-teacher ratio is presently at 15.4 while the provincial average is at 16.5. The other parts of the transition plan will deal with reduction in other support staff; the review of class configurations; the transportation of students and all line budget items within the budget document. The board will endeavor to minimize the impact of these reductions with the emphasis and focus on student services and quality education protection.
During the month of February, many activities took place throughout the Board to bring awareness of African Nova Scotians. African Heritage Month is when communities learn about and celebrate the history, contributions and culture of people of African descent. The schools were all provided with booklets of activities which were distributed during the first of the month. Various schools throughout the Board participated in activities such as plays i.e. Whitney Pier Memorial. This play was originally scheduled to take place today; however, due to weather conditions is rescheduled at a later date. Events such as this assists the students in appreciating their culture more. St. Mary’s school in North Sydney read about civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, as part of a class project to celebrate African Heritage Month.
The Four Plus program at St. Anne’s held several events during the month. Events such as games, the creation of crafts, such as African masks and jewelry were on the agenda. In addition, the children also served African snacks such as banana and coconut bake called akwadu. The Four Plus program at St. Anne’s Elementary School is providing a place for children in the area to learn about the culture of people of African Heritage. A homework program also exists at this site. Our local newspaper, the Cape Breton Post, covered this activity along with many other activities throughout the Board.
Our Student Support Workers (Mr. Chester Borden and Ms. Noreen MacKinnon) along with our RCH Co-ordinator (Mr. Charles Sheppard) and RCH secondment (Mr. Lynn Crawford) have been working diligently throughout the month to make all efforts a great success.
Focus number five from the document, Learning for Life - Planning For Students Success, is related to the initiative informed and involved parents. The Department of Education has a number of initiatives planned or underway to provide better information and give parents more opportunities for involvement. A standard student report card is presently being piloted throughout the regional board in Nova Scotia. Some of the elements included in the report card will be letter grades for elementary and junior high and number grades for high schools which will clearly show parents how their children are progressing.
An annual Minister’s Report to parents will be developed in order to disclose results from provincial, national, and international tests, as well as actions to improve achievement. A new interactive web for parents will include plain language information on how students are doing in schools.
School advisory councils will be reviewed to consider ways that parents’ roles can be enhanced. Pilot projects have been launched to more effectively support school improvement and enhance accountability through accreditation. One of our schools, St. Michael’s Junior High in Glace Bay, is presently representing the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board as a pilot site for this accreditation project.
Many research projects have been dedicated to the topic of non-educational school impact on communities. Some of the findings have suggested that the community relationship is multi-faceted. Schools have a positive economic impact on their communities; schools do provide a core of social activities in communities; they do provide a resource for community development. As a board, we are very aware of these impacts and try to balance the equation of improving educational opportunities while achieving greater economics against the communities insistence that a community school is the heart and soul of the community.
In reality, the Department of Education has set its policies of educational funding on the precept that money follows students and therefore schools are only viable when they are housed in facilities that have full capacity. Secondly, the Department of Education indicates that their role is to provide educational opportunities for students and not to expend time and energy into the realm of “economic development”. Until these concepts are challenged and changed so as to more clearly represent the wishes of communities, the events that face this board, and all boards across the Province of Nova Scotia, will be directed by the Department of Education and ultimately the Government of Nova Scotia.
On Wednesday, January 12th, a committee of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board met to address three tasks associated with the loss of the MacDonald Complex (Grs. 6 - 12) and the subsequent options that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board must address. The committee was comprised of: seven central office staff; two MacDonald Complex administrators; two representatives from Dominion’s Steering Committee; two representatives of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board [Chair & Vice-Chair]; the representative of the Department of Education and our recording secretary for the Board.
The first task to be addressed was the contingency plan for the placement of students from MacDonald Elementary School if a subsidence occurrence appeared on that site which would force the closure of that school. A number of options were considered but it was agreed to accept the option to have the children of MacDonald placed in Bridgeport School in Glace Bay as a separate unit until the end of the school year, 2003.
The option for task number two would provide an instructional opportunity for the MacDonald students in grades 7 - 12 for the ensuing year, 2003-2004. The options were discussed and there was a general consensus that the option for students in grades 7 - 12 from MacDonald would be directed to the community of Glace Bay. The students would be integrated into the existing Glace Bay Jr. High schools and the Glace Bay High School. Transfers, under board policy, would be available for students wishing to attend an alternate site. The school board would try to accommodate students who looked for alternate choices.
Madame Chair, the attachments to my report are items of interest that you may find interesting. If there are any questions relating to these, please direct them to me.