MONDAY, JANUARY 27, 2003
It is my intent tonight to limit my remarks to three areas of particular concern for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. I will give an update on the MacDonald Complex in Dominion. Secondly, I will review our Business Plan for the ensuing school year, 2003-2004. Lastly, I will make some comments and focus on number five from the Department of Education’s document, “Learning For Life”.
On Monday, January 13th, the Deputy Minister, Dennis Cochrane, along with other officials from the Department of Education, viewed the MacDonald Complex in Dominion. After touring the site, the group made visits to Breton Education Centre and the areas of Reserve and Glace Bay. The visits of the school sites were followed by a meeting with senior staff and culminated in a lengthy meeting with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The cost of repairing the building in the MacDonald Complex housing the grades 6 - 12 students would not be supported.
The estimated cost was $8.10 million. The replacement cost of the same structure was $6 million. The Board was asked if they were prepared to give the MacDonald Complex a priority with their new school construction plans. The Board indicated that it would not alter their priorities. The money for emergency funding was not available since the Board has capacity available for the displaced students. Capacity is available in Breton Education Centre and Glace Bay High School. The Department of Education asked the Board to develop a report which would create a suitable plan for the educational needs of the P - 9 students in the Dominion community. A meeting was held on January 20th in the Dominion area to report on the meeting of January 13th and to receive input from the community in respect to the educational needs of the students.
It would be proper for me to relate our position by repeating the opening remarks made at that meeting. This will serve as a report to the whole region within the school board and provide for an archival representation of what was presented.
Following is the update and review of my comments on January 20th, 2003.
ADDRESS TO THE PUBLIC OF DOMINION
MONDAY, JANUARY 20, 2003
I am going to start off with a statement with which we will all agree. There is no simple solution that will satisfy all stakeholders in respect to MacDonald Complex in Dominion.
The School Board has the responsibility of governing and managing a large geographical area between Louisbourg and North of Smokey and from Glace Bay to Iona. It is not possible to settle one problem in a specific area without disturbing other parts of the geographical board area.
The community of Dominion has a number of concerns that deserve attention with respect to its school complex. The basic motive for action has to be the educational concerns of the children who are attending this complex.
The political agents have to do what they can to satisfy their political constituencies - the regional government, the provincial government and the federal government. All of these jurisdictions impact on our deliberations tonight. The staff of MacDonald Complex, along with the support staff from Central Office, are all impacted on what happens to the school in Dominion.
Having said that, I would like to review, in a very brief way, the events that had occurred since the tragic day that the subsidence from the Phalen seam, 1A mine on October 30th, 2002 caused the destruction of the Grade Six - Twelve portion of MacDonald Complex. MacDonald Complex actually housed the whole population of Primary - Twelve in two separate school sites - Six - Twelve and Primary - Five respectively.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board had the facility closed for the protection of the staff and the students.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, after a meeting with the public of Dominion, presented a favorable interim solution for the Grade Seven - Twelve students and the Grade Six students of Dominion.
The Grade Six students would remain in the Primary - Five portion of the MacDonald Complex after suitable rooms were refurbished by the Board. The Grades Seven - Twelve from MacDonald Complex would go to Breton Education Centre and would remain there until the end of the school year, June 2003. They would have their own administration, their current staff, along with supplementary staff, to help with the transition and the students would retain their MacDonald identity and graduate from Dominion in June, 2003.
It was also promised that transportation would be provided and a future meeting would be held in Dominion when there was a final determination on the fate of the Grades Six - Twelve structure of the MacDonald Complex.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board requested a study of the Six - Twelve School site from ADI Consultants. They were instructed to answer FOUR questions:
1) What happened on October 30th, 2002?
2) Why did it occur?
3) What was the cost of rehabilitation?
4) Would the occurrence happen again?
The final report from ADI was delivered to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board on January 6th, 2003 and the results were:
1&2) Subsidence from Phalen 1A mine caused the destruction of the school.
3) The cost estimates were calculated at $3.5 - $4 million to put the school back to its original state.
4) Could it happen again - the answer was that it was a possibility.
The Board decided to get further input from the Department of Education in respect to the report. The report was delivered to the Department of Education along with a request to meet with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board within a short period of time. Within the week, on Monday, January 13th, the Department of Education decided to meet with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The Department of Education sent the Deputy Minister, the Director of Facilities, the Director of Finance and the Regional Supervisor of Facilities:
Deputy Minister - Mr. Dennis Cochrane
Director of Facilities - Mr. Charles Clattenburg
Director of Finance - Mr. Darryl Youden
Supervisor of Facilities - Mr. Don Lohnes
Mr. Jim Burton, Regional Education Officer, from the Department was also present.
A guided tour of MacDonald Complex - which included the two facilities which housed the students, were inspected by the group. Other facilities were seen such as Breton Education Center and Glace Bay area schools.
The Department of Education indicated to the press at 2:00 p.m. that they would meet with the Board at 5:00 p.m. and Senior Management at 3:45 p.m. It was reported by the media that the Deputy Minister indicated that ALL options were on the table.
A short meeting with senior staff and ADI enabled the Department of Education to confirm some of their concerns, i.e., costing of rehabilitation. The Department of Education met with the School Board at 5:00 p.m. and had a long meeting - approximately 2.5 to 3 hours long.
The Department of Education indicated that no rehabilitation would occur with the Grade Six - Twelve portion of the MacDonald Complex. The estimate had gone from $3.5 to $4 million up to $8 to $10 million. This increase in cost was due to the additional work required beneath the school.
The first option was gone. Next, the Deputy Minister would speak on the option of rebuilding a new Grade Seven - Twelve Complex in Dominion. There was a precursor to this option which indicated that there was no emergency funding for a new structure. The cost of replacement would be $6 million and lastly the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board would have to reassess its priorities for school construction.
The Board members were asked about their feelings in respect to building a complex for Grades Ten - Twelve but were unable to commit to this option because of existing new school construction priorities and the viability of sustaining a Grade Ten - Twelve population.
Let me again reflect on that option in the light of the process for prioritizing school construction for the Province of Nova Scotia. It is a competition of all Boards in Nova Scotia. Each Board sets their priorities and the criteria is heavily weighed towards existing capacity for students, program opportunities and the longevity of existing facilities. This was not an option. The Board explored with the Deputy Minister the support for the Grade Primary to Five facility to house the Grade Primary to Six with enriched services - more rooms, a gym, etc. This was not supported by the Department of Education. Their offer was a Grade Primary to Six with two or three rooms and some other renovations at an approximate cost of $300,000, a gym would not be built.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board further asked for consideration of a Grade Primary to Nine facility with all educational amenities. The final results of the meeting indicated:
1) Option One - there would be no rehabilitation;
2) Option Two - there would be no new school for Grades
Ten - Twelve.
Other options were to be studied, the Board was to develop a report for the Department of Education indicating the educational needs of the students from Primary to Nine for the Dominion area students. The grades Ten to Twelve were to be serviced at other sites in New Waterford or Glace Bay.
The Department of Education would make an announcement that night - January 13th on the first two options. The Superintendent and Board Chair would make announcements that night and Tuesday morning. The lack of time did not allow us the enough time to get to the community, to the pupils, to the staff and the public at large. The Board indicated a meeting with the community would be set to report on its progress to the MacDonald community as quickly as possible.
Lastly, I would suggest that: the community of MacDonald, the staff, the School Advisory Council, the Home & School Association, the Community representatives and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board members and staff would form a working committee to work out an acceptable educational plan for the students of Dominion.
School Boards across the province of Nova Scotia have the responsibility to develop a business plan as required by the Education Act. This business plan will replace the annual regional school board’s report to the Department of Education. The plan will embody essential information on a consistent and comparable basis. The Board is required to submit the business plan which will reflect the outline template provided by the Department of Education. The draft plan is to be submitted early January with the assurance that the final business plan would be in the hands of the Department of Education within sixty (60) days of the Regional
Board receiving its final budget estimation from the Department.
A few days ago the Board members received the business plan from Senior Management and have been asked to adopt it as their blueprint for activities for the ensuing year, 2003-2004.
The document, “Learning For Life” planning for student success confirms that action is being taken to ensure Nova Scotia trains and retains qualified teachers. An early recruitment tour is planned for January and February 2003. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will participate in this tour on a limited basis since we have a pool of substitutes that can fulfill most of our teacher needs.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has always been committed to extensive professional development for both our teacher population, our C.U.P.E. employees and our confidential employees. Teachers are provided with practical guides, including lesson plans, to support the delivery of math and language arts
curriculum. Personal professional growth plans are also the responsibility of teachers to keep abreast of new curriculum, technology and teaching methods. Finally, the documents commits the Department of Education to co-ordinate and support a marketing plan to promote teaching as a career choice, particularly in speciality subjects. This marketing plan will involve consultation with the regional and district boards throughout Nova Scotia. Next month, I will make some comments on the section “Informed, Involved Parents” from the document, “Learning For Life”.
A very complimentary letter was received by the Board Chair indicating the appreciation for the support of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board in the recent World Junior Hockey competition during the month of December, 2002. The letter is attached along with a beautiful Certificate of Appreciation from Bill MacNeil, Co-ordinator, Community Events School Program, for the event. [Appendix B]
Lastly, the portion of my report which highlighted the activities of the various schools within the regional board will become an appendix to the Superintendent’s Report [Appendix A]. My communication to the principals indicated that they could submit, on a monthly basis, their celebrations and awards that will be highlighted on our Website [www.cbv.ns.ca] along with the Superintendent’s Report every month. The principals also may submit important items to our public relations person, Michelle MacLeod, at any time during the year.