MONDAY, MAY 26TH, 2003

We will soon be engaged in all of the activities that denote the closing of the school year. Plays, music, programs, outdoor activities and graduation exercises will celebrate the time when our students complete another year of study. At this very same time, the school board is busy with planning the programs and services that will be needed for the opening of school in September 2003. The Department of Education has introduced its budget for the 2003-2004 fiscal year. We have received our final profile sheet for our school board indicating our funding for the ensuing year. The profile includes the total funding available for our board, the provincial and municipal contributions and the mandatory municipal education tax rate. We are presently working on the different elements of the proposed budget which is due at the Department of Education on or before the last day in June. One other condition exists and that is the budget must be a balanced one.


The board is in the early stages of staffing and have been very conscious of having the process start early and the final staffing completed early in June. One has to be a little cautious about the amounts of money made available for regional boards. Of the $40 million increase for regional boards, most of this increase has been allocated to cover negotiated salary increases for both teaching and non-teaching staff. This statement in no way is a judgement on the merit of these increases, but merely an explanation of what is available for boards to maintain and enhance services and programs to students. In the past seven months, I have explained the monies allocated for the Department of Education’s, “Learning for Life”, initiative. Most of these initiatives are promising and the intent to ensure success for all students is laudable. Again, I make the observation that when student decline is prevalent and the funding is reduced to regional boards, the impact on the remaining students is stark. We should continue our efforts, through the Nova Scotia School Board’s Association, to have the Department of Education commit itself to a new vision that would allow for these investments to remain with regional school boards.


With the recent emphasis on accountability, with the commitment by school boards to maintain quality education and the pressure from the wider community to establish acceptable standards, it is appropriate that the school board establish a creditable process of staff evaluation. In order to keep the instructional programs up-to-date, in order to make certain that schools are safe and healthy, that transportation is available and that your finances are in order, the board has to guarantee full evaluation of all its staff.


There is no greater opportunity than to show the way by having the board do its own sole employee: their Superintendent. This task is legislated by the Education Act and the process is continuous. Each year the board, along with the assistance of the Department of Education, does an in-depth assessment of the Superintendent. None of us likes to be criticized or scrutinized. One has to be held responsible for what you agreed would be accomplished within a set time frame. The purpose of the assessment is clear, the entire evaluation process was cooperative, harmonious and productive. This type of continuous evaluation allows for a clear review of what has been accomplished, what new directions may be taken and the assurance that the role of the Superintendent and regional board are well defined and that the goal of both parties is to improve the instructional services for children.


The next legislature responsibility belongs to the Superintendent. It is my responsibility to make sure that all staff within the Cape Breton-Victoria  Regional School Board be evaluated on a continuous basis. The Central Office personnel are responsible to assess the performance of all principals within our board. The principals and other school site administrative personnel are responsible to assess their teachers and all other support staff within the schools. Directors of Finance and Support Staff are given the task of supervising and assessing all of the support staff employees. This is an enormous task and it is something that everyone has to be involved in every day.


I am going to start a new theme presentation over the next number of months. I will be highlighting the work of individual segments of our entire staff. The public should be acquainted with the roles of individual groups and how the work and efforts of these separate parts come together to ensure their contribution to the children we serve. The different segments that will be developed over the next while are in no priority order. I will examine the teacher’s role and focus on one of their main responsibilities that of preparing for the class lesson.


Five days a week for thirty-six (36) weeks, teachers present lessons to your child as well as many other students. Much of the work that teachers put into a lesson, however, is done prior to the day the lesson is taught in class. Teachers spend much time planning lessons, taking care to make sure that everything that goes into the lesson will most benefit the students. But, just where do teachers begin? What do they consider as they plan lessons for students?


First, the teacher examines the curriculum adopted by the school region. Each school region develops - usually through a team process involving teachers, administrators, and community representatives - a list of goals and objectives for each subject area. These goals and objectives (steps taken to reach the goals) are set forth in the regional curriculum guide. Often the guide is formally adopted by the school board, and it is provided to teachers throughout the region so that there is consistency within the region. The region may establish the goals and objectives for each subject area, but the way in which these goals and objectives are met is determined by individual teachers. This keeps variety in the teaching methods used.


Secondly, the teacher finds out what tools are available to help teach the lesson. The major tool that teachers use is the textbook selected through a team process and adopted by the school region. The textbooks meet the goals and objectives given in the regional curriculum guide. Teachers are required to use textbooks as one of their teaching tools, but textbooks are not the only tool available to teachers. Other tools include audio-visual materials such as: films and videos; computer programs; hands-on materials such as microscopes, globes and math manipulatives; and other print materials such as magazines, brochures, newspapers and internet resources. Teachers choose tools that best fit the goal of the lesson as well as motivate students and increase student understanding of the concept or skill being taught.


Thirdly, each teacher develops a long-range plan for the class. For most teachers, the long-range plan will cover a quarter, a semester, or a year. A long-range plan provides a “thumbnail” sketch and allows teachers to estimate the amount of material to be covered within the available amount of time. The long-range plan may be organized by units, themes, topics, or by a sequential, step-by-step approach. Laying out in a long-range plan the topics to be covered allows teachers to evaluate student progress as well as to work cooperatively with other faculty members.


As you can see, your child’s teacher does a lot of large-scale planning before he or she considers making decisions about the daily lesson plan. Now that the teacher is ready to develop a particular lesson for a particular group of students on a particular day, he or she must again consider a multitude of variables: “What is the goal or objective of this lesson?” In other words, what does the teacher want students to know by the end of the lesson? “What method of instruction should be used?” For example, will the teacher give an oral presentation or will the students work in small groups to learn the material? “What is the best material I can use to teach this lesson?” The teacher determines whether a film, a record, computer program, or an actual item may be the best tool for teaching the lesson. “How will the students practice what they have learned?” For example, will the students practice with paper and pencil, with teacher guidance, all together as a group, on individual chalkboards, or on the computer? “How will I determine what the students have learned?” A teacher may use a variety of methods to evaluate the effectiveness of the lesson, including homework assignments, tests, or a question-answer period.


Of course, many things can alter the lesson a teacher has painstakingly developed. Everything from a fire drill, to an assembly, to a snow day can affect the plans. Also, if students do not grasp the material within the time allotted, a reteach lesson might be needed. Throughout the lesson, questions may arise that require immediate attention, thus altering the plans.


Curriculum guides, available tools, long-range plans, and daily lesson plans may be reused from year to year, but seldom are because of the many variables that change: Curriculum guides change; new textbooks are adopted; new materials become available; and the needs of students change. Teachers may also change grade levels or subject areas. In addition, teachers learn new methods and techniques and often like to vary their lessons from year to year in order to remain fresh and excited.


The next time you have the opportunity to observe a lesson being taught to your child, keep in mind that the teacher has spent a vast amount of time preparing for the lesson and has put into use only those materials he or she felt would most benefit your child. Your child’s teacher knows that his or her effectiveness at planning the lesson will often determine your child’s effectiveness at learning the lesson. Next month, I will share my thoughts on “what do Principals do”.


Madame Chair, I would like to take a few minutes in my report to say something about our Regional Executive Officer. So often we forget the tremendous support that Jim Burton gives to this board, to myself and my entire staff. Although Jim has other duties associated with other boards, we are never short changed. Jim has always put forth to the Department of Education our concerns and this support is so important when we compete for limited resources. Jim, I know that each member of this board and every staff person would allow me to say to you “thanks”. Thank you for your dedication, thank you for your expertise and thank you for “being there” for us.


I have attached awards and celebrations that have come to me through the individual schools and staff releases.