SEPTEMBER 29TH, 2003
The province of Nova Scotia is moving forward to address issues of racial equity in education as laid out in the 1994 report of the Black Learners Advisory Council (BLAC). Education Minister, Jamie Muir, says the review committee’s report gives the province a clear snapshot of what needs to be done to ensure the educational system is accessible and equitable to black learners and their parents. I had the opportunity of being present at the Legislature on Friday, September 26th, when Minister Jamie Muir, presented the review of the BLAC Report for adoption. Charles Sheppard was present as Chairperson for C.A.C.E. (Council of African Canadian Education)and reminded the public that the recommendations of this report are long overdue and that the African Nova Scotia representatives on Boards and the organization of C.A.C.E. (Council of African Canadian Education) will monitor the implementation of these recommendations.
Madame Chair, it gives me and our entire Board an opportunity to congratulate
Philip Best on his election as 2nd Vice President of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. This is a first for the Nova Scotia School Boards Association to have an African Nova Scotian elected to this post. We wish the commissioner the best in his endeavors and hope that future gains may be made by him as representative of the African Nova Scotia communities.
There is no better opportunity than the beginning of a new school year for people to become more aware of what may help all students succeed. At almost every level of competition, athletic teams have cheerleaders. The purpose of the cheerleaders is to encourage the crowd to yell positive cheers to the members of the team. The cheerleaders consistently discourage booing or negative chants which might start among the crowd because cheerleaders know that teams react best to positive reinforcement. Even when a team is losing badly or playing poorly, the cheerleaders continue to cheer. They never give up. They never stop believing in the team. We can all learn a lesson from this philosophy as it relates to our children.
We all want our children to be the best they can be, and sometimes the answer to solving a dilemma they’re having seems quite obvious and simple to us. Yet, when we share our solutions with them by saying, “Why don’t you do it this way?” we sometimes meet resistance - or worse, they may attempt to solve their problems by doing exactly what we tell them not to do.
How can we help our children without intimidating or upsetting them? First, we must remember that we all learn best by trial and error. Sometimes, it is all right to allow children the freedom to try something their way - even though we know in advance how it will come out. If they fail in their attempt, we don’t need to tell them why because they will probably already know. Occasionally, however, children do succeed by doing something their way. And such successes help their confidence levels to soar. Yet, it’s difficult to watch our children try so hard without offering our suggestions for accomplishing the task more easily - but it’s best that we let them try on their own. We need only to trust that we’ve established the correct rapport with them. We need to be patient and know that they’ll ask for our advice if they need it.
Secondly, we need to pay close attention to the times when our children do something correctly. For instance, we’ve asked them repeatedly to make their beds, and finally, one day they do. We need to be sure to say something positive about it. All we need to say is, “I appreciate the fact that you cared about taking the time to make your bed. I know that it is not a high priority on your list of things to do, but it’s important to me. Thank you for helping me out that way.” Too often, we tell our children when they don’t please us. We need to make it part of our nature to tell them when they do.
Thirdly, we must make it clear to our children that we’ll never give up on them. They must know that we are going to support them. And we need to be sincere in our intentions.
Fourthly, we need to give abundant praise when it is appropriate. If men and women in professional sports need cheerleaders and fans to cheer them on, our children do too. Let them know that you are among their fans and that you’re behind them. The reality of such action can be more beneficial than you ever expect. One thing is certain: Praise will beat criticism every time.
The work ethic and preparation for the world of work are alive and well in schools today. School administrators, teachers and support staff are working to bring a renewed focus to the skills and attitudes necessary for job success and future educational opportunities. The recently passed motion of this board has allowed for a model structure for central office support for student learning. The main outcomes which will be the focus of our new structure will be programs and student services and school advisory council support. There is a built-in staff performance evaluation function in each level of the board’s initiatives.
Some of the other elements of the new administrative model make direct reference to the following priorities:
1) Racial Equity policy must address relevant cultural issues, awareness of global diversity and human rights;
2) Technology must be directed towards integration of technology within the curriculum;
3) Professional Development will be split between programs and student services and human resources;
4) Support for an elected school board member’s role as policy makers has been formally written into the function of central office staff;
5) The role of the Principals as educational leaders is a statutory one; it should not be delegated;
6) Support for non-educational duties should be re-examined to ensure priority focus on students’ needs;
7) The capacity of school boards to cope with individual student test scores will be incorporated into the description of central office functions;
8) Adequacy of learning resources associated with library services will be enhanced and expanded;
9) The four operational areas will focus on: human resources, finance, programs and student services and operational services. Each will direct its activities toward students’ needs and outcomes. .
The process this year will see the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board implement the recommendations from the Department of Education, along with specific modifications that will enable us to adopt the model to ensure flexibility, responsiveness, relevancy, reliability and accountability.
As regional school boards continuously move toward inclusive schooling, the support services that are designed to meet students’ diverse educational needs must be co-ordinated to ensure a quality approach to service delivery. This brings me to the third group of our staff focusing effort that I have initiated in my Superintendent’s Reports since May, 2003. Realizing that the teacher has the primary responsibility for planning, programming, teaching, evaluating and reporting for all students in the class, it is the Teacher Assistants that contribute further support in meeting the needs of students with special needs. We have in excess of 260 Teacher Assistants who are working with our students and meeting the special needs of these students. Our Teacher Assistants are qualified and committed members of our program planning process. Teacher Assistants have demonstrated the ability to successfully fulfill the expectation for Teacher Assistants as outlined by the Department of Education. They help promote an atmosphere of respect for students and adults associated with the learning process. One of the most important roles of the Teacher Assistant is to demonstrate an understanding of fostering independence in students. I have seen firsthand, in classes that I have visited, the results of the expectation being successfully demonstrated. Teacher Assistants know how to assist the student in such a way that allows the student to perform activities independently to the best of their capability. It would be rather lengthy for me to go into these varied responsibilities but I do make reference for your convenience to the Department of Education document - “Teacher Assistant Guidelines” - Student Services Series. Many of our Teacher Assistants have taken the opportunity to promote and engage in their own personal career development and job related initiatives. We are very fortunate to have staff that are competent, caring and willing to go the extra mile for these students who need special assistance.
In October, I will focus on our bus transportation personnel. Madame Chair, other relevant and interesting items are attached for the interest of the Board.