As an update in respect to our staff in Central Office, I would like to make a few comments. Archie MacEachern , our Director of Programs & Student Services, is making progress and his intention is to return to work within a few weeks. He remains in contact with his staff through e-mail and is planning to make a visit to central office within this week. On another matter, Marvin Harvey, our Co-ordinator of School Services, continues his battle with cancer and has displayed an unflinching attitude towards his personal contact with staff and friends. Marvin was awarded a Plaque of Excellence for his leadership role over the last number of years. I was honored to have read the citation and was happy to have shared the occasion with our Regional Education Officer, Jim Burton, who presented the plaque.
The needs of students can be overlooked during the budgetary crunches even though that is where the focus of education should be. I hold no allegiance to anyone when I disclose the results of the budget and the people responsible for short-changing the students in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
Our board is being asked to deal with decremental budgeting rather than incremental budgeting, staff reductions rather than staff recruitments, planning for fewer students rather than more, managing schools in hard times rather than celebrating new options for the ensuing school year. Why is this the case? One noticeable reason is the ever-plunging enrolment decline rate over the past ten years. The decline in students is not expected to bottom out within the next few years. We have tried to survive over the past five years but it is getting progressively harder each year. With the ever-decreasing options from school closures, re-organizations, and budget limitations, we have to set our goal towards a just funding formula from the Department of Education in order to guarantee the accommodations for our remaining students.
Again, as we attempt to work through a myriad of issues related to our most recent financial crunch, the budget for 2004 - 2005 - we must stay true to our priority which is the welfare of our students within the communities of Cape Breton and the municipalities of Victoria County. All regional boards agree that there is inadequate funding available to education. The provincial government does have its first priorities but at best, we are number two. To suggest we can do more with less is far from the truth. The truth is one does less with less. We have a double loss, we have the largest reduction of teachers because of declining enrolments [1/3 of the total student decline in the province] and a reduced funding relating to the numbers of students that remain in the regional boundaries of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
Despite the significant role that equity and adequacy plays in the whole area of educational funding, there are few definitions that are universally accepted. To the lay person, equity means people receive an amount out of the total funds that would consider the state associated with that particular group. This is not the true process. Students are considered to be treated as equals while the formula gives the advantage to boards that have the lowest student decline.
On the other hand, adequacy has to do with the level of funding available in order to deliver a quality education to all students. When you have a regional board that is experiencing a disproportional number of student decline, we have to be sure that both equity and adequacy is the true criteria for student funding.
Over the past seven months, I have taken the opportunity in my Superintendent' s Report to celebrate and detail the diverse staff sectors within our board and to give some insight into the many aspects of staff function and the dedication that our people have towards our most precious clients - the students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Board. It is only fitting that I should devote my next Superintendent's Report to the work of the school board members and the important contributions they have made over the past number of years. It is important to present an appraisal and our inventories of the past successes and the most challenging tasks that they had to contend with during their tenure.
Madame Chair, I direct your attention to the many reports and comments attached from our school principals in respect to the celebrations and awards of our students within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.