The many reports about schools today shows the public's concern for education. The public may be reassured that school boards believe that all students can learn and that they do so at different rates and have different needs and abilities.
Our schools have many goals - the most important one is to educate all students. Your schools provide comprehensive curriculum to help prepare students for adult life. Within these curriculums, there is a variety of methods and techniques that teachers use in order to meet groups and individual needs. With the proper input from parents and the educational expertise of our staff, we are able to plan and address individual needs at the neighborhood schools. The Department of Education has recognized the need for more resources to accomplish this task. In the recent budget, some monies and resources were made available to address a number of gaps that are found between what we have and what we need. It is our hope that these gaps will be further diminished with new monies in the budget for the 2004 - 2005 school year.
The Lead & Achieve initiative of the Nova Scotia School Board's Association which focused on community input in respect to the role of elected school boards and their responsibility has been drafted for final presentation. The Board Chairs, Superintendents, Department of Education, Chief Education Officers and Directors of Programs meet to give some input into the specific focus that the Nova Scotia School Board's Association may take. The individual boards will present the draft to their membership for further study. The education position paper will be the fundamental underpinning for specific actions as directed by the Nova Scotia School Board's Association on behalf of all school boards in the Province of Nova Scotia.
In keeping with the theme of staff responsibility and appreciation, I would like to introduce the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board's financial division. The finance department accepts the responsibility for a variety of duties relating to the financial and business enterprises of the regional board. Key responsibilities typically involve leadership and management of the budget, other day-to-day operations include: reception, payroll, accounting, procurement, auditing, accounts payable, financial reporting requirements, risk management programs and dispersement of funds necessary to operate the school system. The Department of Education is apprised of the current financial picture through a monthly report of all revenues and expenditures. One of the most important reports generated by regional boards is the annual "Business Report". The Director of Finance takes the lead in respect to this venture and collects all input from the appropriate Directors of Operations, Programs & Student Services and Human Resource Services. These tasks associated with staff of the Finance Department are often complex and varied. The business staff of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board are both loyal and hardworking individuals. Their dedication to the mission of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is appreciated by all staff and elected school board members. We are proud of these employees who maintain the school region in the most efficient fiscal manner possible in order to provide the best quality educational programs available to our students. Next month I will take the time to look at the work of our staff who are responsible for safe, clean and healthy schools within our region.
The report of the Auditor General was received prior to the Christmas Break. I would like to focus on one item that was of some concern to the Auditor General. Historically, the grants provided by the regional boards from the Department of Education were based on recommendations from the Educational Funding Review Work Group. This group had representation from all school boards and they issued a report dated April 15th, 1999, which recommended a new funding model to be implemented over the next few years. It must be realized that this formula was not officially accepted by the government.
Within the last four years, the new workgroup called the "Educational Funding Committee" was established which reports directly to a new Educational Consultative structure which includes all of the Superintendents, Directors of Education, Chief Education Officers, and the Department of Education's Minister and his senior staff. For the 2002-2003 school year, the former 1999 formula was partially used. There were two elements that caused the limited application of the formula. To apply the formula in its entirety would have exceeded the government's fiscal target. Secondly, with the limited amount of funding made available, it was necessary to blend the formula so that all boards would receive enough funding to address their educational needs. It is felt by the Auditor General that a "funding formula which is not applied is of limited value". It was indicated by the Department of Education that the formula was overly complex and did not address the specific problems of individual boards. It was further indicated by the Department of Education that the formula should be sensitive to the cost incurrence at the school level rather than the current funding based on enrolments and pupil-teacher ratio. It was the Department of Education's wish that a school-based formula would recognize the unique challenges of specific boards. The priority of the Department of Education should ensure that the formula is transparent and clear and as the Auditor General recommended, the formula should be consistent with the Department's principle of educational financing and the ability to fund boards to ensure the children have their needs satisfied.
Madame Chair, your attention is directed towards the additions that are attached to my report which represent the celebrated events in our schools.