Recently, with a co-operative partnership with our local Cape Breton Post newspaper, we have been fortunate enough to have increased coverage of school based events. With this increased activity, we have had an excellent opportunity to present ourselves and our schools to the residents of our regional board. Many of our staff and children have been asked to write articles on their extra-curricular activities, activities in the classrooms, and even opinions about such topics as Music, Art, Drama, sports, societal programs and concerns.
One thing I have found is that we don=t have to manufacture news. There are enough positive, energetic and significant activities going on in our schools to supply many stories. We are looking forward to our continued co-operation with the Cape Breton Post in the ensuing years that will further our communication with our public about our schools.
Our budget is balanced and a request goes out to our staff that they will make every effort to ensure that our students will be well serviced for the ensuing year, 2004 - 2005. This is not meant to indicate that we are pleased with the restrictions that have been thrust upon us. Our intent to protect the classrooms is challenged by the fact that we have six hundred and forty (640) fewer students attending our schools. It is unfortunate but these students do not come out of schools in such a fashion that would allow for a mere reduction of units of twenty-five; it is the complete opposite - where there are units of five or ten across fifty-three (53) schools.
We have been able to protect programs from elimination but will have had no real growth in program extensions or expansions. We have made little progress in the expansion of Special Education services since the targeted money became part of the contribution that allowed for a balanced budget. Each individual item in the budget menu was decreased from a range of 5% to a startling reduction of 50%. Although we did not opt to close facilities this year, it will be an option that we will review for next year.
Transportation reductions were held to a minimum for this year. We will review this division during the year when we receive the final transportation audit within a few months. We have been able to confirm our provincial mandate to keep our primary class size below twenty-five (25) students. One must realize that this permits the Board to create combined classes in order to meet the mandate of twenty-five (25) or less in a primary class. Again, we have extended this mandate into Grade 1. It is the intention of the Department of Education to further extend this to Grade 2 next year as has been scheduled in the Department of Education=s document, >Learning For Life=.
We have attempted to apply consistent formulas across the Board for classroom reductions at the 10 - 12 level, with a separate formula for Grades 7 - 9 and a further formula for Grades 9 - 12. The resulting reduction of forty (40) teachers fell equally between Grades P - 6 and 7 - 12. Further cuts were realized in program areas that allowed for reinvestment to more crucial service areas while, at the same time, maintaining a suitable level of quality to the remaining programs.
The appointment of new administrative positions allowed for some staff relief while maintaining our administrative levels within the Nova Scotia Teachers= Union guidelines and allowing for Ared circle@ positions to remain in place.
Again, I would like to commend the work of our Finance personnel, our Human Resources Department, our division of Programs & Student Services and our Operations Department for their tireless commitment to the several tasks that they have performed in the most difficult of budget restrictions. It is with deep appreciation that I extend a further thank you to our administration and staff in the school sites for their continued support and empathy for the elected school board members and its Central Office staff. It is not easy, it will result in some discontent, but the co-operation from all of us makes it the best that could be achieved.
We are meant to enjoy life, and the summer offers us opportunities we have at no other time of the year. Summer is also a time when we must pause for a moment to remember that we are completing another school year. While summer brings a momentary end to school, it does not bring an end to the education of our students.
Over the past ten (10) months, our students have worked at their studies and have learned many things which they did not know when school began. What they have learned was a result of many factors, not the least of which was their individual efforts. It is said that we get out of life what we put into it. Their efforts in studying, in writing, and in the hours they have put into their classes have been rewarded by the new knowledge they have gained; knowledge that no one can ever take away from them.
Therefore, with the beginning of summer and the end of the school year, I would like to tell our students to go out and live life and learn from it as surely as you have learned from us over this past year.
It is the wish of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board for each and everyone of them that the coming summer may hold only pleasant experiences for them. May they live life to the fullest; may they enjoy it and may they learn from it. Have a good summer.
Madame Chair, the additional material attached to my report is meant to alert the Board to the many and varied activities that we celebrate in the school sites and communities.