Vacations are beautiful things. They allow us to rest, to replenish our energies, and they give us a new perspective on our lives. I know that happened to me, and I would like to assume that it has happened to you as well.
When we are relaxing and doing all the activities that give us pleasure, we realize how hard we all work during the rest of the year. Central Office staff has been back to work since the middle of August and our administrators at the school level were engaged in activities during the last week of August. If we think about it, however, we realize that while work is difficult and demanding, it is also a part, and a very vital part, of our lives as human beings. We are all so aware that in the ensuing year, there will be troubles; yes, there will be setbacks; yes, there will be long hours - but, yes, there will be the opportunity of opening up new vistas for our minds; and yes, there will be accomplishments, growth and learning and we will all be a part of it. I was in the past and am now, extremely proud of our staff and our Regional Board, and it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the workplace. May this school year, 2004 - 2005, be the best year ever.
Again, we must look to the past for direction to the future. In May of 2001, we entered into a 'Transition Plan' with the Department of Education. The projected enrolment decline for the year, 2004 - 2005, was six hundred and thirty (630) students. The projected staff reduction was forty-eight (48) teachers. The Board decided to accept forty (40) teacher reductions which would allow for our current staff reduction related to the current student decline of twenty-six (26) and fourteen (14) further reductions related to past student decline prior to the 'Transition Plan'.
We have come to the end of our commitment to a provincial 'Transition Plan'. It has gone a long way in stabilizing the Board's long-term staffing and finances. This year we were able to staff our schools in respect to the Department of Education's mandate to have no classes over twenty-five (25) in both primary and grade one. It is necessary to understand that this mandate forces the Board to revert to combined grades of twenty-five (25) or less in order to meet the edict of the Department of Education. Having said that, we have developed further staffing formulas for Grades 2 - 6, 7 - 9 & 10 - 12.
We have attempted to treat all schools fairly. The result was a loss of forty (40) teaching positions and a consistent implementation of a process across the region. We have been made aware that the Department of Education has set about a process to develop a new formula for funding regional boards. That process has begun and on October 14th, we have an opportunity to input our ideas and wishes to the Department of Education's Facilitator, William Hogg. I have one reservation in respect to the process. This is not meant to be negative but a caution should be stated at the very beginning of the project. The whole concept of adequacy is not to be included in the process. The very simple notion of adequacy in school finances is to set standards and outcomes and promote the funding to implement and achieve the objectives. I will be keeping the Board aware of what is happening in this new venture. The Board people themselves have the questions for responses and will have every opportunity to participate. With the introduction of a new funding formula, we may be able to avert a new 'Transition Plan' and become a full party to the new funding process.
Just to reiterate the information for the public at large, we have a number of documents that direct the activities of the Board. We have our long-term planning focus which is instilled in our 'Strategic Plan'. This plan contains the renewed articulation of our critical issues that will ensure our focus on these activities that are important and essential to the communities of Cape Breton and Victoria County.
On the other hand, the Board is directed in the short-term by a 'Business Plan' which directs the activities of the Regional Board on a yearly basis. The goals of the Board are set in short statements indicating desired changes and or achievements. These two documents are available from our Web Site (www.cbv.ns.ca) and they provide a transparent look at what we do and attempt to achieve for our children.
Lastly, the accountability of finances are ensured by a monthly report on the status of our budget expenditures to ensure we have been faithful stewards of these public monies.
Each year I have taken time in my report to highlight staff, students, board representatives and community events. Last year my monthly report was devoted to different sectors of our entire staff. I have decided this year to dedicate part of my report to the students in our region and the activities that govern their lives. The October meeting will begin that process.
Madame Chair, I direct your attention to the attachments to my report from the schools.