Superintendent's Report - May 29, 2006
The first 'Racial Equity Elementary Symposium' got underway on May 16th, at the Wagmatcook Cultural Center. The one day session gave teachers, board members, board race relations, cross cultural understanding and human rights teams, as well as others, an opportunity to discuss and share ideas on establishing diverse, inclusive and respectful learning environments. The conference examined the provision of instructional practices that respect and value all learners. The Nova Scotia Racial Equity Policy promotes respect, sensitivity and equity in seven key areas, including curriculum, the school environment, assessment, instructional practices, counselling, second languages learning and community relations.
The fifth annual AMinister's Report to Parents" summarizing Nova Scotia students' assessment results in 2005 has been circulated to the public, and copies have been delivered to all school sites. The report includes the recent provincial, national and international assessment results. Nova Scotia's Grade X11 students have shown a marked improvement in reading and writing, but continues to have difficulties with mathematics in provincial exams, according to the data in the AMinister's Report to Parents". It is most appropriate to mention that work is underway to improve achievement in mathematics at all grade levels. Over the past year, the Department of Education has targeted resources at improving students' understanding of math. We have been able to increase the amount of time spent, added math mentors and math leaders to help guide teachers and increased course options at senior high. Again, it is important to understand why provincial assessments are undertaken. They allow us to identify, not only which students need help, but how the region is performing and where we need to improve. One of the improvements in this year's report was the school-by-school results for the Elementary Literacy assessments. The Grade V1 Literacy Assessment, which was administered to 10,000 students across the Province, found 88% of students are meeting or exceeding expectations in reading, compared to 79% in writing.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has received a briefing on the projected funding allocation for April, 2006, to March 31st, 2007. Since the profiles were embargoed, we are unable to detail the information until the provincial budget is passed in the Legislature. I am pleased to inform you that the Hogg Report will be implemented fully this year. Last year, the Hogg Funding Report allowed for partial implementation of its recommendations. I am positively optimistic that our resources for next year will allow us to reach the goals and objectives that the Board has set for the 2006 - 2007 school year. The support for 'Learning For Life 11, Brighter Futures Together' will be in place for the ensuing year. The year four of the class size initiative will enable us to include Grade 3 for the next school year. The support for small schools will go from $75,000 to $150,000 for the school year, 2006 - 2007. The pre-primary will have provincial funding for its second year. The O5 Options & Opportunities initiatives will have further support of $1.6 million dollars to ensure the successful implementation of educational programs for all students in order to make the transition from high school to post-secondary education and work destinations. Three of our high schools have been selected for year one. Cabot High School, Breton Education Center and Memorial High School will participate in the first year pilots. The other high schools will follow in subsequent years. The Board's intention is to work on the budget process in light of the anticipated funding allocation and will complete the process when the Department of Education gives the green light.
We have taken steps to participate in a collaborative effort with the Cape Breton Regional Health Services to prepare a continuity plan for the impending influenza pandemic. Again, I respect what the experts have indicated - we are preparing for the pandemic rather than suggesting that we are preparing for something that may happen. Along with this specific initiative with Cape Breton Regional Health Services, we are also working on an M.O.U. (Memorandum of Understanding) that will give us a greater liaison with health services which can be beneficial in a myriad of ways for those things affecting our children and the communities of Cape Breton-Victoria.
The strategic plan review, under the mentorship of Rick Simm (Co-ordinator of Program Services(Instructional Support), has been moving along. The data is coming in from all of our schools and the community stakeholders. The executive summary will be available to the Board and its partners within a short period.
Staffing schedules for mandatory contract compliance have been implemented through our Human Resources Department. We have been compelled to reduce our classroom teachers by twenty (20) teachers. This is related to our student decline of seven hundred (700) students. The Department of Education will reduce our funding to the rate of 35 - 1, resulting in the loss of twenty (20) teachers.
Once again, I return to our theme devoted to our students.........
Throughout our history, we seem to have concluded that we must be perpetually busy and occupied with something - as though to give support to the adage Aidle hands leads to mischief". This attitude has helped us become the great producers and enterprisers we are today. There is another side of this coin for children. At school, as well as at home and at play, we see pressure put on children to be organized. Naturally, school schedules must be created. There is so much to do, and there is never enough time in which to do it. Without some order, the school could not accomplish its tasks. Yet, many teachers have come to the conclusion that some free time for independent activities - such as communicating with other children or simply Adoing nothing" - has value. Children seem to need this Asifting out time".
When children return home from school, many of them are faced with equally structured schedules of activities. Sports, scouts, music lessons, and a host of other organized activities - together with television and playtime with friends - often dominate the child's hours right up until bedtime. While there is nothing wrong with any of these activities, there may be a question about the tightness of some schedules. For some children, the opposite situation exists. They are given no motivation to find worthwhile activities which can give them pleasure and new skills.
Perhaps a test for parents would be to see how often their children claim they are bored and Ahave nothing to do". This is part of the busy syndrome if children have no organized activity - even a television show which suits their fancy or a friend with whom they might share a game - they are lost and almost fear being alone with themselves. What can parents do to help their children avoid becoming so accustomed to organized activity that they are bored and restless when it isn't present?
Parents must recall that school tends to be highly organized. Thus, in the family setting, a part of each day could be given over to quiet and relaxed time - and both parents and children could take part in them. Remember parents remain the most important models their children will ever have. Are mealtimes relaxed and shared times, or are they merely quick preludes to some other activity? Does a child have time to be alone with his or her thoughts and is he/she able to sort out all the input of the day? Has she or he learned some personal forms of relaxation such as reading or a hobby that allows the thoughts time to wander? It seems that without finding this time as children, we never find it as adults.
There is no final answer to this very real problem. There is a hint in the words of the Indian Scholar, Sayidian: AThere are three tests of a truly educated man.......Can he entertain an idea? Can he entertain his fellow being? Can he entertain himself?" Perhaps more than ever, we need to teach children to entertain themselves and Aput it all together".
Lastly, Madame Chair, I ask that you and the Board peruse the attached addendum to my report which highlights students' awards, school recognition and staff celebrations.