The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, along with the other seven school boards across the province, were asked to engage in a planning exercise to deal with ‘targets’ set forth by the Department of Education. This exercise began in mid October and has been ongoing since then. Each board was told from the outset that a 5% reduction in budget would take place – 3% in Year 1, 1% in Year 2 and finally 1% in Year 3. The government’s plan was to get ‘Back to Balance’ in three years and all government departments, including education, were asked to reduce.
However, we quickly found out that other cost pressures normally covered by the Department of Education such as wage increases negotiated by the province and increases in electricity and fuel, to name a few, would also be passed on to school boards to the tune of twenty million dollars per year for three years. We also received news that an ‘Expenditure Management Initiative’ would have to be absorbed by school boards that equaled to $25 million in Year 1, $35 million in Year 2 and $35 million in Year 3. The 5% reduction increased to a 22% reduction with added cost pressures and the ‘Expenditure Management Initiative’. The Provincial Funding Reduction for the next three years (2011–2014) in P-12 education is $196 Million (22%) and Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board’s share of the reduction for 2011-2014 is $25,539,767. – (22%).
All school boards began the planning exercise to deal with these targeted reductions. This was a very difficult assignment considering almost 85% of our budget is salary and benefits, including all employees. Each department was asked to reduce all non-salaried cost centers by 22%. The text book credit allocation was converted to cash up to 75% for Year 1. We looked at the school review process and the possibility of ten (10) schools closing over the next few years. Everything that could be reduced from the outset was done before we looked at programs for students and staff reductions. At the end of the day, a 22% staff reduction was put in place for all non-Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union staff and a 22% reduction for all Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union salaried staff. These reductions were over and above the mandated cuts due to a decline in enrolments for the next three years which equals 25 (twenty-five) teachers per year. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has reduced classroom teachers to the tune of 195 full-time equivalents since 2004-2005 due to enrolment decline at an average of one classroom teacher per 18 (eighteen) students.
The removal of class caps in elementary and staffing formula changes at the junior and senior high school levels are also part of the process. Targeted initiatives such as Mentors, 05 and other Consultants are also being considered.
After all of these reductions, we are still close to $3 million shy of the approximate $25,000,000. or the 22% reduction we were asked to consider.
There is no question that the results of a 22% reduction would be devastating for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The support systems that have developed over the years for students needing them will not be the same or in some situations, will not be there at all. We were able to make some much needed headway; however, we will be regressing big time.
We have been told these were targets; yet, we still haven’t heard from the government in regards to actual numbers. The anxiety and uncertainty within our Board and others, because of this, is just unacceptable.
At this time, I would like to change the theme of my report. As the recently appointed Superintendent of Schools for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, I look forward to the challenges and rewards of this position. No doubt, we are headed for difficult times as described in the beginning of my report; however, as a Board and staff, we must be committed to offer the best education possible for the students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. I know I can rely on the support and expertise of our senior staff team along with all administrative staff within our Board and certainly the administration and staff at the school level. I strongly believe in ‘working as a team’ and this will be a priority for me as we move forward.
I look forward to working with the elected school board members and thank them for their confidence in me. Despite the challenges and uncertainty, I am excited about the future. Some may tell me to “shake my head”; however, I see so many positive things happening in our schools through the hard work and dedication of all of our staff. To the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees and the ‘Confidential’ employees, I thank you for your ongoing commitment to the students of our Board, and I anticipate a positive working relationship with all of you. Thanks to all as we forge ahead.
I would like to acknowledge the support and mentorship of my predecessor, Dr. Ed Davis. I still call on him for advice and expect to continue to do so in the future.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct your attention and that of the board members and staff, to read the comments from our school principals that are placed on our Board’s Website (www.cbv.ns.ca). These items represent the awards, achievements and successes of our students and staff within the boundaries of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Again, I ask the principals to ensure that these important communications are placed on our web site.
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