The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, along with all other boards, received Ben Levin’s Report to the Department of Education, “Steps To Effective and Sustainable Public Education in Nova Scotia”, in early May.
There are twenty-eight recommendations and suggestions for actions in the report based on five key areas of focus for the province. These five areas include:
1) Reducing Failure Throughout the System. A reasonable estimate would be that even excluding special education, about 10 percent of total system spending is devoted to remedying the effects of initial failure, when it would be cheaper and better to prevent failure in the first place.
The idea of failure as necessary to maintain standards is deeply engrained in our thinking about education. However, a very large amount of research shows clearly that failure tends to depress, not increase, future effort, whether in education or in other areas of life.
2) Improving Daily Teaching, Learning and Assessment Practices. Working to improve daily teaching practices in line with evidence has great potential to yield better outcomes. There are more and more areas where we have good reliable evidence on effective practices. The task is to help people use those practices consistently.
3) Allowing More Things to ‘Count’ as Learning for Purposes of Earning School Credentials. Finding ways to encourage and recognize more forms of learning is both efficient and effective, and can be very motivating for students. Embracing some version of ‘any time learning’ has the potential to be efficient, effective, and highly motivating.
4) Building Public Support and Engagement. One of the lessons of education reform in recent years is that school improvement can only happen when all partners in education - students, parents, staff, educators and governments - work together in a spirit of mutual respect and sincere effort. An honest and open process of communication, grounded on good access to information, will support improvement while it also creates more public support for the system.
5) Making Better Use of Existing Facilities and Resources. All organizations should be involved in continuing efforts to increase productivity by replacing less effective practices with more effective ones. The vast bulk of money for education is spent on salaries so improvement depends on making better use of people or in being able to generate the same or better results with fewer people, or some combination thereof.
The ‘Levin Report’ is available on the Department of Education website – www.ednet.ns.ca and comments are welcome.
The Department of Education is also undertaking a review of the ‘Hogg Funding Formula’ which has been in place since 2004. The reason for the review is that a number of factors have contributed to changes to the existing Formula; in addition a period of significant enrolment decline has created some anomalies within the Funding Framework. The Department of Education staff will be making arrangements, over the next few weeks, to discuss and review the formula with each board and to see how we think it should (or should not) change. Discussions around P3 schools may also be held as decisions around what directive the Department of Education may take in regards to renew, return or the purchase of these facilities in the next number of years. This should result in interesting and informative discussions as we create our plans for the future.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board was awarded the ‘Gerald W. Buchan Memorial Award’ for the carrier in Nova Scotia with the highest achievement at the Annual Transportation Conference held on May 2nd, 2011 in Annapolis Valley. Their remarks included: “The carrier continues to lead the industry in the use of emerging technologies constantly seeking improvements to achieve a high standard of student safety and fleet efficiency. Overall, the carrier demonstrates a strong commitment to providing safe and reliable student transportation and promoting a culture of safety”. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board’s Transportation Department also achieved ‘Gold Status’ at the conference. Congratulations to all of our staff in transportation under Co-ordinator, Colleen MacMullin and Director of Operational Services, Paul Oldford.
I had the opportunity to visit seven schools in our district in the past two weeks. It is certainly a wonderful experience to meet staff and students and witness many of the great things happening in our schools. I had a chance to speak about budgeting, staffing, accreditation, assessment and support and many other local issues at each site. It really does the heart good to get out and visit and mingle with many of our staff and students.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board recently appointed Susan Kelley to the position of Director of Programs & Student Services. Susan brings lots of energy and experience to this position, and I welcome her to our senior staff team.
Mr. Chair, I would like to take a moment to honour and extend a thank you to Mr. John Astephen as he retires from his position of Director of Programs & Student Services. John is completing thirty-five (35) years of dedicated service to the students and staff of our Board and the former Northside-Victoria Amalgamated School Board. John was a Teacher, Principal, Co-ordinator and finally Director of Programs & Student Services over the past six (6) years. He always brought a strong work ethic to his positions; he was a very strong team player who could see the big picture even under difficult circumstances. He was a huge supporter of all students, particularly those with special needs. John had a big heart for those students and advocated for them at both the board and provincial level. We wish John all the best as he enters the retirement phase of his life with his wife, Patsy, his children and grandchildren. We are grateful for all your support John, and on behalf of all of the staff, board and students……’Thank You’!
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 individual school websites. 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 communications are kept up-to-date.
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