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Sections > School Board Meeting - Minutes > School Board Meeting Minutes: March 5, 2013 - Special
School Board Meeting Minutes: March 5, 2013 - Special
Published by Michelle MacLeod [Michelle MacLeod] on 03/26/2013 (2612 reads)
School Board Meeting Minutes: March 5, 2013 - Special

Central Office
Sydney, N.S.
March 5, 2013



A Special Board meeting of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board was called to order today beginning at 5:08 p.m.


Present: Lorne Green, ChairJoan CurrieJack Toomey
Barb Mercer(conference call)Stewart MathesonJoyce Lind
Steve Parsons(conference call)John BerkFred Tilley(conference call)
Darren Googoo(conference call)Gary FraserJackie Organ
Sandra MargettieKevin RuellandDarrell Flynn
Yvonne Kennedy

Also Present:Ambrose White, Superintendent
Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resources
George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services
Susan Kelley, Director of Programs and Student Services
Paul Oldford, Director of Operational Services
Lewis MacDonald, Coordinator of Facilities Management
Michelle MacLeod, Board Recording Secretary

(3) “Looking Inward” – School Review:

Commissioner Parsons asked for consideration with regards to school reviews and requested that the Board defer their decision for another evening.

Mr. Paul Oldford, Director of Operational Services noted a decision would be needed on or before the 18th of March.

Mr. Oldford began his report with a power-point presentation. The proposed schedule has been developed keeping with the themes of Looking Inward planning framework including additional Board recommended scenarios. Key to this area – the Strategic Plan, Looking Inward Planning Framework; along with the TCA Capital guiding principals. (attached to the original minutes)

Commissioner Mercer entered the meeting through conference call at 5:14 p.m.

Commissioner Googoo entered the meeting through conference call at 5:17 p.m.

Mr. Oldford noted a three year plan for the Board. The layout was as follows;

  • Year 1: Focused on the middle school concept. It would run concurrently with the examination of and consultations around Grade Level reconfiguration. Includes potential construction of 1 or 2 new schools.
  • Year 2: Focused on examination and decisions regarding our P3 schools. School reviews and potential capital submissions are decided in support of these decisions. Additionally, includes potential construction of 1 new school.
  • Year 3: Year 3 completes the work focused on the P3 schools and also builds upon recently completed capital construction to support school consolidations.

He then provided the Board with the highlights of the School Review process. This slide was followed by School Review milestones.

One of the issues highlighted in the power-point was the proposed grade level reconfiguration.

The final slide provided a summary of the Capital requests. He noted that this supports a parallel path with the looking inward document.

Mr. Oldford noted that it is critical that the public are made aware of the information which we are aware of.

Commissioner Tilley expressed his concern regarding the school review timing for the two Junior high schools on the Northside – Thompson Jr. High and Sydney Mines Jr. High. He wished to be very strategic on the timing and have the SAC’s consulted.

Commissioner Parsons thanked senior staff for the very in-depth and thorough report which was presented this evening. He noted the amount of time which was spent on this document to ensure the Board makes an informed decision. He further expressed his concern with regards to the concept of new schools, and if denied still being faced with a square footage problem.

Commissioner Flynn- Questioned whether the public will be advised of the three year plan decisions from the beginning. Paul spoke of the Looking Inward document.

Commissioner Mercer – questioned the $150,000 and the identification of small rural schools.

Commissioner Mercer expressed her concern with regards to small rural schools. She highlighted her concern for Marion Bridge school and why it was considered. She noted in the 2014-2015 plan that the only rural school identified is Marion Bridge. For clarification, Mr. Oldford noted that according the Levin report Marion Bridge is not a rural school.

Mr. George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services noted that Marion Bridge School is presently receiving $150,000/year however it is a grandfathered protection that could change at any time.

Commissioner Green noted that the review is not solely based on funds and that the decision to review schools considers a lot of factors.

Commissioner Tilley stressed the importance of consulting with the public.

Mr. Lewis MacDonald, Coordinator of Facilities Management, reiterated the importance of the summary which was proposed this evening and the impact of these decisions on our P3 schools.

Commissioner Flynn spoke with regards of the schools in his area and how they each belong in unique communities and that enrollment figures in these schools have stabilized over the years. He further questioned where a new school would be built or where renovations would be made to an existing school.

Mr. Oldford noted that these questions would be difficult to answer without community consultation.

Commissioner Fraser noted that he supports Commissioner Mercer’s comments to move Marion Bridge from 2014-15 and have it treated the same as the group for consideration during 2015-16.

Commissioner Kennedy expressed her concern over the communication of the Board’s decision to the public. She noted she does not see it fair that we announce our plan through an ad in the newspaper. She noted we have to actually go to these communities and present it. She wants to involve the public more on the roll out of the Board’s decisions.

Commissioner Lind questioned the French Immersion at the junior high level and whether enrollment projections for this program were considered when identifying MacLennan Jr. High as one of the schools to be reviewed.

Commissioner Ruelland questioned St. Agnes and Mount Carmel being combined into one building, if management had put any thought into which building they would be combined into during year one. He further noted if this recommendation was moved forward, based on varying factors, would the education for these students be enhanced during the first year of this combination even though it is a temporary move. He further questioned which school would be the receiving school noting concerns would be expressed by both school communities.

Commissioner Toomey noted that he would not like to move to quickly with the recommendation for the Northside however he does see the plan as a positive one. He would like to be diligent and be sure to include the communities.

Commissioner Berk noted if we are to move forward we need to be cautious. He further noted the word “Review” is heard it is understood as closure. He doesn’t see reviewing a large number of schools at once being viewed in a positive manner. The communities and schools need to be involved and contribute with some scenarios of their own. He noted that they may support the scenarios which are put forward this evening.

Commissioner Berk further questioned if the Board has an estimation of the amount of money which they wish to save. He understands that the Board has an excess of square footage that needs to be addressed.

Mr. Oldford noted that management has not identified savings yet. They have recognized that the Board has too much real estate and they have the challenge of reducing it. The Looking Inward document has been provided, Board and Management have built on this and now we are looking at a three year plan.

Commissioner Berk requested the costing on a per student basis.

Mrs. Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resources, noted that Human Resources have taken a preliminary look at staffing. She stressed that we have reached a point where we are struggling to achieve reductions in staffing. It is becoming difficult to achieve a balanced budget without affecting programming and increasing class sizes. She further noted that we have fifty teachers in our Board who do not hold permanent positions.

Mr. George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services noted that at this point even with a possible reduction of thirty positions we are still going to experience a large shortfall in reaching a balanced budget. He further noted that an appeal has been drafted to go to the Minister of Education. We need to demonstrate to the Minister that we are serious about accruing long term savings to support our claim for transitional funding.

Commissioner Margettie left the meeting at 6:24 p.m.

Commissioner Kennedy noted that the present situation in Cape Breton is dismal with our population declining. She noted that the public are aware of the declining population. We need to show that students will come first, we need to show the benefits of change, we need to ensure that it will be for the betterment of students. Parents need reassurances in what we are proposing as positive for all those involved.

Commissioner Parsons questioned the consultation process and how this process is done in other Boards.

He further noted the square footage in our schools and the idea of creating targets of square footage reduction to be reached. Mr. Oldford noted that the present data that he has needs to be updated i.e. square footage costs, operational costs, staffing, etc. The operation costs for a new school would also have to be considered. Mr Oldford noted through a business case you would identify your risks and operational cost.

Commissioner Mercer left the meeting at 6:40 p.m.

Commissioner Flynn questioned the boundaries for a new school for the Glace Bay/Dominion/Reserve area and whether those students would have the option of attending other elementary schools in the area.

Commissioner Flynn further requested clarification with regards to staffing any new schools and whether the positions would be posted or would staff be consolidated.

Commissioner Currie noted that the area of School Review is one which is very stressful and disconcerting. She noted the Board is struggling with square footage issues that need to be addressed. She further recognized the work of Mr. Jim Burton on producing the document entitled “Looking Inward.” She recognized the geographical areas and feeder schools which were identified.

Commissioner Currie noted that we are making decisions for the good of all our students. She noted times change and we have a big problem to deal with which we need to address.

Commissioner Matheson further reiterated some of the comments made by Commissioner Currie. He also requested clarification on what the Board is proposing to announce to the public. He further noted that we know the challenges we are facing and we know the challenges which our schools are facing.

Commissioner Fraser supported earlier comments made this evening as a go-forward plan. He further reiterated that we have to do something and show the Department that we are willing to put a plan together in order to gain their support.

Commissioner Tilley spoke again for fairness and too much real estate however he would like the Board to address the issue in a fair manner for all communities. He wanted to develop a capital plan and not put schools up for review until the capital plan is in place. He then addressed the middle school concept in year one which he only sees the Northside area addressed. If the plan is provided to the public showing the communities the full plan and allow the communities must be fully engaged as part of the process.

Commissioner Kennedy reiterated her support of providing the big picture and community engagement.

Commissioner Organ requested clarification on why specific schools were placed on the third year of the plan. Mr. Oldford noted if funds are received from the Department, we may be able to move schools to be reviewed earlier.

Commissioner Lind noted she supports revealing the full plan with the assistance of a Communication specialist to assist in the delivery of the message. She noted that the public need to be advised that we are considering many issues and have given everything a very thorough review.

Commissioner Ruelland re-iterated his support to advise the community of the full plan and that the communities need to know that the Board is thinking long-term. He noted we will receive information from the public and suggestions that may enhance what we have been presented. He fully supported the middle school concept.

Commissioner Flynn would like consideration given to the students of John Bernard Croak and that the possibility of placing those students in St. Anne’s or Glace Bay elementary rather than consider a new more complex school.

Superintendent White supported the Looking Inward document which the Board has discussed. He noted it is not an easy task. He would like to see the Board work as a team. He noted that we need to reduce our square footage. We can use funds which are saved as a result of school review and put in programs and enhancing/sustaining our remaining classroom environments. We are mandated through law to balance our budget. We also need to show the Department that we are facing our challenges and making tough decisions in order to move forward.

Commissioner Green noted that no decision will be acceptable for everyone around the table. We are here to ensure all our students receive an education. He reiterated the challenges our Board is facing and they are elected to make these decisions. We need to make the tough decisions.

Commissioner Tilley noted that he would like to see a delay of one year for the Northside to give the Board the opportunity to put forward its capital request and obtain a decision.

(4) Adjournment of the meeting. . .

the meeting adjourned at 7:16 p.m.. . .

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