Education Week 2013 was held from April 21-27. This year’s theme is “Teaching for a Sustainable Future.” Many of our schools planned events and activities in relation to this theme. The provincial presentation of the Education Week Awards was held on Monday, April 22nd and we congratulate recipients Paul Bowne, Memorial High, and Gloria Farmakoulas, Glace Bay High.
The week of April 21-27 is also National Volunteer Week. This is a time to recognize and celebrate the incredible efforts of volunteers, and I would particularly like to thank the hundreds of people who volunteer in our schools. There are many teams, clubs, activities and groups that rely on the time and effort of volunteers to exist. Some of these volunteers put in months of service coaching a high school varsity team for example. Not only do they practice and play several times a week, they often fundraise for trips to tournaments, etc. We also have parents/guardians, grandparents and community people who show up on a regular basis for breakfast, lunch and after school programs. Their commitment to our students is just fantastic. Other co and extra curricular activities would not be possible without the huge volunteer effort of these many people. Volunteering also sets an example. Children and youth are more likely to become engaged citizens when they encounter these positive role models. I truly believe that volunteering helps both the individual volunteer and the person or group they donate their time and talents to. Once again, a huge thank you to all volunteers within the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board.
Our Human Resource Department is in the process of updating a “Teacher Growth and Development Process.” As educators, our most important goal is to increase student achievement. Improving teaching quality is the most effective way of increasing student achievement. Teachers need and deserve regular feedback so that they can continue to improve the quality of their teaching and to grow as professionals. In addition, the opportunity to self-direct professional learning encourages teachers to self-reflect and take ownership of their professional growth. Continuous teacher growth and development is important to the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board. The framework for teaching outlines the Board’s expectations for quality teacher performance and is the cornerstone of the Teacher Growth and Development Process. This process includes two paths, a developmental path and an appraisal path. The developmental path involves the creation of a teacher professional growth plan and the appraisal path involves a formative evaluation. In most cases, this will be a three year process with the formative appraisal occurring in any of the three years. This Teacher Growth and Development Process will hopefully be ready for September 2013. We will keep you up to date as the process is finalized.
On April 9th, I had a visit from Ron Canuel, CEO of the Canadian Education Association, and Stephen Hurley, Consultant with the Dufferin Peel District School Board. They were in town to talk about their organization and especially their work with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. They are crossing the country talking to teachers and administrators and holding focus groups on “Leading the Way we Aspire to Lead.” They had a session at Malcolm Munroe with a group of teachers from the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board. Their research on teaching for the future is very interesting, and their visit was greatly appreciated.
On March 23rd, Serena MacDonald, teacher, Riverview Rural High, facilitated a provincial conference for students who are part of the Gay-Straight Alliance in our board. The day was created in cooperation with Jer’s Vision, which is a Canada Youth Diversity Initiative that works across Canada to address discrimination and promote diversity. Students came together to discuss homophobia and transphobia, bullying and the importance of diversity. Students from the different schools across the province registered for this event. These students worked together with the goal of empowering themselves, working toward a way to create equity and the celebration of diversity in their own schools. The hope of this conference was that the students who participated would leave with enough information to become change agents in their own schools!
The Keynote address was inspiring and an excellent way to start the day’s discussion and activity for the rest of the day. Since the conference, Gay-Straight Alliances at our schools have become more active and they report having become more confidence in addressing their needs.
The French Public Speaking Event, Concours d’art oratoire, was held on Tuesday, April 9th, and Wednesday, April 10th, 2013, at Brookland Elementary School.
On Tuesday, 13 students in Core French and Integrated Core French from grades 5-12 from nine schools competed. All participants represented their schools with pride and presented to an appreciative audience. On Wednesday, 21 students competed in French Immersion and Francophone categories from grades 5-12 in five schools. There were winners selected in all categories; however, I would like to congratulate all participants in this great event.
It was noted by the MC, Colin Landry, Core French teacher, Brookland Elementary, that one of the most difficult things to do is to speak in front of a group of people, and I concur. All participants did an excellent job of their presentations and deserve to be recognized for their preparation and performance.
We continue to deliberate on our budget. Several meetings were held thus far, and we are looking line by line throughout the budget to resolve the 4 million dollar reduction we face. These are very challenging times, and I just completed reading “All Systems Go: The Change Imperative for Whole System Reform” by Michael Fullan. This resource is very relevant as we encounter the reductions and changes of the past few years and again this year. Mr. Fullan cites eight characteristics of an effective school district, and I quote:
Focus: a clear direction and relentless focus on student achievement through instructional improvement in the classroom. A school board needs a central and singular focus from which all other pieces can flow. A district must continuously strengthen its core by increasing teachers’ skills and knowledge, engaging students in learning, and ensuring the curriculum challenges students.
Data: access and use of data on student learning as a strategy for classroom and school improvement and to monitor progress. Data also helps to shape targets for phased focuses of improvement. Data includes the development and use of ongoing means of diagnosing student needs and addressing them through specific instructional responses.
Leadership: development of teacher, principal, and district leadership to share effective practices from each other and from the larger research base. Research is focused on teaching strategies that make a difference in high and low-performing schools serving similar types of kids. Responses are then developed to deliver job embedded inservice. Leadership roles are defined so that leaders participate as learners in working with teachers to address instructional needs.
Resources: allocating resources in accordance with this focus without a reliance on one-time, special funding. Resources should be clearly aligned to support the teaching and learning core of the district’s work.
Reduce Distractors: a concerted effort to reduce the distracters that undermine teachers’ and principals’ capacity to carry out this central strategy. Excessive bureaucracy, inconsistent messages, multiple non-classroom initiatives, and time-and-energy-consuming conflict all distract from the focus of student achievement. Effective districts do not take on too many initiatives at once and are dropping distracters as well as adding things that help them focus.
Community: link to parents and the community and related agencies to provide support for students and educators and to intervene early in case of difficulties experienced by students and by schools.
Communication: a constant and consistent communication that focuses on the core message up and down and across the district. Everyone needs to know the central focus of teaching and learning priorities and how to achieve them. Research findings and effective practices need to be shared. Staying on message is crucial.
Esprit de Corps: a sense of identity and sense of community among teachers and principals and between schools and the district. People take pride in their work and that of their colleagues and feel a strong sense of affinity with the district as a whole. Allegiances are strong, and collaborative competition leverages the schools to stronger and stronger performance.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct your attention, and that of the board members and staff, to 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 important communications are kept up-to-date.
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