It is our privilege to welcome students, staff and board members back to the 2015-16 school year. This will be a very busy and interesting year for our Board as we have a number of major initiatives underway. This will be the year of the “R’s” as we continue to implement:
a) reconfiguration of our system to a middle school philosophy and the movement of grade 9 to our senior high schools;
b) a School Review process that envelops five families of schools;
c) the Minister’s Action Plan – Renew, Refocus, Rebuild.
In preparation for a new school year, all divisions of our Board have worked diligently over the summer months to ensure we are ready for the arrival of our students. Our Operations department moved over 4,000 boxes from elementary to middle school and junior high to senior high. In addition to grounds maintenance and paving, some of the many enhancements to our buildings have included new bus loops at Memorial and Sydney Academy as well as intensive renovations at Baddeck, Glace Bay High and St. Anne’s.
I was delighted to attend Harbourside the first day of school to see excited children and anxious parents beginning the year.
Our Finance department has been busy reformatting our Board budget to track costs by functional area and fund center within the provincial BI2 initiative as well as monitoring school cash online. Since May, our Human Resources department has been working diligently to staff our newly reconfigured school as well as to fill a number of school administrative vacancies.
Our Programs division has coordinated the professional development for the streamlined P-3 curriculum as well as a Boot Camp in August for all new administrators. I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for the dedicated leadership of our Senior Management Team – our Director of Finance, George Boudreau; Director of Operations, Paul Oldford; Director of Human Resources, Wendy King; and our Acting Director of Programs & Student Services, Cathy Viva.
On August 24, our Board passed motions to begin the School Review process for five families of schools within our Board. With a geography of over 3000 square kilometres, an enrolment decline of 46% since amalgamation, and an excess capacity of 40% or more in over 80% of our schools, our Board is reaching out to engage school communities in solutions to these issues. To that end, School Options Committees have been formed in each of these families to support our Board in the review. These committees will hold public meetings in October, November and January to present their deliberations to their school communities with a final report to the Board by mid-February. A Board decision on each SOC report is anticipated by late March to mid-April. I would like to take this opportunity to thank school advisory members, community representatives and our principals and facilitators for their commitment to work with us in this very important review.
Finally, in our year of the “R’s”, Nova Scotia’s Action Plan brings about many new and exciting changes to education. Our Primary to grade three students are experiencing a streamlined curriculum with a stronger focus on math and literacy. A new provincial Homework Policy has been instituted that mandates developmentally appropriate homework to enhance student learning. In addition, a new provincial Code of Conduct emphasizes the sharing of responsibility for a positive and inclusive school climate with students, parents, teachers, support staff and principals.
Our Board website contains more information on this year of the “R’s” with detail on School Review, Reconfiguration and the Action Plan.
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