MARCH 27TH, 2006
The starting gun for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board’s budget process for 2006-2007 was set off on March 6th with a meeting of our local M.L.A.’s. This time of the year is often coined as the “Right of Spring” in respect to the budgets of the regional school boards across the Province of Nova Scotia. Boards are busy projecting their cost pressures, anticipating their revenues and identifying their needs. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has one of the highest budgets ($130,000,000.) in the whole of Cape Breton Island. Representing 18,000 students and 40,000 parents/guardians is a challenging task for this regional board. Parents and guardians rely on the local school board to provide top quality educational opportunities for their children and expect that the accountability of all funding is spent primarily on students’ needs. In this whole process, the school board attempts to allocate all available resources to our fifty-three (53) school sites in an adequate, equitable and fair distribution to ensure that students’ needs are met.
On March 6th at 7:00 p.m., the entire board had the opportunity to meet with the regional area members of the Legislature Assembly. It was during this session that the elected school board, along with senior staff, were able to discuss our needs and aspirations for the ensuing budget year and any other concerns that we may have in respect to the business of our regional board.
The following members representing our regional M.L.A.’s were in attendance: 1) Cecil Clarke; 2) Frank Corbett; 3) Gordon Gosse; 4) Manning MacDonald; 5) Gerald Sampson; and 6) David Wilson.
Some of the more significant topics that we discussed were:
S Ensuring that the priority of adequate educational funding was presented to the Cabinet;
S Insisting that the $30 million dollars of extra funding would be attached to the new budget for 2006 - 2007;
S The $30 million dollars in extra funding for the budget year 2005 - 2006 resulted in $3.9 million dollars being added to our yearly budget;
S The Superintendent outlined to the M.L.A.’s where this money was allocated and the resulting benefits that accrued to our students;
S The Board indicated to the M.L.A.’s the importance of that extra money being made available this year to continue our quality of education to our students;
S We did outline some of the actual areas where these monies will be used:
S English Arts - P - 3;
S Health Education;
S Mathematics Initiatives;
S Physical Education;
S Active Readers Project;
S Literacy Initiatives;
S Technology Education;
S Library Services;
S O2 Initiatives - Options & Opportunities for Alternate Programs;
S Special Education Commitments;
S International Baccalaureate;
S Learning For Life 1 & 11;
S Mi’kmaq Educational Services;
S Racial Equity Policy Implementation;
S African Nova Scotia Student Services; and,
S Assessment & Evaluation Commitments.
Some concerns of the M.L.A.’s were directed towards:
S Special Education Core Services;
S Liability insurance directed against community use of school board facilities;
S The delayed new school construction in both the Glace Bay and the Northside areas;
S The delayed major school construction projects;
S The recognition that priority for adequate funding in education should be a government priority; and,
S The assurance that the local M.L.A.’s would work co-operatively to ensure that the views of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board are expressed in both their caucus and on the floor of the Legislature.
During the discussion, it was made quite clear that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has expressed their desire for the government to implement fully the impending ‘Hogg Funding Report’. The principles used in the funding formula: equity, accountability, responsiveness, adequacy, transparency, autonomy and involvement meet the requirements and wishes of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
The process for school review continues. Community committees made up of parents, community members, students and school staff have been developing their reports to be presented to the regional board. It has been a long process and the final decision, in respect to East Bay, Middle River and Balls Creek, will be made in April. The Board has asked the different committees to consider the following factors:
- Enrolment Projections;
S Transportation of Students;
S Program Consideration;
S Facility Consideration;
S Community Impact; and,
S Financial Impact & Cost Savings
The Board also asked the committees to identify other possible factors for consideration and directed the committees to meet with representatives of appropriate public agencies, community groups, school communities and regional staff to gather this information and to determine the impact and implication of its recommendations.
I would like to now continue my theme for students that represent the latter part of my report.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
The emphasis on improving student academic achievement has raised some questions about the value of extra-curricular activities. Most people insist that these activities take valuable time away from academic learning and therefore have no place in the school. Other people claim that students who participate have good achievement and attendance records.
There is more rhetoric than reason in some of the arguments about traditional extra-curricular activities. However, the place that these activities should have in the school has not yet been settled. Let us look at the question, “Are school activities important?”
The reason for having extra-curricular activities in the schools generally include the following:
S Activities provide motivation for students who participate as well as for students who do not participate by addressing the human need to belong, to be recognized and to associate with others;
S Activities enable parents to see their children in performance situations;
S Activities give students an opportunity to express themselves and to develop certain talents, abilities and skills;
S Activities add variety, interest and even excitement to a school program; and,
S Activities bring a dimension of play to study and learning.
The reasons usually given for eliminating student activities include the following:
S Activities cause students and teachers to miss academic class time;
S Activities sometimes become more important to the student and his or her parents than the need to study;
S Activities are an expense that should not be levied on those who pay for the schools;
S Some activities are too competitive and only a small percentage of students actually participate; and,
S Professional educators should not be required to use their valuable time sponsoring and supervising school activities.
It is obvious that these arguments do not make a clear-cut case for either keeping or eliminating students’ activities. Each parent will have to arrive at his or her own decision about them. Students’ activities can be worthwhile in bringing a degree of variety and interest to the school day. They certainly do provide motivation for students to attend school. One must always understand that activities should not interfere with the reason we have schools in the first place - for the academic program.
A philosopher once wrote, “The golden rule in life is moderation in all things”. That is perhaps the best advice we could receive about school activities.
Madame Chair, members of the Board, citizens of our community, I would ask you to read the appendix to my report. It gives you an opportunity to see some events that are taking place in our regional board, as well as information on some of the accomplishments of our students and staff.