One must further understand the form and function of each of these initiatives. In order to clearly distinguish between the Strategic Plan and the Business Plan, it is helpful to contrast them. We are currently working on our new Strategic Plan that will enable us to bring our Board's focus on more relevant and current issues. This Strategic Plan is broader in scope and usually developed with broad consultation from all of our stakeholders in defining these critical issues and strategies for implementation.
The critical issues are static in nature and support objectives and actions required to bring the overall vision of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board to fruition. This is essential and valuable in identifying and laying out the broad agenda and focus of our Board.
In context, the Business Plan puts flesh on the broad form of a Strategic Plan. The Business Plan provides the mechanism for directing financial resources towards the critical issues outlined in our Strategic Plan. The Business Plan contains action goals that underpins our critical issues.
We are again at that junction where the achievements of our Business Plan for 2007-2008 are assessed and the new Business Plan for 2008-2009 becomes our new focus. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is in this very activity at this time of the year. As we approach the budget development process for 2008-2009, there are several issues that need to be kept in mind.
The budget will be developed pursuant to a set of assumptions with the most important assumption being the implementation of the School Board's regional Business Plan. At this point in time, we are anticipating a balanced budget for the current fiscal period - April 1, 2007 - March 31, 2008. It is comforting to realize that over the past four years, we were able to deliver a balanced budget and three of those years, we produced modest surpluses. Again, it is important to indicate that each of the surpluses were expended on special projects that were one time expenditures.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board serves the public schools of Cape Breton and Victoria County communities; a system which blends a rich tradition of excellence with great optimism for the future in a region that values children. We feel that we are recognized as one of the leading regional School Boards in Nova Scotia. We cannot rest on our reputation and that is why we believe we must pay continuous attention to our Strategic Plan and keep our commitment to the Business Plan in order to be true to that mission. Furthermore, I believe that it is worthwhile to revisit our core values as we begin another fiscal school year.
Simply put, we are committed to educational success for all .
Obviously, the relationship between students and teachers is one of the most important aspects of public schooling. We are committed to reasonable class sizes, recruiting and retaining exceptional teachers and administrators, providing a quality mentoring experience for new hires, and implementing a supervision and evaluation model that is supportive and accountable.
We believe that a two way communication with employees, parents, students and citizens is the only way to maintain the educational excellence that we strive for in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
We view the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board's diversity as a major strength and believe that it is critical that all of our students and staff are treated fairly and respectfully, regardless of background, race or experience.
Lastly and more importantly, core values and system initiatives are focussed on better meeting the needs of our students and community. Moreover, one of our major efforts will be to continue to build a climate of transparency between the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, our schools, our students and parents so that there is no mystery as to how we function, make decisions and interact as a school system.
During the last few years, there has been a swing back to a more rigorous approach to teaching basic skills. After more than a decade of focussing on relevance, increased electives, and activity-centered programs, many people are now taking another look at the essential parts of education. These essential parts include: reading, writing, mathematics, and skills & knowledge in history and science.
Why has there been a trend back to these so-called basics? One reason is better information and feedback from national surveys and tests that measure how well these skills are being taught. Beyond that, however, the fierce economic and technological competition in which our nation is engaged has convinced us that no matter how good our schools may be, they must become better.
Perhaps the energy crisis, national and international tensions and economic troubles have also contributed to the review of education. Even the interest in vocational education leads back to the need for basic skills. After all, reading, writing, mathematics, and science are starting points for all vocations.
None of this is to say that going to school needs to be like a sentence to hard labor, even though some of the national reports that have been issued in the last year or so tend to give that impression. We need to acknowledge, however, that teaching and learning are hard work and that, while they can be very enjoyable, school should not be all fun and games. School must have a serious side. We must let nothing interfere with young people's acquisition of the basic skills they must have to live successfully in our society.
The many aspects of our schools must be reviewed. It is not enough simply to say to teachers and students, "Work harder". If we are to have the kind of success in education that we seem to want, teachers will have to have certain necessities. They must have improved teaching materials, up-to-date textbooks, modern equipment, and pupil-teacher ratios low enough to permit individual attention to student learning problems. There must be both time and means for teachers to improve their skills. Also we will have to pay the price to attract greater numbers of highly competent and skilled individuals to the teaching profession.Let us not forget that we also need to make our schools pleasant places to be. Young people spend a significant part of their day in the school setting. We need clean and attractive buildings. More importantly, we need teachers who have the patience, kindness and knowledge to provide every child with the opportunity to develop to his or her full potential. We need parents who are interested in what their children learn. With these assets, the enthusiasm for learning that children demonstrate when first entering school can be maintained throughout the elementary and secondary school years. Instilling this love of learning is as important to student success as teaching the three R's.
Madame Chair, I direct your attention, and that of our Board, to the attached reports emanating from our schools and the information about students' successes and the achievements of our staff. I further ask that you review the 'Superintendent 's Memo' section that focuses on events and initiatives that have occurred since our last meeting.