School Board Meeting Minutes: June 2, 2008- Special
Category : School Board Meeting - Minutes
Published by Michelle MacLeod [Michelle MacLeod] on 06/17/2008

Central Office
Sydney, N.S.
June 2, 2008

SPECIAL BOARD MEETING


(1)
CALL TO ORDER:

A Special Board meeting of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School board was called to order today beginning at 5:02 p.m.


(2)
RECORD OF ATTENDANCE:

Present:

Darlene Morrison Sandra Margettie Stan MacKinnon
Gary Fraser Kevin Ruelland George MacDonald
Cathi Pierrard Myrtle Campbell Charlie Keagan
Joan Currie Fred Tilley Dr. Andrew Lynk
Lorne Green Darren Googoo

Absent: n/a

Also, Present:

N.E. Davis, Superintendent of Schools
B. MacIsaac, Director of Human Resource Services
A. White, Director of Operational Services
J. Astephen, Director of Programs & Student Services
G. Boudreau, Director of Financial Services
Honorable Minister Cecil Clarke, MLA for Cape Breton North
Mr. Keith Bain, MLA for Victoria-The Lakes
Mr. Frank Corbett, MLA for Cape Breton Centre
Mr. Gordon Gosse, MLA for Cape Breton Nova
Mr. Alfie MacLeod, MLA for Cape Breton West
Mr. Ron MacLean, Assistant to Honorable Minister Clarke
Mr. Graham Reynolds, Assistant to Mr. Alfie MacLeod
Mr. Jim Burton, Director of Regional Educational Services
Michelle MacLeod, Board Recording Secretary


(3)
MEETING WITH THE MLA′S REGARDING THE BUDGET FOR THE 2008-2009 SCHOOL YEAR:

Mr. Davis, Superintendent of Schools, began the meeting providing a brief history of the budget which the Board has sustained over the past years recognizing a shortfall of $2.5 million. Mr. Davis noted that the Department of Education has suggested that the Boards use their surplus however this is not an option for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. One of the issues which he recognized was the Hogg Report while noting we as a Board, did not wish to see this Report touched or changed in anyway. He noted as one of the cost pressures our Board is struggling with is the expenditure of heating costs and fuel. He also recognized the issue of School Board elections which in the past we had not had to include the costs incurred in our budget and we are presently asked to do so. Bus Assistants for early primary students was recognized as a cost pressure which our Board in the past did not have to consider.

Mr. George Boudreau, Chief Financial Officer assumed the floor and distributed to those in attendance a list of recognized and unrecognized cost pressures which our Board will be addressing during the 2008/2009 fiscal year. Some of the highlighted areas Mr. Davis recognized earlier in the evening such as heating and transportation fuel along with election expenses. Some areas which Mr. Boudreau presented were salary increases, the Vocational program at Memorial High and the issue of capital repairs and renovations. He also recognized that we are presently struggling with a shortfall from the 2007-2008 fiscal year. He noted that on May 20th the funding was announced and upon review a shortfall of $2.6 million was revealed. He also advised that senior staff has been reviewing the budget and struggling to achieve the cuts necessary to balance the 2008-2009 budget.

Mr. John Astephen, Director of Programs and Student Services recognized that the Board has been struggling through the years to achieve gaps in the areas of special services and have met the minimum requirements however it has been a challenge. Literacy gaps are being addressed although the funding levels have not increased over the years. We would like to do more to support students and teachers to address these gaps. He noted that the budget will impact programs and students directly.

Mrs. Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resources noted that the date funding was announced was past the date of laying staff off due to contractual commitments. She also recognized the class size cap at the Grade Primary to Grade Four level. In past years, we had FTE′s available for September to address needs at that time however this year we are unable to do this. Another issue of concern is the issue of our Teacher Assistant allotment. Some students are not recognized until the fall as requiring these services however with the budget as it is, we will be unable to assist these areas without further funding.

Mr. Ambrose White, Director of Operational Services, address the issue of funding for capital repairs and renovations. He noted over the past years we were able to obtain capital funds to maintain our buildings with such things as painting, renovations and repairs. As special needs students move through our schools, renovations are required at our sites of various levels and can sometimes require major funding. Renovations and repairs will have to be conducted on an as need basis due to funding limitations.

Commissioner Pierrard, Commissioner Lynk expressed their concerns with the present budget and both recognized that our students are our future and that their need for servicing may be in jeopardy. Both felt that education is the backbone to our economy and our health. Commissioner Currie spoke with regards to the literacy assessment which were conducted in the past and the supports which were put in place due to these results. She recognized that the assessments occur at three levels and those students who are not achieving need our assistance in order to achieve success.

Commissioner Tilley noted that $2.6 million would bring us to the status quo and would still not provide any additional funds to enhance any programs. He noted that the Boards that are members of the NSSBA agreed upon an additional $9 million to be shared amongst the Boards. This would not eliminate our shortfall however it would provide some assistance.

Commissioner Ruelland noted we are in a position of wanting to sustain a status quo budget. Fuel costs are out of control. We have done a fair job over the years and we are consistently striving to do better. He noted we are moving backwards rather than forward.

Mr. Gosse, Member of the Legislative Assembly, spoke concerning calls he has been receiving over the past number of weeks. He had hoped to have a response for parents regarding the decrease in the number of Learning Centres in his area. He felt that perception has it that the most vulnerable of our society are those that feel they are effected.

Honorable Minister Cecil Clarke appreciated the feedback which he had received this evening however he noted that energy costs impacts everyone and it is a global pressure. He recognized our declining enrollment and the issue of maintaining a level of service for those in our system. He also noted that older schools have a greater burden on our system and how important a capital budget would be to our Board. He noted we need modernized facilities to sustain operational services. He also noted that under utilized facilities need to be reviewed so that we operate more efficiently. He also recognized how important dialogue is and how the Board has to look at it′s future and identify it′s operational pressures. He also noted that no MLA wants to see staffing decreased where it causes problems to program delivery. He recognized the issue of declining enrollments the hard decisions that may have to be made in future years.

Mr. Keith Bain, Member of the Legislative Assembly appreciated all the concerns expressed this evening and noted that everyone in the room has the best interest of all our students. He questioned the funding received for Literacy and the cap on class sizes. Mr. Bain noted that from past experience he knows the Board will review all of it′s expenditures.

Mr. Frank Corbett, Member of the Legislative Assembly noted that his party did not support the budget and they were advised that consultation had taken place regarding this issue however he sees from this meeting this evening that omissions have occurred. It was his opinion that the Department of Education should at least recognize the expenditures for energy costs.

Mr. Alfie MacLeod, Member of the Legislative Assembly appreciated all the information which was received this evening and noted that this information will be reviewed further.

Superintendent Davis noted that school reviews are a practice our Board has in the past consistently embraced. He noted the delay in the construction of schools for Glace Bay and the Northside has become a cost pressure for Board struggling to maintain the existing sites. He recognized an additional six primary teachers due to the implementation of the early age entry at the primary level. He recognized the efforts and knowledge of the Board over the past number of years and it was his opinion that the Board has worked hard to successfully achieve it′s goals with the limited funds which were available.

Commissioner Keagan recognized the increase number of students over the years who are special needs and require extensive assistance in order to achieve. He also highlighted the Vocational program at Memorial High School and the success it has achieved over the years.

Commissioner Googoo expressed his concern and noted he didn′t wish to see the needs of our students today ignored and felt that they need to be addressed. He noted we need to plan for the future and we need to address any inefficiencies in order to provide a future for all our students.

Commissioner Ruelland agreed that we need a plan to move forward however a plan may not provide relief for the school year 2008-2009 due to restrictions under Department policy in order to achieve these goals.

Commissioner Morrison thanked the Members of the Legislative Assembly who attended this evening and patiently listened to our concerns expressed on behalf of the students in our Board.


(4) Adjournment of the meeting. . .

The meeting adjourned at 6:35 p.m.


__________________________ _______________________

DARLENE MORRISON GEORGE BOUDREAU

BOARD CHAIR BOARD SECRETARY