Superintendent's Report - September 29, 2008
Category : Superintendent Report
Published by Karen Delaney [Karen Delaney] on 10/02/2008

As you are well aware, we opened our doors on September 4th to more than 16,000 students. Congratulations to the many staff who were responsible for yet another successful new school year opening.

Again, training for all staff continues to be an ongoing focus of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. In fact, the end of August found the site principals and central office busy preparing the educational environment for a new school start. The orientation day activities began on September 2nd for all schools. Schools were busy in a myriad of tasks that prepared the principals and their staff to receive the students for another year. We are looking forward to a very productive and successful year that will provide many opportunities for our students to continue to learn and grow.

It is much easier to be cynical about education, to be scornful of schools or to complain about what is wrong. To some people, it is much harder to become part of a positive force that understands education, is supportive of schools and is willing to participate in doing what is right.

The time is fast approaching for voters to decide who will shape and direct local education for the next four years. School board elections take place October 18th, 2008, and it is now that people should take the time to ensure that the most dedicated will be given that most important duty.

The local school board is that important link between the public and the Department of Education. Board members serve their communities in several important ways:

  • priority number one is - the focus on students;
  • the communities view of what students should know and be able to do has to be considered;
  • school boards have to be accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools;
  • school boards are the education watchdog for their communities;
  • school boards must ensure that students get the best education for the tax dollar spent; and,
  • lastly, it is important to understand that public schools are only as good as the public that supports them.

Again, it will be the board′s intention to keep the public of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board more aware of the crisis and consequences which face our communities. We are a regional board that is coping with drastic student decline. We have made the point clearly that the strategies of affluence experienced by other boards offer us little guidance. Some boards are able to project surpluses while we struggle to balance our budget. We are a board with both declining enrolments combined with inadequate funding.

Since the school board realizes it can′t do everything to immediately solve problems confronting the educational concerns of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, it does not follow that it can do nothing.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board cannot predict the future with complete accuracy but intelligent estimates of what may happen enables us, at this point, to adhere to a plan so that rationale decision making can replace crisis management of our resources. We must ensure that the ′Hogg Formula′ for funding education will not be tampered with. We cannot achieve this alone.

It is our hope that we will not go this route alone. We will be asking that the other stakeholders would accompany us along the way. I make special reference to the following: Department of Education, Nova Scotia Teachers′ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Home & School Federation, Advisory Councils, M.L.A.′s and the communities of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

Over the past year, many of you - parents and guardians, have suggested that we keep part of the Superintendent′s Report on topics related to the parents, guardians and the students for whom we serve. It is most fitting that we should start with the topic - ′Communicating With Schools′........

When you believe your child has been treated unfairly at school, you can choose from two courses of action. You can share your concern and anger with your friends and neighbours and tell them about the ‘stupid’ teacher or administrator, or you can seek some resolution of the problem by contacting the teacher or administrator.

Unfortunately, experience has shown that many parents avoid contacting the school. Why don′t we contact the teacher to learn the details of the situation and work out the problem? Many parents say, ‘I will not contact school, because if I do the teacher will take it out on my child.’ This could happen, and perhaps it has happened in some instances. But that is not the way the vast majority of teachers behave.

Make no mistake, parents should contact the school when they have a concern about their child′s education or safety. If contact is avoided, the problem is unlikely to be resolved. Worse, both the parents and the child may develop negative attitudes about teachers and schools. Negative attitudes and resentment are never conducive to good school experiences, much less school success.

When you have a question or a concern about your child′s education, you have an obligation to your child and yourself to contact the school. Your first contact should be with your child′s teacher so that you can discuss the problem and hear the teacher′s explanation. Your questions and comments should be made in a calm and reasonable manner. If your concern is legitimate, a calm and reasonable demeanor will most likely secure co-operation, help, and a resolution to the problem. If your concern is not warranted, the teacher will feel good about both you and your child after you leave the conference; and your behaviour will set the stage for better communication in the future.

If the conference with the teacher does not result in a resolution to the problem to your satisfaction, the next step is to contact the principal of the school. If you still feel that the problem is not resolved, contact central office personnel or even the board of education. We live in a democratic society, and a parent always has the right to appeal to a higher level of authority in working out a problem.

Remember that teachers, principals and superintendents are not always right in dealing with students′ problems even though we try very hard to do what is educationally sound for the child. But also remember that parents are not always right either. They sometimes jump to the wrong conclusions and make mistakes when considering their child′s education. A firm truth overrides both these realities. The teachers and the parents have an obligation to do what is best for the child. Fortunately, teachers and parents understand this obligation. However, unless parents and teachers fulfill the responsibility by talking and sharing their concerns, the child is the one who will lose.

When you are concerned about your child′s experiences at school, exercise the one best option: contact teachers and school officials so that you can discuss and resolve the problem. Do so with the idea that both you and the teacher are committed to the same goal: ′to help the child′.

Madame Chair, as well as all board members, I direct your attention to the attached materials that highlight the successes of our schools and to celebrate the achievements of our children and staff within the academic environment as well as the related activities in their lives.