On November 3rd , we witnessed fifteen citizens from the communities of Cape Breton and Victoria County who had been successful in filling elected positions and an appointed seat to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Each in his or her own way is that special person dedicated, concerned and unafraid of hard work. The time has come; tonight is the beginning of a four year mandate. You will be asked to perform your competency in that capacity. As we go forward, let us be thankful for these honest and exemplary citizens who are willing to give of themselves for the betterment of our children. To paraphrase the Minister of Education, the Honourable Karen Casey, we must not lose sight of the fact that the position of elected and appointed school boards is one of public service and volunteerism. The Minister further acknowledged the value in relation to the work and dedication of school board members who devote time and energy to ensuring that our children receive the highest quality education possible.
This past month we again paid honour to our veterans. The original purpose of Remembrance Day was to honour those soldiers killed in World War 1. Subsequently, it came to honour all those who gave their lives in wars over the years.
It was altogether fitting that we paused in our labour on that special day to remember, each of us in his or her own way, those who had given the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country. We directed our thoughts to those who died in the service of our nation. Many of the services in our schools expanded upon that thought. They included those veterans who returned from active duty. While giving of one′s life is the 'last full measure of devotion', those who came home from the wars also deserved our grateful thanks and salute of our fellow countrymen.
A special thank you to all of our schools; our veterans who took time to be present at our school services; and to the staff and children who made the Remembrance Day a successful venture. The schools of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board know how to preserve a memory and made the Remembrance Day services a success.
Last month at our October meeting, it was a pleasure for me to encapsulate the activities of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board over the past eight years. It was a type of celebration that one marks after having assessed where we were and how we have progressed.
Now we look to the future, and it is with this in mind that I would bring your attention to a number of pressing and significant items that this Board has to contend with within the next few months.
Vince Lombardi, the most honoured football coach, said that he wanted every player on his team to be the best that he was capable of becoming. As citizens of Cape Breton and Victoria County, perhaps we can agree that we want exactly that for our children.
Within the next few months, we will be working on our new budget. It is our intention to ensure that all stakeholders will have opportunity to input into that process. The 'Hogg Formula' report will again be a focus of concern. Again, we support the 'Hogg Formula' but we are aware that other regional boards may be asking for a review of the existing process. We certainly would be willing to support a refresh of existing rates but would definitely object to any change in the student enrolment reduction consideration that underpins the guarantee that all students in Nova Scotia have the right to a quality education. It is the commitment of this Board and its staff that they are dedicated to taking a leadership role that will ensure our children receive the best education that we can advocate. It is no longer a choice between what we can afford and what we cannot afford; it is that we will demand the best for our students.
An 'Orientation Seminar' for new and returning board members is quickly approaching. The provincial event will be held at the Holiday Inn in Halifax from November 26th - 28th . It is our intention to prepare our new board members with the appropriate background materials that are specific to our regional board. The package will contain the following items: Budget; Strategic Plan; Business Plan; Learning For Life 1; Learning For Life 11; Draft of Learning For Life 111; Directories; Organizational Chart of Administrative Structure; Education Act; Regulations to the Act and Board Policies.
After this orientation session, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will set a date for a local orientation session during the second week of December 2008.
The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board′s 'Strategic Plan' was adopted by the Board in September 1997. All strategic plans are developed to serve their intended purpose as living documents that require adjustment and renewal to reflect the changing external circumstances and internal priorities. The 'Strategic Plan' was revised in October 2002 in order to assess the achievement progress of the seven critical issues identified by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. At this point in time, we have under the mandate of the Board, started a creation of a new 'Strategic Plan'. We have had sessions with our staff, an orientation with our Board and some focus groups within our communities. The activities are ongoing and it is expected that a new 'Strategic Plan' will be launched by this Board in the early spring of 2009.
The 'Business Plan' has replaced the regional board′s yearly annual reports. The 'Business Plan' is detailed expected outcomes for a regional board that are limited to activities supported by our budget estimate. We are in the process of assessing the achievement success or shortcomings of the ‘Business Plan’ for 2008-2009. At the same time, we are gathering our data for the new 'Business Plan' that is required for our budget year, 2009-2010.
Both of our sites for new school construction are alive and well. The new North Sydney Elementary School is in its site construction phase while Glace Bay Jr. High School has just finished a sod- turning ceremony and will start a site preparation as soon as possible.
The second part of my report deals with a theme dedicated to the parents, guardians and students. Tonight I would direct your attention to the parent′s responsibility and the assistance you can expect from the elected board members and staff of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
As parents, the most important responsibility we have is helping our children grow into responsible adults who will be able to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Some children manage to grow into adulthood without causing their parents serious concern. But an easy transition into adulthood is usually an exception. Most of us experience many anxious days as our children grow and mature.
Sometimes our children's problems have been overwhelming to us. After all, experience is usually the only training we receive for parenthood. And, it often seems that we never experienced problems like the ones our children are having - or we forget the ones we had. Thus, it′s natural for us to feel alone and helpless when confronted with their problems.
As parents, we need to realize, however, that we are not alone in our efforts to help our children grow. There are others who can help us with the problems our children may have. In fact, considerable help is available from the school. Teachers and administrators can help. Indeed, helping is the essence of the educator′s career.
Teachers and administrators in your schools have more experience and training in working with young people than nearly anyone else in the community. As adults as well as educators, many have gained valuable insight into certain problems because they deal with them on a daily basis. This insight can be shared with other parents. Although every child is different, and past experience is not always an infallible guide about how to deal with an existing situation, the experience educators have in nurturing and working with children should not be ignored.
Schools also have counsellors and other specialists who can help us gain insight into our children′s problems. And, if school specialists cannot help directly with counselling and testing, they can usually make referrals to other organizations in the community where additional assistance can be obtained.
Other agencies and institutions in the community should not be overlooked. Religious services, mental health centers, and other community agencies should all be considered when children need help. We can receive assistance from more places than we realize.
The list is long and nearly every school official can help in suggesting possibilities.
Some children manage to go through their ‘growing up’ years without experiencing many difficulties. They have no serious learning problems and few discipline problems. But when problems and difficulties do arise, we, as parents, should seek the help that we need. And, we should seek that help with trust and confidence that others will readily share their knowledge and experience with us. We are not alone in helping our children grow into responsible adults - as long as we are willing to ask for help when it is needed.
Mr. Chairman, I ask the members of the Board to read the attachments to my report that contains the celebrations of our staff and students within the school sites of our Board.