Superintendent's Report - January 26, 2009
Category : Superintendent Report
Published by Karen Delaney [Karen Delaney] on 01/27/2009

Sharing the concerns about the possibility of inadequate funding for public education in 2009-2010 begins by including the many voices that represents education in this province.  The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board spent some time discussing the many voices of education.

The Government of Nova Scotia is represented by the voices of all the people in the communities of Nova Scotia.  The Department of Education represents the voices of the Government of Nova Scotia.  The regional boards represent the voices of the communities of the municipalities of Cape Breton and Victoria County.  When we speak for these communities, we are making a statement that we value their input.  We listen to them and they will see that we have listened.  As a result of that, their ideas, expectations and wishes for their children are entrenched in our ‘Business Plan’ and ‘Strategic Plan’ that directs the activities of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

The M.L.A.’s in our constituency will be asked to lend their voices to our requests indicating that a quality of education for our children is a priority for us.  Among the many voices supporting our requests for adequate funding is the Nova Scotia Federation of Home & School which is clearly the voice of parents & guardians across Nova Scotia.

Lastly, the independent voice of education is represented by the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators.  This organization is comprised of Superintendents and Directors of Education from the eight regional boards.

The struggling regional boards are relying on this partnership to clearly state the case for education and to ensure the Government of Nova Scotia understands the importance of investing in public education.

Our intention is to get this message across to the Department of Education, parents and students in the municipalities of Cape Breton and Victoria County and the communities of Nova Scotia.

I will restate our position that the normal cost increases should be covered every year.  In addition, there has to be a significant increase in annual allocation of monies to address the huge backlog of deferred maintenance projects.

All boards need to have appropriate levels of specialized staff to meet the diverse needs of our most challenged students.  The Nova Scotia Federation of Home & School are quoted as saying: “students need the support of parents, teachers, administrators and school boards to ensure that they have the staff and tools to be successful.”

Lastly, the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union is quoted by their President: “as spokesperson for the ten thousand teachers in the Nova Scotia public education system, I have to say that underfunding of our school system has added greatly to the stress of those working in our classrooms.  We do believe that teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”  It is the intention of this Board to keep our stakeholders up-to-date on our progress and to bring these concerns to the Government of Nova Scotia.

I would like to turn my attention to our theme for this month that is directed to our parents, guardians and students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board communities.  The three R’s are still important in our vision for students’ achievement in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

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 focusing 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, as well as skills and 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 labour, 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.  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. 

Mr. Chairman, I would direct your attention and that of the board members and staff to the additions to my report.  These items represent the awards, the achievements and the successes of our students and staff within the boundaries of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.