Superintendent's Report - April 24, 2006
Category : Superintendent Report
Published by Karen Delaney [Karen Delaney] on 04/25/2006

The Minister of Education announced on March 29th the formation of a two member team to review the sections of the Education Act and Regulations which set out the process and procedures to be followed in considering schools for possible permanent closure.

This team will conduct public hearings and receive written comments from school board members, administrators and members of the public throughout the province.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, along with the other seven regional boards, were asked to co-operate in respect to the Minister=s wishes. Due to the schedule of public meetings associated with the school process already underway, the Department of Education asked that the Board put into abeyance the school review process. Our immediate response was one of disappointment, not only on behalf of the Board and its staff, but because of the enormous work that was done by the communities who had spent over five months in preparation of their reports and subsequent presentations.

The results of the five communities associated with the review of their schools follows:

S two schools ( Marion Bridge & Gowrie) had presented their reports early and were left open for the ensuing year;

S two others (Middle River & East Bay), who were scheduled to report, were placed in abeyance until the results of the provincial review had tabled its reports;

S one site (Ball=s Creek Elementary) was given the opportunity to continue the process, and the Board made the final determination to close the school and integrate the Ball=s Creek students with the children at Coxheath Elementary School.

Further to these happenings, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board passed a motion to extend the moratorium on school review for the next two years.

The Department of Education is in the process of determining the cost pressure associated with the regional boards in anticipation of the forthcoming budget process. There is not a clear statement in respect to the actual budget release, but it is our responsibility to begin the process of building the regional framework of our 2006-2007 budget.

One of the recommendations contained in the anticipated >Hogg Report= was a provision for funding in the amount of $150,000.00 to school boards to assist with the retention of small schools whose enrolment is under one hundred students. This recommendation was not fully implemented by the Department of Education in the present budget year, 2005 - 2006.

In 2002, the Minister of Education launched a three year plan - >Learning for Life=, in response to the concerns and priorities of stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, school staff, school boards and many members of the public.

>Learning for Life= set in motion a different direction for education in Nova Scotia. It established a solid foundation for students to succeed throughout their lives with improved and focussed support in the early years in Language Arts and Mathematics and to allow for opportunities for all students to reach their full potential. Its actions, themes and initiatives are currently well under way. In 2003, the government=s >Blueprint for Building a Better Nova Scotia= set out a number of commitments to extend and expand upon the >Learning for Life=.

In 2005, a new plan >Learning for Life 11' (Brighter Futures Together) was developed. The goal of this phase was to allow students to leave school with the best preparation possible for their future so they will be able to participate in Nova Scotia=s prosperity and well being throughout their lives.

The initiatives being developed and implemented fall within the following six key themes:

1. Raising the Bar - Setting:

Higher standards for learning and teaching; helping all students with their greatest potential and recognizing achievements in and out of school;

2. Closing the Gap:

Helping every student succeed, recognizing that some students need additional or other types of support;

3. Developing Healthy & Active Learners;

4. Time to Teach, To Learn;

5. Measuring & Reporting on Success; and,

6. Strengthening Partnerships

These are the initiatives that have priority for the Department of Education, and they will be supported by targeted funding to ensure their successful implementation. Along with these commitments, the Department of Education will continue to support smaller class sizes and special services and increase support for diversity and students in the later grades. The support we received in 2005-2006 has enabled us to reach that first phase successfully. It is our hope that phase two of >Learning For Life 11' (Brighter Futures Together) will receive similar targeted funding for the ensuing year, 2006-2007.

Again, I continue the theme of focusing on the outcomes for students. The function of teachers in our schools is to teach boys and girls the basic skills they need to live worthwhile and productive lives. Unfortunately for teachers and administrators, the task is not always an easy one. The press, radio and television have a good deal to do with creating the problem. A great amount of coverage is given to the Anew@ and Aunusual@ in education. The solid basic things we know about how boys and girls learn do not make news. As a consequence, teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members spend a great deal of time and energy explaining to many people why a certain method or technique is not used in the local school system.

Indeed, it often seems that educators have to spend a disproportionate amount of their time explaining why they are not following procedures widely heralded by the national press. There is a great deal of pressure put on teachers to adopt these highly touted practices and procedures. They often find it easier to join the bandwagon, even though they know these new methods will do little to enhance education in the community. At best, these highly advertised solutions to the problems of our schools are often little more than quackery. Simply, an old idea or practice is dusted off, given some new terminology and a great deal of publicity. Many times, the advocates may use the Anew@ idea as a vehicle to personal profit or fame.

Many new programs are developed for a special group of students. They do not, nor were they made to, meet the needs of all students. Spend time evaluating Anew@ programs before introducing them to your school region. Remember, a new program that is valid for other school regions may or may not be effective in our school region.

Parents would do well to be wary of these highly touted practices. Before becoming advocates, parents ought to discuss such practices with teachers and administrators in the local community. After all, the educators in your schools are trained to know the basic facts about teaching and how children learn. They want to work with parents and community members to provide young people with the best education possible. Chances are they are aware of these new ideas. Also, they know not to argue for or against the validity of these ideas and methods made public through the media. Instead, educators suggest that these practices be carefully questioned before they are advocated for adoption by local school systems.

Despite a good bit of propaganda to the contrary, parents can be pretty sure that when a new idea is advanced that will benefit children and enable learning to take place more efficiently, the teachers will be the first to know about it and advocate its adoption for use in the local schools.

Madame Chair, I ask that you and the Board peruse the attached addendum to my report which highlights students= awards, school recognition and staff celebrations.