School Board Meeting Minutes: March 2, 2009 - Special
Category : School Board Meeting - Minutes
Published by Michelle MacLeod [Michelle MacLeod] on 04/08/2009

Malcolm Munroe Jr. High
Sydney, N.S.
March 2, 2009


(1)     CALL TO ORDER:

A Special Board meeting of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board was called to order today beginning at 5:05 p.m.


Present: Lorne Green, ChairDarren GoogooJackie Organ
 Joan CurrieCharlie KeaganBarb Mercer
 Steve ParsonsSandra MargettieDarryl Flynn
 Fred TilleyCathi PierrardDarren MacNeil
Absent: Gary Fraser (sent regrets)Darlene MorrisonKevin Ruelland
Also Present: N.E. Davis, Superintendent of Schools
 B. MacIsaac, Director of Human Resource Services

J. Astephen, Director of Programs & Student Services


A. White, Director of Operational Services


G. Boudreau, Director of Financial Services


Keith Bain, Member of the Legislative Assembly

 Cecil Clarke, Member of the Legislative Assembly
 Frank Corbett, Member of the Legislative Assembly
 Gordie Gosse, Member of the Legislative Assembly
 Manning MacDonald, Member of the Legislative Assembly
 Alfie MacLeod, Member of the Legislative Assembly
 J. Burton, Director of Regional Educational Services
 Michelle MacLeod, Board Recording Secretary


It was noted that Mr. David Wilson, Member of the Legislative Assembly sent his regrets.

Superintendent Davis began with an overview of the challenges which the Board is expecting in the forthcoming budget along with the struggles we have experienced in the past.  He noted that the Department has made references to cuts in programs and staff but no definite decision has been made.  He advised that we will be looking for support from all of the Members of the Legislative Assembly in determining an appropriate level of funding to achieve a status quo budget.

Mr. George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services provided a brief power-point which everyone was given a hard copy.  He reviewed the impact, that negotiated and yet to be negotiated contract settlement could have on Education funding for 2009/2010.  He further stated that if Education funding was not sufficient to cover negotiated salary settlements along with funding deficiencies for 2008/2009, that significant cuts would have to be made.

Mrs. Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resource Services  distributed a position paper which was developed by ANSEA (Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators).  She noted that the whole paper is based on the inadequacy of educational funding.  Also distributed were copies of the power-point presentation which was given by Mr. Ken Meech and Mr. Ron Marks.  She noted that it is becoming more difficult to obtain the mandated cuts in the classroom especially in rural areas of our Board.  We are one of the biggest employers on the island which is important to the local economy.

Mr. Ambrose White, Director of Operational Services noted that with the cuts made to the budget last year, his budget sustained a major cut.  He noted the funds which were left were not enough to do all the projects which needed to be done.  He credited his staff for their assistance in keeping our building in the shape they are presently in.  He advised that a list has been forwarded to the Department of Education listing major projects and alterations which our Board would like to achieve.  He spoke with regards to Memorial High School and enhancements to the vocational programme.  He would like to continue with the renovations at other schools on the Northside such as Thompson and Sydney Mines Junior High.  He advised that a continual review of bus runs is happening and the hopes of a new garage for our busses would enhance the services which we provide. 

Superintendent Davis noted that we are in the process of reviewing all our facilities and this process is guided by ten years of planning.  This will be brought back to the Board.  Staff is the largest part of our budget and we have been hitting classroom staff for many years now. 

Mr. John Astephen, Director of Programs and Student Services noted that Education is all about students and student achievement.  We were forced with  a 2.6 million dollar shortfall last year.  This affects students directly.  Literacy improvement funding suffered a major impact this year.  We are apprehensive of the forthcoming budget.  He spoke of the importance of the implementation of a School Information System.  He noted the importance of the O2 program in our schools and Nova Scotia Community College are now beginning to see the positive impact of this program due to the increase in the number of students who are applying to the community college.  He noted that most of these students were at risk and would not be able to complete school without this implementation. 

Superintendent Davis there may be inadequate funding and it is our hope that the Members of the Legislative Assembly will bring their voice forward in supporting our Board.  We have acknowledged the support received over the years.  He recognized the various partners who support an increase in funding ie. ANSEA, NSSBA, Home & School Federation of Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. 

Commissioner Flynn questioned the number of students requiring special needs.  Our enrollment has declined over the years however the number of students who are requiring special needs is increasing and the cost of this increase is significant.

Commissioner Pierrard was insulted that we have to beg and plead for any increase in funding to provide a proper education to our students.  She noted that we are not a business or corporation and our students are our best investment.

Commissioner Keagan spoke about the cost of $250,000 which was spent to enhance a classroom setting for a student at Memorial High School. He recognized the services which have been impacted by increases for special needs students.  He felt the Vocational program is another area which provides students with a choice to succeed in their educational careers. 

Commissioner Googoo recognized that he has been on the Board for one year but has been working together with the Board over the past twelve years.  He noted that our students are an investment and every year it becomes more difficult.  The Mi’Kmaq community are successful in having two student support workers and a social worker which work with this Board.  The Mi’Kmaq community presently sustain a 90% graduation rate which is something to be proud of across this province.  He requested that the MLA’s walk with us through this process. 

Commissioner Currie recognized the wonderful initiatives which have been brought forward through the Department of Education over the years.  One initiative she wished to see sustained or enhanced is the Literacy Assessments and supports which are in place.  Math is another area which has been enhanced and one which needs to be sustained.

Commissioner Parsons noted that we are aware that some tough decisions will have to be made.  He noted we are not only responsible for the education of our students but also the budget for our Board.  It would be his hope that when discussions are occurring with regards to the budget that education is a top priority.

Commissioner Mercer recognized the services provided through Reading Recovery.  It provides a 75% success rate in assisting the students in their reading skills.  She also recognized the services which are provided by Guidance Counsellors at the elementary level and various services provided through Student Services.  Assessment lists are lengthy now and any cut in service would be detrimental to any program.

Commissioner Tilley advised that we have already trimmed as far as we can.  Were not asking to grow were asking to at least sustain what we already have. 

Commissioner Green recognized the members of the present government and the impact they can make in achieving success for all students in our Board. 

Mr. Alfie MacLeod noted that the government will be facing a lot of challenges and he noted that everyone will work together and keep in mind the students of the Cape Breton-Victoria. 

Mr. Frank Corbett said that his son and daughter in law are both teaching in this Board so he not only hears the concerns which are expressed around the table but he hears it at home.  He noted that no one wishes to take from the students.  However; we all need to work within the funding envelope were given. 

Mr. MacDonald noted that the budget always seems to be late and he has concerns about how funding is provided for Education across this province.  He questioned if any school closures were planned or if class sizes were reviewed for the forthcoming school year.  He advised that any cut in special services would be detrimental to the education of those students. 

Mr. Clarke spoke with regards to the sustainability of positions and the impact of infrastructure.  He recognized that all parties have already stated that they wish to have a balanced budget so that is what the present government is now working with.  He noted that there are structural issues in all levels and all departments of this province.  We need to achieve a balanced budget and hopefully one which is passed.  The budget process is ongoing and the present government is enquiring and asking questions of our Board while preliminary discussions are taking place. 

Mr. Gordie Gosse congratulated Commissioner Green for being the first African Nova Scotian Board Chair to be elected.  He noted that the first and most important objective which they will all keep in mind is the students which are served by all Boards.  He questioned the dates of receiving profile sheets from the Department Of Education.  Mr. Boudreau noted that Deputy Minister Cochrane made a commitment to provide the profile sheets within the first two weeks of April due to contractual commitments and deadlines which may need to be met. 

Mr. Keith Bain noted that in his previous capacity he knows the challenges which are facing our school system.  The number of special needs students has increased and our building are still in need of enhancements or repairs.  He requested the amount required to complete the renovations and install the equipment which is on site at Memorial High School.  Mr. White advised that he would forward this amount to Mr. Bain.  He also noted that other members of caucus are not all in agreement with the Hogg Report but he will do what he can to support our Board. 

Mr. Clarke recognized the operational framework and the capacity issues which presently exist in our Board.  He noted that some tough decisions may have to be made as our enrollment declines.  He advised that we have to look at what works.  He advised that in the next several weeks we will be requested to provide beneficial information which will assist in providing services to our Board.

Superintendent Davis concluded discussions by advising that he wanted the Members of the Legislative Assembly to work together on our behalf. 

Mr. MacDonald recognized that he does not receive any phone calls from anyone complaining about how our Board is running or how it is operating and he felt that this was a testimony to our Board that we should be proud of.

(4)     Adjournment of the meeting. . .

the meeting adjourned at 7:10 p.m.

_________________________                        ______________________

            LORNE GREEN                                    GEORGE BOUDREAU

            BOARD CHAIR                                      BOARD SECRETARY