Superintendent's Report - April 27, 2009
Category : Superintendent Report
Published by Karen Delaney [Karen Delaney] on 04/29/2009

MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2009

Our regional school board braces for budget cuts.  Our elected board, in the Cape Breton-Victoria area, says our local budget is in for a hit and they are preparing for leaner times forced by the provincial economic downturn.  The news release from April 16th indicates a short fall for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board’s budget and has forced our board to look for ways to trim next year’s expenditures, which they have been working on for the past two weeks. Some of the considerations have included: reducing staff, limiting support for some student services, expenditure reductions, levelled at each item in the budget line, and professional development activities for staff.  A further desirable school program which will be affected, along with reduction, is a grade cap at grade four and beyond.  Textbooks have been reduced from the provincial budget which results in a 50% reduction in our regional textbook budget.

It is still unclear how the budget shortfall might affect total staff reduction.  We have been mandated to reduce our teaching staff, according to a 25-1 ratio in respect to our student decline.  At first glance, that indicated a 23.5 teacher reduction.  This, however, does not satisfy the accumulated teacher retention from other years that will have to be made up in the current budget.  The proposed expenditure for 2009-2010 has a shortfall of 3 Million dollars in respect to our revenues.  The school board is ever cognizant of the principle that they reduce expenditures that least affect student learning.  This will allow the Board to prioritize any alternative that is available to them.

Our board members must make difficult decisions to strike a balance between the desire for strong educational experiences and the need to control cost and avoid a deficit.  Of all the public agencies, school boards are unique in that their budgets must not have a deficit.

Our theme for this month is centered around every occurring activity that invites changes to any of our schools ....

Schools are undergoing constant change in an effort to meet the needs of students.  As parents and citizens, we must be aware of how change works in our schools.  Then we will be able to judge more accurately the changes proposed by citizens, schools, school boards, and by the governing bodies in our communities and nation.

Change is both threatening and exciting.  It’s threatening because it forces us to alter established procedures and ways of thinking.  Also, change doesn’t always mean a situation will improve.  However, change is exciting because it can bring improvement, and working for change can produce renewed enthusiasm for teaching and learning.

There is a basic rule about change which we must remember.  For change to happen, the people who want the change, the people who will be affected by the change, and the people who lead must work closely together.  They must try to understand one another’s viewpoints and needs.  Support for a change is seldom unanimous.  However, the more broad-based the involvement, the greater the likelihood of the change being successfully implemented.  Achieving broad-based involvement and support requires talking to all concerned about the benefits of the change.  All of us – parents, citizens, teachers, administrators, students and lawmakers – would do well to remember this reality.

There are some guidelines that can help us evaluate changes and make sure they are meaningful and worthwhile.  They are posed in a series of questions that each teacher and parent must answer when surveying the educational landscape for changes that will result in an improvement in education:

  • Would the proposed change have as one of its purposes enhancing the basic skills – reading, writing, mathematics, language, and rational thinking – that are needed by every student?
  • Would the proposed change contribute to each student’s self-esteem and dignity?  Would it enable the student to develop a closer, more caring relationship with the teacher and other students?
  • Does the proposed change correspond to what history, experience and research have shown to be valid about teaching and learning?
  • Does the proposed change concern technicalities and ‘material things’ or human beings?  Our first priority should always be people, not things.

There are other questions that we might also ask about proposed changes.  Nevertheless, if we keep only these four in mind, we will seldom go wrong in making choices concerning which new ideas to support.

We sometimes become frustrated because we know that our schools may not be as good as they could be.  But if we try to force change that does not meet the above criteria, chances are the change will prove worthless – if it is implemented at all.  As parents and citizens, it is our responsibility to voice our opinions about proposed changes.  Our biggest responsibility, however, is to ensure that every change is a change for the better.

Mr. Chairman this concludes my report for this month.  If there are any questions pertaining to this report, I would respectfully ask that they be directed to me through the Board Chair.