Superintendent's Report - September, 2009
Category : Superintendent Report
Published by Karen Delaney [Karen Delaney] on 09/29/2009

SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT
SEPTEMBER 2009



Welcome to the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year.  The control and management of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is enshrined in the capacity of the elected School Board of Cape Breton-Victoria.  The office of the Superintendent is responsible for overseeing the successful operation of the region’s fifty-two (52) schools, inclusive of all school-sponsored activities and student experiences.

At this point in time, we are faced with new and greater challenges more so than we have dealt with over the past two years.  We continue to respond to unfunded mandates from the Department of Education all the while dealing with local budget cutbacks.

The current economic climate will force us to make some difficult decisions, ones that we hoped that we wouldn’t have to make.  It will set back the gains we have made over the past four years, but we will face them head on and do our best to make sure that we don’t lose ground as it relates to providing the quality education that communities and families have come to expect from our regional school board.

It has been said that adversity is a terrible thing to waste.  We don’t intend to let the challenges we face detract us from the task at hand.  The Board would like to thank the educators and the support staff who give their all every day.

All regional administrators report to the Superintendent of Schools.   Through these individuals, regional employees are held accountable for the welfare of the students and their academic and extra-curricular success.  School programs and student activities, as well as finances, special services, instruction, technology and professional development are coordinated through the office of the Superintendent via the Directors of Human Resources, Finance, Programs & Student Services and Operations.

Individuals with questions regarding any aspect of the regional operations are encouraged to call, write or email the office of the Superintendent.  Inquiries will be directed to the appropriate divisional Director and a response will be forthcoming.  The Superintendent of Schools is pleased to communicate directly with current or past users of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional schools.  Above average attention to the communities’ children and ultimately all residents constitute the central value of the Cape Breton-Victoria schools.

Those that argue that “money doesn’t count” also dispute recent research showing a powerful, direct relationship between student achievement and class size (Student Achievement Ratio, STAR – research – Tennessee).  The last number of years, we have been losing six hundred (600) students a year from our student population.  Again, the last three years we have had trouble balancing our budget because of insufficient funding and the decline in student enrolment.  The direct results of budget reduction causes larger class sizes, alternative options for grade cap considerations, creation of combined class configurations, reduced program support to schools, reduced instructional resources like textbooks, fewer opportunities for mentoring, innovative initiatives and professional development, and less money for the current year’s capital funding.

We have been forced to reduce our teaching force by forty-two (42) teachers this year which affects our ability to keep class sizes under control and grade configuration at a comfortable level.  The spin off for job opportunities has been felt by our substitutes who have been waiting for opportunities for permanent positions.

We have been fortunate that forty-two (42) of our schools have been able to contend with the reduced budget consequences.  We have been dealing with ten (l0) schools that have further concerns about their staffing.  The elected School Board has met on three occasions over the last three months on this very matter.  One has to understand that the elected Board is under constraint from the Department of Education regulations not to incur a budget deficit.  It has been left with Central Office and school administration to make due with what they have.  The Board was able to provide extra monies for all schools to offset the introduction of large class sizes, combined classes and a reduction in learning resources.

One has to look again to the future.  We have been meeting with the Nova Scotia School Boards Association and have made a commitment to work through the partnership organizations of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators, Nova Scotia Federation of Home & School Associations & School Advisory Councils, to prepare for a meeting with the Department of Education to address our needs and to have the Department of Education guarantee a solution to our funding for the 2010-2011 year.

We will continue to make every effort to provide an educational experience designed to meet the educational needs of all our students.  This will include alternatives to instructional delivery which will make use of limited resources in the most effective and efficient manner.

Again, I take this opportunity to address my comments to our parents, guardians, and the general public.  My commitment to literacy has enabled us to form a partnership between the School Board and the Cape Breton Post that will enrich our opportunity to become more literate and more comfortable with the written word.

Programs and funding continue to be targeted by our programs division within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board in order to improve students’ reading and writing skills.  More than 600,000 books have been purchased for elementary students in the Province of Nova Scotia.  The Active Reader’s program, involving more books for students and support for teachers, has been introduced in Grade 7.  Resources will continue to be introduced in higher grades over the next three years.  Our programs people are focused on this provincial priority and they have been engaged in a partnership with the local Cape Breton post to further that initiative.  I want to share with you my observations and convictions about the use of the daily newspaper in the classroom of our schools.  The use of the daily newspaper in the classroom will contribute to three basic outcomes: literacy enhancement, civic instruction and the capability of bringing the real-world reading materials into the lives of our students.  Daily newspapers report on the social, political, emotional, economic and personal news of human beings and the institutions they create to do their work.  It provides an array of words, sentences, paragraphs, pictures, graphs, maps, charts and cartoons to report what we do and how we do it.

Given this variety, the daily newspaper is laid before a teacher’s classroom door each day as a thirty to forty page textbook - a textbook where the content changes each and every day.  It is an adult medium that can be used by creative teachers at almost any grade level and for most subjects.  A co-operative venture between the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional school system and the local newspaper certainly helps to create a literate population - a population that wants to read to find out what is going on in their community, province, nation and the world.  It is the responsibility of all of us - the newspaper people, parents and teachers - to help our youth change from passive viewers to more active readers, from ignorant citizens to knowledgeable citizens.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is committed to ensuring that our future citizens learn how to read intelligently and critically not only for their own pleasures but also to effectively monitor both the press and our governing institutes.

These initiatives have directed our attention to a number of questions that will help us to make future decisions in respect to a more permanent partnership between the school system and the local newspaper.  Some of the following questions will certainly be helpful to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board:

I.            Has newspaper use in the classroom influenced students’ reading attitudes and has it improved their reading skills?

II.          Has newspaper use influenced students’ interest in subject matter and has it improved the students’ knowledge of current events?

III.       Has newspaper use improved reading achievement particularly in vocabulary development and comprehension?

IV.        Has newspaper use in the classroom had a transfer effect; that is when students use it at school, will they tend to read newspapers as adults?

I feel strongly that the newspaper in the classroom, under the supervision of our teachers, will help our students to be able to distinguish fact from opinion, to know how to read critically and to understand the role of a free press in a democratic society.

Mr. Chairman, this completes my monthly report, and I would entertain any questions that you may have from yourself or your board members.