School Board Meeting Minutes: March 22, 2010 - Special
Category : School Board Meeting - Minutes
Published by Michelle MacLeod [Michelle MacLeod] on 03/31/2010

Central Office
Sydney, N.S.
March 22, 2010



A meeting of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board was called to order today beginning at 7:00 p.m.


Present: Lorne Green,Chair Jackie Organ Sandra Margettie
Charlie Keagan Barb Mercer Fred Tilley
Cathi Pierrard Joan Currie Steve Parsons
Darlene Morrison Darrell Flynn
Absent: Darren GoogooDarren MacNeil (sent regrets)
Kevin Ruelland (sent regrets)Gary Fraser (sent regrets)
Also Present: N.E. Davis, Superintendent
George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services
Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resource Services
John Astephen, Director of Programs and Student Services
Ambrose White, Director of Operational Services
Keith Bain, Member of the Legislative Assembly-Victoria the Lakes
Cecil Clarke, Member of the Legislative Assembly-Cape Breton North
Frank Corbett, Member of the Legislative Assembly-Cape Breton Centre
Gordon Gosse, Member of the Legislative Assembly-Cape Breton Nova
Alfie MacLeod, Member of the Legislative Assembly-Cape Breton West
Jim Burton, Director of Regional Educational Services
Michelle MacLeod, Board Recording Secretary


The meeting began with introductions around the table. Board Chair Lorne Green called upon the Superintendent Dr. Davis to make a few comments. The highlight of his comments was the forthcoming budget and the challenge we will face on reaching a balanced budget. He advised that our Board is unique amongst all the regional boards in the province. Our student decline is the highest in the Province of Nova Scotia; we experience the highest rate of depression from economic distress from all other areas. We took on a transition plan for five years while other Boards were experiencing surplus. We struggle over the years to sustain a balanced budget.

Distributed to all those in attendance was a memorandum which was forwarded to Guy LeBlanc, ANSEA Executive Director as issues the Board has with prior year cuts over previous years and which the Board would like to see re-instated.

Mr. Frank Corbett, MLA for Cape Breton Centre spoke with regards to the cooperative relationship the Board and the local MLA’s have experienced over the past years.

Mr. John Astephen, Director of Programs and Student Services spoke with regards to the substantial cuts our Board had experienced during the previous year in the area of programs. He advised that these targeted cuts were significant for our Board. We faced these challenges and tried to do our best in supporting student’s needs.

Mr. George Boudreau, Director of Financial Services advised that he is lobbying to receive status quo recognizing all cost pressures which would need to be recognized. We also reincorporated in identifying the cost pressures the reductions in the targeted funding initiatives from the previous year. He advised that this has been reiterated through ANSEA and the NSSBA. Even with achieving status quo funding we will not eliminate making cuts due to declining enrollment. Decline in enrollment will translate to a reduction in revenue. He also advised that the Board is working on identifying inefficiencies and working towards resolving them. Capacity is one area which he identified. The savings that will materialize from any closure will only materialize in 2011-2012.

Mrs. Beth MacIsaac, Director of Human Resources reiterated the declining enrollment factor which has had a tremendous impact on our Board. She highlighted the teacher reduction factor and the non-teaching position reductions. She said it has been a challenge not to have lay-offs and felt our Board deserved credit for not allowing that to happen. We are one of the region’s largest employers – not only full-time staff but casual and substitute teacher employees as well. The main impact on the cuts from last year was on the young substitutes who are with our Board and now the lack of work they are experiencing. She advised that we will not be implementing any permanent or probationary contracts.

Mr. Ambrose White, Director of Operational Services spoke of the reductions of busses and the lack of school boundaries. Students participating in the Vocational program, the International Baccalaureate program and French Immersion program contribute to the Boards transportation cost. Usage and square footage is a concern and an area where our Board will have to make some decisions on. He noted the situation with Holy Angels was unexpected to our Board and has added to the concern.

Mr. Keith Bain, MLA for Victoria the Lakes spoke with regards to the Transportation survey which was conducted two years ago and regarding the lack of boundaries which exist in the Board.

Mr. Cecil Clarke, MLA for Cape Breton North questioned the funding which was in place during the previous year and what our request would actually be. Mr. Boudreau advised that we are requesting last years funding plus all identified cost pressures.

Commissioner Mercer questioned the decision regarding the break for our Board for participation in the Canada Games. She questioned where the decision came from. Mr. Corbett noted that administrators would have been consulted regarding this issue. Mr. Davis noted that each Board was asked and our Board had a motion passed that we wished to participate. Mr. Davis felt the response that this would be a hardship on our students and parents is not a favorable response to our Board. We felt the Games were for everybody and everybody should have the opportunity to be a part of this. Superintendent Davis noted that the recent Olympics have further highlighted the issue.

Commissioner Parsons questioned when the actual budget would be brought forward. On the question it was felt that the first of May could be a possibility.

Mr. Bain reiterated that for years now he has been listening to conversations that all departments should be partnering with education i.e. community services and health. He noted that all areas are experiencing challenges with their budgets. He followed through with questions regarding the P3 agreements. Mr. Boudreau advised that the COLA cost were received and already incorporated in the 2009-2010.

Mr. Alfie MacLeod, MLA for Cape Breton West for spoke with regards to rural schools and how they are a part of those communities. He felt it wasn’t an easy issue and a struggle however the Board needs to keep in mind that we want to keep our communities strong in rural areas.

Superintendent Davis spoke to the small school factor and how our Board was penalized for complexing schools and the Department identifying them as one school rather than two buildings.

Commissioner Parsons felt that the approved budget will be the deciding factor as a Board member in deciding on school closures. He felt if we get the money from government then we will have the ability to have things remain the same however if we don’t we will have to make the tough decisions which eventually causes more difficulty not only on the Board but on the elected officials as well.

Mr. Corbett noted that there are some tough decisions to be made and we are going through some real difficult times. He noted that the government is trying to do the best with what they have. He noted if there is going to be pain it is going to be shared through all departments. He said it is going to be tough to tow the line.

Commissioner Keagan expressed his concern regarding the increase in the number of special needs students in our Board. He felt that there has to be funding made available to help with these students in order to assist in accommodating their needs.

Mr. Clarke noted it is hard when you go to a public session to narrow in on a specific component. He then spoke with regards to the infrastructure component and using our facilities to full capacity. Mr. White noted that administration has looked at five year and ten year plans as it pertains to infrastructure. It would be his wish to see the population growth at least stabilize rather than to continue declining.

Commissioner Flynn questioned the status of inclusion in our schools and the increase in funding for special needs students.

Commissioner Currie expressed her concern over the extremely good initiatives which were brought forward over the past number of years however because of funding cuts we are losing the ability to meet the needs of those students who we were trying to support i.e. literacy and math support. This causes long term effects for these students. She felt that we are failing those students and creating undue hardship.

Board Chair Lorne Green felt that the Nova Scotia Government has to look at adequate funding for all the students of our Board. Mr. Green noted that the funding support for Special Education students is expensive.

Superintendent Davis noted that the MLA’s supported us through the HOGG Report and if the government decides to tamper with this we will be in trouble. He noted that we have been innovative/creative in the past. He noted that we have been up against challenges many times in the past and the very little we were able to obtain we were very appreciative in achieving.

Commissioner Mercer reiterated Commissioner Currie’s concerns with regards to the level of learning disabilities that are in a classroom setting.

Commissioner Green noted that we have looked at some options with regards to Holy Angels High. He advised that he along with Commissioner Tilley met with the CND on Friday to begin the process of negotiations. Mr. Corbett felt there are two issues – the convent and the school itself.

(4) Adjournment of the meeting. . .

the meeting adjourned at 6:40 p.m.