It is most fitting that we remember Rita Joe, fondly known as the aboriginal laureate = of the Mi′kmaq people. Her passing leaves us with a void that can never be entirely filled. All of our students, our staff and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board cannot help but sense this to our abiding sorrow.
The only consultation is the knowledge that we were privileged to know and work with Rita over the years. It was not uncommon to have her in our classrooms and at our varied school activities. During that time, we came to know her as a person of intelligence and integrity, always eager to help, whose life and career were, indeed, an inspiration to us all.
We also take comfort in the fact that a part of her will continue to live in her books: The Poems of Rita Joe; Songs of Eskasoni; More Poems by Rita Joe; Innu and Indians We′re Called & Songs of Rita Joe.
Rita has been showcased on television and radio documentaries. Her articles have filled both the aboriginal and non-aboriginal newspapers surrounding her Nova Scotia home. A member of the Order of Canada, Rita Joe is one of the few non-politicians ever called to the Queen′s Privy Council of Canada - entitling her to be called Honourable for the rest of her days. The Honourable Rita Joe was truly the best of who we are. These words rang true when in 1997 she received the Aboriginal Achievement Award for the beauty of her word. To her family, friends and the whole community, our hearts and prayers are with Rita at this most difficult of times.
Madame Chair, it is approaching that time of the year that we have to bring our focus and attention to the spring budget. We have begun our early preparation of the budget preliminaries. The different divisions of the regional board′s structure - Finance, Programs & Student Services, Operations and Personnel have begun their data collections. The regional board members, along with our staff, will be able to develop, analyze and review all aspects of the budget as soon as we receive the formal profile for our regional board (approximate date of arrival of the profile is April 6th )
Gleaning some of the details from the Provincial Budget for Nova Scotia, we are, at this point, somewhat optimistically cautious in respect to our discussions around our regional board′s funding. One of the highlights is the commitment by the Department of Education to continue the implementation of the Hogg Report without any tampering with its terms of reference. We are aware that the percentage of income that led to some modest surplus over the past number of years will not continue. The anticipated new school construction and major repairs will continue but the budget profile will identify some school buildings′ schedules that will be delayed while others will move on as previously announced. I make specific reference to the scheduled building of the Northside P - 6 school while the Glace Bay Junior High is delayed.
Each board member has a copy of the budget details relating to the funding for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board but, at this time, the specific profile of our Board is still pending. In April, we will be better able to pinpoint the impact that this funding will have on our quality of education for our children. It is necessary to say that we will have to be prepared to make some very important decisions in respect to those initiatives that will be placed on maintenance rather than continuous expansion.
Madame Chair, I would now like to turn to the theme portion of my report and address the focus of keeping students from taking the easy way out.
When we find ourselves in difficult situations and the future looks discouraging, our first reaction is to find the easy way out. Children are no different. Throughout their school lives, children are faced with the pressure of doing their best and the disappointment of receiving a grade that is lower than they expected. One way children have of dealing with (or avoiding) these situations is to drop the class giving them the most problems.
There are some important questions that need to be asked and discussed with children wanting to drop a class. The staff at our schools use these questions and parents at home can too.
Why does the child want to drop the class? Find out if the child is making an attempt to learn in the class. Parents can contact the teacher to see if assignments have been completed and turned in on time. Our schools have found that sometimes when a student gets behind, he or she feels that the easiest way out is to drop the class. But through some encouragement from teachers and parents and a little hard work, the student may be able to get caught up.
Is the child taking full advantage of all available resources that would enable him or her to do better in class? Teachers and resources are available to give students extra help. Individual tutoring before, during or after school can often help the student get back on track.
How will dropping the class affect the child′s future? Our schools have developed academic curriculums that enable students to meet college entrance requirements and technical curriculums that help students reach established career goals. If the child wants to drop a course that must be taken before other courses, he or she may disrupt the sequence of their program and graduation may be delayed. The structure of a school's curriculums and the long-range effects of dropping a course need to be known by parents and students before a decision can be made. Would transferring the child to a different course be an option? Although a transfer is not always permitted - due to class size, how far along the semester has progressed, and the nature of the request - it may be a way of keeping the student in school and on track. Our schools have found that some requests for transfers may be made for the wrong reasons. Make sure that the child doesn′t = t want to transfer just to be with a friend. Just because a friend is in the class does not mean that the class is right for the child. In order for academic learning to take place, it may be best to keep friends apart. A child may also believe that by transferring to an easier class, he or she can receive a better grade. Getting an easy ′A′ is seen as being better than working hard for a ′B′ by a student who is overly concerned with a high grade point average.
Using the above questions, research the situation thoroughly. But remember, a student may have a legitimate reason for making a request to drop a class. The material may be too difficult, and the student may need time to mature mentally and to develop his or her skills. Or, the student may be so overwhelmed with the class that his or her self-concept is being affected and a change is needed.
When parents make a decision, it is crucial that the right message comes across so that children are not encouraged to take the easy way out. In reality, people cannot survive in life if they constantly look for the easy way out.
Teachers and parents must work together to help students realize that schools are preparing them for their future. Not all students can predict the careers that they will pursue after graduation. Therefore, it is important to keep all doors open to their future, and to make sure that appropriate classes are taken.
Madame Chair, I direct your attention, and that of our Board, to the attached reports emanating from our schools and the information about students′ successes and the achievements of our staff. I further ask that you review the Superintendent′s Memos section that focuses on events and initiatives that have occurred since our last public meeting.