On Tuesday, December 5th, 2006, Commissioner Merlin Nunn released his report, ′Spiralling Out of Control - Lessons Learned from a Boy in Trouble′.
The Nunn Commission inquired into issues including:undefined undefined
Judge Nunn made thirty-four (34) recommendations that he deemed appropriate and in the public interest. These recommendations brought about a commitment from the province of Nova Scotia to provide support for all youth within its jurisdiction. The lead departments associated with youth were deemed to be the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Community Services and the Department of Health Services & Promotion. The subsequent appointment of Dr. Robert Wright from Community Services has been recently appointed Co-ordinator to bring about an effective thrust into this collaboration effort. In light of these events, I would like to devote my entire report tonight to the implication of these events on the activities of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. It would be important to realize the work that has been done in this respect and the potential that this initiative will have on the students within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board communities.
A number of items were brought forward at our last meeting that represented grave concerns to our Regional Board. I would like to take this opportunity to discuss with the Board the topic surrounding the comparatively new concept of ′inter-agency collaboration′. This is a recurring topic for the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Home and School Association of Nova Scotia and the Association of Nova Scotia Educational Administrators and has been discussed on many occasions at our local Regional Board.
It is my intention to explore briefly the background for ′inter-agency collaborative′ initiatives, the different elements that contribute to the dynamics of inter-department ventures, the early success, some obvious flaws and a possible blueprint for future achievement in this whole area that will enable us to better meet the needs of students in our schools.
′Inter-agency collaboration′ was a term coined to help fulfill the commitment to help establish a richer range of professionals to work with schools and support the needs of all students. It was evident in the beginning that many of these resources would be available at the school site but, at the very least, increasingly more resources would be made available at other sites to meet the needs of all students. Again, the new Education Act has referenced at least three specific sections that relate to responsibilities for all principals (Section 2(q)) to co-operate with the staff of other departments and agencies of the Government to better meet the needs of the students in school. The Superintendent has the responsibility (Section 39(k)) to co-operate with the Minister and other departments and agencies of the Government to ensure the effective and efficient carrying-out of this Act and the Regulations to the Act. The School Board (Section 64, 2(a) (l)) has the responsibility to co-operate with other school boards and government departments and agencies to ensure the effective and efficient carrying out of this Act and the Regulations to the Act.
Having cited these responsibilities, there were, on a number of occasions, reports from the Minister of Education (over the past number of years) that a collaborative effort on behalf of the Departments of Health, Community Services, Justice and Education have committed themselves to a close relationship to fulfill the commitment of providing resources to better meet the needs of all students in our system. The old adage, ‘that it takes an entire village to educate a child,’ was the concept that we interpreted from these activities. The early intervention met with some successes. The ′full-service school′ concept was supported by some Government departments in designated schools and have been cited as how the process could work if each department was committed to sharing resources. The Eastern Region Child and Youth Services Project (July 1996) was a pilot project initiated by four Government departments--Education, Health, Community Services and Justice. The Eastern Region was selected as a pilot area for the co-ordination of services. The Youth Health Centres are one outcome of this project.
These Youth Health Centres are examples of a successful venture with the Department of Education and Department of Health. We are not saying that obstacles and barriers were not present, but the outcome was worth the effort. We have developed six youth centres, all directly based at school sites. A research study has been completed on the evaluation of these efforts and were made available within our Regional Board. Some preliminary points of interest are notable for mention. There seems to be a larger number of students accessing the school site youth centres than the ones that were formerly situated off site. The most common problem associated with youth health centres is the need for a common language for procedure and the enlightenment of each participant in respect to governance issues. There is a wide agreement that the governance of these initiatives--including fiscal, administrative and operational systems--should be school-linked. In a school-linked approach to integrating services for children: (a) services are provided to children and their families through a collaboration among schools, health-care providers and social service agencies; (b) the schools are among the central participants in planning and governing the collaborative effort; and, (c) the services are provided at or are co-ordinated by personnel located at the school site (Centre for Future of Children, 1999 p. 7)
Another positive venture was the integrated mental health network established in one of our schools. The case work co-ordinator is one of our guidance counselors and the Steering Committee is representative of all four departments (Health, Education, Justice and Community Services). Again, the activity is beneficial to students, and the process has to be streamlined and supported by new funding resources.
Our whole involvement in the Community Liaison Office initiative in many of our junior high schools has been a very successful innovation. The same concerns arise as with all collaborative ventures, the commitment to contribute adequate funds towards the inter-agency co-operative effort. We had co-operatively applied for funds through the Department of Education with our partner, the Cape Breton Regional Police.
From the above, one can readily see that the activities are worthwhile, the students′ needs are met, but we are still left with a concern that there will be enough new money and there is a real commitment to have these revenues forthcoming.
Coincidentally, with the concept of collaboration is the issue of full inclusion for all students in the learning environment. Again, the school system is called upon to provide resources that are not always directly related to the instructional process. There is now an even greater need for the contribution of all related departments to be committed to this enterprise.
Section three of the Policy Manual for Special Education makes it perfectly clear that the provision for services and programs for students with special needs indicates that a collaborative responsibility for all departments is necessary. Working for the benefit of exceptional children demands a close relationship with government departments. In terms of inclusion, the Department of Health and Department of Education work closely. While a general health protocol was developed and signed in the fall of 1998, school boards still await an individual health protocol. This protocol will initiate the roles and responsibilities of each partner.
We, as a Board, know very well the effects upon our resources due to extra responsibilities in providing teacher aides and assistive technology. We also know only too well how important these support resources are to the child for his/her successful inclusion into the learning process.
I make a reference here to a very urgent concern that we have in respect to how the process works now. A child, whether he/she is in the preschool environment or within our system, has recommendations accompanying his/her medical referral either from the IWK Hospital or general family practitioner. These recommendations have a common thread which is articulated by the health services agencies recommendations which call for either a teacher′s aide or/and assistive technology. We realize that supports are required, we realize health services have a particular role for identifying need, we also realize that the funding of the support has to be borne by the specific department that best fits its mandate.
I claim no originality in repeating what everyone knows in respect to how partnerships work, and I realize there are many minefields in the path of collaborative efforts at every stage in their development. In general, the most dangerous is the tendency of groups to rush into implementation before they build sufficiently strong political, technical and fiscal foundations on what to base their efforts. The very essence of collaboration indicates a communication among willing partners. A true blueprint for inter-agency seems to be very straightforward. There has to be a committed responsibility by all departments (Department of Education , Health, Justice and Community Services) that they have a specific role in respect to the education of children. The Department of Education′s role is very clear as stated in the Education Act/Regulations Under the Education Act and the Public School Program document. We, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, as an agent of the Department of Education, accept this role and have even expanded our responsibilities in this role because there were no other support services available for student assistance.
If we adhere to this concept and realize that other agencies have responsibilities for student support, then we will have unlocked the enigma. The Department of Education deals with services associated with student learning. The other provincial departments deal with support resources that are necessary to assist students to present him/herself for instruction, i.e., assistive technology enhancement, student aides, health services (mental, physical), social services support and welfare resources. Whether these services are school-based is a matter for discussion. However, the most comprehensive approach to school-linked services combines school resources with other agency funding resources to strengthen the economic, social and physical well-being of our students. This leads us back to the adage, ‘It takes all members of a village to educate a child.’
Madam Chair, I conclude my remarks and ask if you would direct your attention to the materials attached to this report.