April 2013: Newsletter

This month’s posting follows on the heels of an eventful two weeks for school boards in Nova Scotia.

Education Minister’s request of school boards that they suspend the school review process. This unusual but not unprecedented request made Wednesday, April 3 carries with it two possible effects: the suspension of decisions already made by governing boards to close schools that were reviewed during 2012/13 and the suspension of decisions to review schools during 2013/14. Halifax Regional School Board’s March 27 meeting was the one at which decisions were made regarding both the outcome of 2012/13 school reviews for the Eastern Shore, Duncan MacMillan family of schools, and decisions as to which schools would be reviewed during 2013/14. The board will decide on the Minister’s request at the April 10 meeting.

The Eastern Shore review conducted during 2012/13 resulted in the decision to close Lakefront, Sheet Harbour, and Eastern consolidated schools when a new Primary to 12 is built. This school will also house Duncan MacMillan High School students. These decisions were in accordance with the communities’ wishes. They are not meant to close during the 2013/14 year. Their closing is conditional on a replacement school being built. Comments made in connection with the decision can be seen here.

The schools identified for review in the 2013/14 year were Terence Bay and Joseph Howe elementaries. The decision to support the Minister’s request would mean the suspension of these reviews. The debate of the governing board that took place in advance of these decisions was both long and difficult and pointed to the challenges in working with the school review process prescribed by the Education Act.

The Minister’s request to suspend the school review process must be agreed to by the province’s school boards.

Provincial assessment results: In 2003 HRSB students were performing at 20-30% on the standardized tests that formed the provincial assessment. As of March 2013 those results have increased to between 70-80% in all areas tested: Grade 3 assessments in reading and writing and Grade 6 assessments in reading, writing and math.

Strategic plan 2013-17: all feedback received by the deadline to the request for input on the draft strategic plan has been considered. The resulting plan was placed on the agenda for the March 27 public meeting for decision. Owing to the fullness of the agenda and discussion that night the plan was approved in draft form. It will be revisited at the April 10 meeting for debate. The plan was adopted in draft form in order to allow for the orderly continuation of business planning for the 2013/14 school year and the meeting of provincially prescribed deadlines.

Hiring of new superintendent: The response from an executive search firm to the board’s Request for Quotes has been received and considered. When contracting is complete the successful firm will manage the search process and report regularly to the governing board on  progress. The entire governing board will act as the selection committee.

On the minds of people in District 4:

– lunchtime supervision programme
– class sizes in Grades 4 to 6
– offsite chaperoning of school teams and clubs
– physical equipping of schools for lockdown procedures

If you have thoughts on any of these or other topics, let me know.

And from the bears-repeating department:

School board and school board: can you spot the difference? HRSB is comprised of staff and elected or appointed board members. The two are often seen as one. They are not. They have very different roles. Board staff is charged with day-to-day operations: the running of the schools. The elected and appointed board is responsible for policy and big picture as informed by our district constituents. I’m a member of the latter: elected and in receipt of an annual stipend of $9,300. In the media and elsewhere there are frequent references to “school board” without distinction being made. Knowing the difference is helpful to all involved.

The HRSB Facilities Master plan is now more than two years old and still in draft form but if you’re curious about what exists in the way of a comprehensive view of all facilities in the system you’ll find it here.

The Telus Technology for Teachers Fund provides grants to support technology projects and equipment upgrades in schools. Local schools can apply for grants up to $5,000 to bring technology upgrades such as SMART boards, iPads, and laptops into their classrooms. Teachers interested in applying for a technology grant can complete an online application.

Participation in the Green Schools Nova Scotia programme has grown from 14  to 53 schools over the last 12 months with each of the province’s boards now reporting participation. The programme helps to facilitate school campaigns that promote awareness and sustainable practices.

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