December 2013: Newsletter

On December 23 the Province announced its decision to fund a replacement for the existing LeMarchant St. Thomas (LMST) school. The project, officially referred to as the South Peninsula Elementary, is included in its 2014/15 Capital Plan. This was one of only two new construction projects applied for by the school board, both of which were approved. The other eight requests were for Additions and Alterations and included Inglis Street Elementary. None of these have been approved at this time but will, in all likelihood, be resubmitted in the coming year. As stated in the board’s request, LMST’s robust population and the projected ongoing demand, the advanced state of the building’s deterioration, the age of fixtures, mechanical, and electrical systems, the lack of ventilation and the insufficiency of programme spaces, as well as the necessity to house some students in a physically separate location, all support the building of a new school. At this point the 90 year old building is viewed as having insufficient residual value to be approached as a renovation. Next steps will be shared as they become available.

Superintendent’s invitation to SACs. It’s been almost a year since our strategic plan was drafted and put into effect, serving as the guiding principle for the 2013/14 business plan and all board actions, and three months since the hiring of Elwin LeRoux,  our new Superintendent. In the interest of ongoing communication and refinement of the plan, he is inviting SACs to meet and speak with him on Saturday, January 18 at 9:00 am, 11:00 am, or 1:00 pm; HRSB Office at 33 Spectacle Lake Drive, Dartmouth. He wants your input on the board’s priorities for teaching and learning. Storm date: Saturday, January 25.

The recently released School Review Process Discussion Paper is available at Biting off a bigger chunk than its predecessors, it contemplates changes of a more substantive nature: looking at families of schools instead of isolating single schools for review and engaging in long-term planning with all parties at the table simultaneously – school board, municipality, and province – instead of individually. It recognizes that the best decision requires cooperation, thoroughly supportable data, and a better weighting of qualitative to quantitative factors. SACs will play a key role in refining this document. The date for the meeting closest to District 4 is Tuesday, January 21, 7:00 pm, at Dartmouth High School.

Connectivity. One of my biggest frustrations as SAC chair was the inability to connect with other SACs when needed. With this newsletter the schools of District 4 now have that connectivity. If ever there’s something you’d like to share with or ask of other SACs in the Citadel or the J.L. Ilsley family of schools,  the 13 schools of District 4, send me some copy and I’ll add it to the next newsletter. It goes to all SAC and PTA chairs and co-chairs, principals and vice principals. Event announcements. Questions. Whatever. Bring it up, bring it on. Ultimately this list will live elsewhere but for the time being, for the privacy of the recipients, it will be available as described.

SACs Matter.  SACs have an important role to play in advising the principal and staff and providing feedback and information. Going back almost 20 years, the province saw the need for this form of school-level involvement and made a place for it in legislation. Their powers are enshrined in the Education Act and described in very readable fashion in a handbook produced by the Province. How an SAC manifests at any given school is very much an expression of that school. SACs are how we get to support kids – ours and others – during those those hours when they’re not physically with us and in ways that we otherwise could not. It’s ours to make of what we will.

Upcoming: A report on a November 28 meeting at Halifax Central Junior High at which the topic of extracurriculars, the supervision requirement, and how the two might be better aligned was the topic of discussion.

Citadel Theatre Society, representing the Spatz Theatre, assigns one seat on its board to a school board member. I am now that member. The school board was, in effect, the project’s financier. Since the Province does not fund auditoriums on the grounds that they are not programme related, a group of interested citizens formed themselves into a society and fundraised the necessary money to build the space. It now has a staff of one, a manager who markets and arranges bookings, and a steadily growing list of paying users. It is also used extensively by the school and programmes.

And an interesting read for those still on break: The Principal: the Most Misunderstood Person in All of Education from Atlantic Monthly.

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