January 2015: Newsletter

In November Nova Scotia’s school boards took part in a final discussion about the Education Review Panel Report before the Minister set to work completing the Action Plan. Its announcement is expected this month. The original Review was the product of eight months spent considering 19,000 submissions received from Nova Scotians. The November meeting asked: What would an education system look like if it was built to meet expectations that we currently have for schools? Not surprisingly teaching figured prominently in many of the responses as well as inclusion, an early years focus, and cultural proficiency.

Developed in 1998, the Board is now examining the intention and purpose served by the Fine Arts Policy, many of the procedures from which have proved to be operationally challenging to implement. Related programming is mandated and funded by the Province under the Public School Program and, for schools within the old city of Halifax, supplemented by HRM. The policy is unique in that it singles out one set of subjects, fine arts, for special consideration but the budget, in particular HRM’s supplement, is in large part what drives the enrichment of fine arts offerings. The question is whether, that being so, the policy is able to do much more than reiterate what is already being accomplished by the supplement. Practically speaking the single most effective thing any of us can do for the continued health of fine arts in the school system is encourage HRM’s ongoing provision of Supplementary Funding. And now’s the time, that agreement is currently being renegotiated.

Of the seven capital projects submitted by HRSB to the Province for inclusion in its 2015/16 Capital Plan, none were approved.  (Absent from the linked version of the capital projects list was an Additions and Alterations request for Inglis Street Elementary. It was included in the final version of this submission to the province.)

From the Two-heads-are-better-than-one Dept., HRM and HRSB have forged a formal agreement to work together on areas of common interest and concern. Until now discussion has taken place in a less structured way. The first of two working groups will be looking at anticipated changes in school communities within the municipality of Halifax and sharing master plans and current and/or future ideas and information about capital focus. The focus of the second, one-time, project based working group is the Service Exchange Agreement and ongoing efforts to build and improve upon that relationship. And interwoven with all of this will be the discussion of Supplementary Funding. It is impossible to overstate how important Supplementary Funding is to programming provided by HRSB.

On a related note, HRSB staff are now working on producing the first element in the Long Range Planning document required by the Province under the new School Review process, a complete listing and status report on the 137 schools in our board. This document will form the basis of any and all related discussions as we go forward. It will be ready for the end of March for submission to the Province and be presented to the governing board and community as the basis for planning in the time that follows.

Did you know that the Bedford and Forsythe Education Centres serve as an Alternative High School within the HRSB? Its services are student driven. Want to study English every morning at 10:00? Attend Monday, Wednesday, and Friday only? The schools have the staffing and physical resources necessary to craft programme offerings to student needs. And the outcome? Seen through to the end students graduate with a Grade 12 diploma. Everyone is eligible to attend regardless of geography.

Staff has reported back on discussions concerning extracurricular activity and the supervision requirement. The interim result: a committee of principals will be considering approaches taken by other boards, the growing need to work with the changing school needs and alternative offerings, and be ready to offer a recommendation to the governing board in May.

MLA Labi Kasoulis is inviting schools to have student achievements recognized in the legislature. Recognition will take the form of either tabled resolution or member’s statement. Schools are welcome to make this an ongoing part of their normal awards process. The names of students and their accomplishments will be entered into the Hansard record for that session of the Legislature, and they will received a signed and sealed certificate from Mr. Kasoulis. Contact constituent assistant Michael Langlais at mike@labimla.ca

Of interest to parents: Teen mental health and high school-based Youth Health Centres web-based resources. And see the Superintendent’s monthly report for education highlights.

The Parents as Career Coaches initiative is coming up soon at Citadel High School as well as other local schools. See link for details.

Staff and governing board will be entering the early stages of business planning and budget development next month. Last year’s budget dealt with the allocation of approximately $430,000,000.

A new feature of the HRSB website and school reporting generally, community reports are being produced by each school in the system. They’re available through http://www.hrsb.ca and each school’s website. They’re well worth the read.

A final word on lunchtime supervision. Most recently raised last spring, lunchtime supervision presents a significant challenge for certain district schools. While not directly related to classroom learning it nonetheless takes valuable staff time to manage and provide. The implementation of lunchtime supervision, its providing mandated under the Education Act, did not anticipate the staffing burden it would place on urban schools nor the effects of the obstacles to teacher involvement. It also did not anticipate the increase in demand from previous non-users. Principals and board staff appear to be doing everything in their power to come up with solutions to the difficult issue of staffing but community solutions and participation are much needed and welcomed.

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