June 2013: Newsletter

LIKE DRINKING FROM A FIRE HYDRANT was how I described my introduction to board work last year. June’s similar. New things continue to arise while those that can’t or won’t wait until September hold firm to their spot on the agenda. As a result this month is even more full than usual and I’ve learned to drink much faster!
The collecting of feedback on the school review process, suspended by the minister in April pending an overhaul, is now underway. The Halifax governing board will be travelling to the Annapolis Valley school board offices in Berwick the evening of Monday June 10 in order to speak with Education Minister Ramona Jennex.

The province elaborated on its new Early Years Programme at a gathering of the governing school boards last week. More will be announced and known about the universal pre-primary year shortly and pilot sites selected. The programme will be play-based. The initiative represents a significant shift in the type of learning and range of developmental benefits to be realized.

This week the governing board concludes the budgeting process. In April the staffing portion was approved, approximately $300m, and this week the remaining $100m in non-staffing expenditures will be considered. It happens in two parts, staffing and non-staffing, owing to contractual obligations and deadlines for the former. The business plan will also be finalized. As mentioned last month the current governing board is in the relatively fortunate position of dealing with status quo funding, an improvement over each of the last three years when the previous board was left with reduced funding and the need to make big cuts.

The posting for a new superintendent will start appearing this week. It’s a national campaign. The hiring is viewed by many as the single-most important decision for HRSB of the decade and the governing board is treating it accordingly, attending to it with all the care it deserves. It is our desire to have a new superintendent in place no later than the end of 2013.

DISTRICT UPDATE: Within the district I’ve been attending meetings and having conversations with school communities on a variety of things including: the locating of French Immersion sites, dress code, playground planning, capital construction, supervision for the lunch programme, and grade configuration. What I’ve learned is that when you sit community, board staff, and board member in one room you can add immeasurably to the understanding of all with the simple sharing of information. I’ll be looking for more opportunities to put us together as the four years continue.

WANT TO DONATE A COMPUTER?  The Computer for Schools programme puts refurbished computer equipment into schools and related institutions across Nova Scotia. Visit their sitefor further information on the programme and instructions on how to donate. You can also donate by writing to Gerard Costard, gcostard@hrsb.ns.ca, or Ron Kent, rkent@hrsb.ns.ca

A COMMERCIAL FOR POWERSCHOOL: If you’re a parent of, in particular, a junior or senior high school student be sure to Power up. As we barrel toward the end of the year there’s nothing like a view of your child’s real-time report card to tell them where they need to be focusing. There need be no last minute surprises. Powerschool puts you and them in touch with the current state of things and connects you directly to their teachers. If unsure of how to connect, contact your school.

OPINION: THE PROVINCIAL ELECTION AND EDUCATION-RELATED PROCESSES. We love them and we hate them. Processes make things predictable both for better and worse. When they work, we have no issue. When not, they are the issue. I mention this because as we head into a summer that may include announcement of a provincial election we need to remember that many of the processes the school board operates within are dictated by the province. Be aware that those who seek to represent you will, if successful, have a direct hand in how your child’s education shapes up. Are you concerned about the school review process or mandated lunchtime supervision? Frustrated by the way capital construction and improvements get planned, proposed, and approved? Make sure you poll your candidates for their views on these things and let them know know your thoughts.

USEFUL INFO:

Other than the principal one of a school’s main points of contact is the area supervisor. In District 4 we have two: one for the Citadel family of schools and one for the J.L. Islely family. The SAC’s letter of agreement with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development ensures that schools have a dedicated line of communication with administration. Want to know the name of your supervisor? Ask your principal or drop me a line. And invite them to a school meeting next fall to get to know them!

Ever wonder why your school’s catchment area is what it is or how the boundaries change? Check out the Creating School Populations policy on the board website.

Last month I provided a list of staffing changes at schools within the district but announcements are so many and happen at such a rate that you’re better off going straight to the source.

Two reports from the archives: James Gunn, past principal, education consultant, and now acting superintendent for the South Shore Regional School Board, writing on  French Immersion programming (2011) and a separate report on the effects on both learning and operations of grade configuration (2007).

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