June 2015: Newsletter

Eastern Passage High School decision. The jury’s out on whether last week’s debate about petitioning the Minister to halt construction of this high school was in fact time well spent, that decision resting with the Province, but the point about flawed process definitely needed to be made. It undoubtedly makes sense that the Province work with its own school boards in deciding on the best expenditure of capital money. It’s possible the point could have been made differently – more simply, more directly – but such was not to be had and the motion was born, debated, and defeated. It added significantly to the regular workload of all involved but there’s hope the right people were listening.

The board continues to seek an update from the Province on the site selection process for the new Le Marchant St. Thomas.

Last week’s announcement of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission‘s findings and recommendations was a key development in the continued righting of centuries-old wrongs and education is seen as central to reconciliation going forward. Fortunately the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Action Plan anticipates that.  As of this coming September Treaty education will be part of the P to 12 curriculum. As John Ralston Saul says in his book The Comeback, being sympathetic to the fate suffered by First Nations, Metis, and Inuit, is no substitute for every last Canadian realizing that we are are a party to treaties dating back to colonization. It is for everyone to understand and honour them.

Another forward-thinking development is the work of C21 Canada, a nonprofit education advocacy group, with a CEO Academy, of which HRSB superintendent Elwin LeRoux is a member. The group’s focus? Improvement and innovation in learning models. Hold on! Stifle that yawn. The words are overused, yes, but in this case that belies their underlying significance. Take a look. Authored by Penny Milton with Canadian industry and educational leaders, the end result makes for surprisingly encouraging reading. It indirectly endorses, for instance, the Province’s emphasis on improvement in the Action Plan but then goes it one better by describing genuine innovation. Beyond tinkering. The good news? The two are not at odds. It marries “the traditional and the intentional,” says Supt. LeRoux: working with what we have and capitalizing on it. LeRoux says the group is now introducing its work to deputy ministers of education across the country. With any luck the paper will receive an enthusiastic response in Nova Scotia where the mesh with the Ivanny report and the Action Plan will be immediately evident.

The Halifax governing board joined its fellow boards at the Nova Scotia School Boards Association AGM the last weekend in May. Together in body if not in spirit the Halifax board’s only resolution was defeated on the floor. It proposed an extension to the community review phase of the long range outlook under the new school review process. A successful motion would have seen the Association sending a letter to the Minister that asked her to give interested boards until the end of October to submit their outlooks. The defeat was frankly a surprise, hailed a “no brainer” as it was by the Resolutions Committee, and provoked the question of how best the Halifax board might advance its interests. In the meantime the board’s own efforts to encourage feedback on the long range outlook are meeting with tremendous success.

And I’ll finish with the Winter since it’s only now that it might be safe to say it’s finally finished with us! April and May were largely quiet, operational fallout from the weather and budget being the main foci. The staffing budget was thoroughly gone over and the remainder will be reviewed before the end of June. This year’s allocation is mostly sufficient to Board purposes ($420m) but the Supplementary Fund ($16m), provided by HRM and as yet not formally confirmed, sees an additional reduction of almost $500k that will, once again, need to be taken from areas that enrich children’s education experience.

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