November 2014: Newsletter

Lunchtime Supervision: A staffing nightmare?

The answer to that question depends on the school and the many variables that make up a community. The issue: a 2008 decision by the Province makes it necessary for all schools to provide lunchtime supervision to students free of charge, something particularly difficult depending on the area, seemingly where kids traditionally went home, and being unable to find the necessary staffers. Those schools for which it is a particular hardship were invited to share ideas and brainstorm solutions at a meeting at Westmount Elementary last month. The discussion and results were encouraging. Any silver bullets? No. But the conversation gave rise to a list of suggestions which are being looked at by staff for viability. The results will be shared as soon as available.

 

Supervision of Extracurriculars (aka Supervision of B Teams)  

A year ago people met at Halifax Central Junior High to talk about the steadily declining number of opportunities available to kids for taking part in extracurricular activities, particularly when involving “away” events, owing to the insufficient numbers of volunteer teacher-supervisors required to chaperone such activity. Consensus seemed to favour changes to the supervisory requirement. The School Insurance Program’s (SIP) discomfort with perceived risk in empowering non-teachers became the focus of discussion with senior board staff who are aware of the need to answer the impact of diminishing numbers of teacher supervisors, a product of declining enrolment, and the steady growth in student and community interest. An update is scheduled to be heard by the governing board in the coming weeks.

School Review Process: Shiny and new and still lacking a key part?

Amendments to the Education Act introduced last spring took effect on October 17. The new School Review process includes solid requirements like long-range Outlooks addressing all facilities in each of the eight provincial school boards, district instead of targeted school reviews, and an emphasis on public participation managed by arms-length facilitators. All good. But the process seems to stop short of allowing for the full array of possible recommendations. The problem: recommendations that might hinge on the building of a new school or altering an existing school are explicitly prohibited. (See “Directive N”.) Having seen reviews in which affected schools were receptive to change but reluctant to sign-off without some sense of what shape their next school might take, there is concern about the implications of this directive. If it is in fact the case that you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, so be it. Let’s crack the eggs. But let’s also be sure we have an adequate container in which to do it. Right now, not so sure about the container. It’s feeling a lot like the old process in this one important respect.

And in other big review news the Minister’s Panel on Education has completed and delivered the “first comprehensive review of Nova Scotia’s school system in 25 years.” Spoiler alert: those who are attached to things as they are should beware. The report is entitled “Disrupting the Status Quo.”

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