November 2015: Newsletter

Happy report card week! The following is a selection of school board highlights and notes for your information.

It appears school may continue uninterrupted for students. The Province and Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union arrived at an agreement that will be put before the membership for ratification December 1, remarkable news given the tenor of negotiations elsewhere in Canada of late and the long and bitter disputes and disruptions seen in BC and Ontario. It will be especially interesting to see which items from the Minister’s Action Plan come to fruition in the agreement.

HRSB’s Long Range Outlook, the new provincially mandated starting point for all discussions related to school review, has begun to serve its intended purpose. Based on needs identified within the outlook Board staff will be recommending the formation of School Options Committees for Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour, and schools in the Citadel Family’s northern half, the north end of the peninsula. If the governing board accepts the recommendations, these areas will form the points of focus for the balance of the school year. The board will hear from HRM about the Regional Plan as part of its considerations.

The provincial Auditor General’s report on three of the eight Nova Scotia school boards is about to be released. Halifax is one of the audited boards. The focus is oversight and management of the delivery of educational services in schools during the 2014/15 school year. All boards and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) have seen and responded to the report and it will be made public this week.

On a separate but related note the governing board has formed an ad hoc committee to review what it feels, based on three years’ experience, is a model of governance that would add value to how the elected board fulfills its responsibilities. It does well with the collection of processes and systems it has but sees room, a path, and now possibly the means for continued improvement. More on that as it proceeds.

The LeMarchant-St. Thomas Elementary (LMST) School Steering Team (SST) for the replacement school is in place. This is the group that contributes to the design process, working with the Department-chosen design consultant, informed by a cross-section of relevant voices – school board, city, province. SAC chair David Jakeman, Principal Jeanne Boudreau, and an assigned facilitator will lead the SST process. The school board has now confirmed that the Universite Ste. Anne and Beaufort school sites across the street from LMST will be home to students during construction of the new school.

HRSB is reviewing its electoral boundaries. The need to do so comes on the heels of changes by HRM driven by a scheduled Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board process. The implications in this district relate to a small stretch along Purcell’s Cove Road that affects eight residents in and around the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron. See link for details. Residents will be reassigned from their current to the adjacent district. This is the final week for the public to respond.

Superintendent Elwin LeRoux’s monthly reports identify stories from within schools and across the board that highlight the strategic plan in action and more. Good news stories? Absolutely. And why not, we’ve got a ton of them! Enjoy.

Although still relatively early it’s not too soon to start thinking about running for school board member in the next municipal election. Interested? I’m happy to share my experience with you. Elections take place in fall 2016.

The vast majority of school-related concerns that come up for students and families can be handled at the school level, working with those involved. Between teacher and principal the means exist to resolve most concerns. For the full process as captured in policy see the Parent Concern Protocol.

A note on newsletters. For communication purposes the 13 SAC chairs in this District now form a special area of focus for me. They’ll be receiving the monthly board and policy meeting agendas highlighting current discussion and information topics. Board business provides a regular and wide variety of starting points for the many discussions SACs and the board might have. I want to hear what SACs have to say. As mentioned in the first message, SACs together with the Minister and school board members constitute the elected arm of education in this province. It is our shared responsibility to be contributing to the ongoing improvement of the student and schooling experience. Newsletters of a more general nature such as this one will be issued as need dictates.

“Slow Down, We Love Our Children” signs have popped around the district. MLAs Joachim Stroink and Labi Kousoulis and Councilor Waye Mason have joined forces to produce this campaign and are encouraging residents living around schools and in areas where traffic is known to be problematic to display them. Email Waye Mason or drop by Joachim Stroink’s Quinpool Road office to pick one up.

October 2015: Message to SAC Chairs

Both the key and a challenge to serving as an elected school board representative is communication: reaching out to people and being responded to in return. You’ll probably experience this in your role as SAC chair. Questions. Conversations. Information sharing. All are important in contributing to the improvement of our system. For the last three years in my role as a member of the governing board I’ve used enewsletters and website for getting messages out and I’m happy with their performance but starting this year the emphasis will be on inviting feedback from you and your SACs and providing specific opportunities to do so.

Owing to your role as elected chair of a District 4 SAC you’re now part of a dedicated chairs-only mailing list. You’ll be receiving messages from me tailored specifically to your role, your responsibility, and your authority. Elected representation within Nova Scotia’s education system looks something like this: SAC chair, school board member, and minister. Viewed in this way it becomes clear just how condensed and important a grouping you’re part of and how important it is for all parties, from school-level to Department, to exercise their potential to be heard by one another. 

Starting this month I’ll be sending you the school board’s regular meeting agenda. We meet weekly but the third Wednesday of each month is reserved for public meetings, also called the regular meeting. The agenda for this meeting is posted publicly the previous Friday. I’ll be sharing the link or its contents and any relevant comments so that you can share your thoughts on it with me. I’ll share the Policy Committee agenda as well. Maybe there’s something that’s of particular interest to your SAC and school. Maybe there’s something you’d like me to be exploring or asking on your behalf. Having the agenda is just one way of informing and generating conversation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on all topics.

September 2015: LMST Update

A happy day for the LMST community. I offer my congratulations to all who mobilized so effectively around creating and maintaining momentum with the site decision. The following are the next steps now that the site has been approved. I can confirm that Ste. Anne/Beaufort is the starting point for relocating students. Board staff are already at work looking at learning spaces and needs.

School Steering team being established;
Anticipate its formation before the end of October;
The next step in the process is for province to let RFP for design consulting services;
Upon notification of award of the consultant the School Steering team will convene;
School Steering Team meets to advise design team during design process;
Relocation of the students from the existing site for the start of the 2016 school year;
HRSB developing relocation plan for students in advance of construction;
HRSB will continue to communicate with community throughout the process.

I’m sure this is just the first of many messages to come. Please share with anyone you think might be interested. I’ve established and will add names to a dedicated LMST list as we proceed.Contact me at if you wish to be added.

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.

June 2015: Eastern Passage High School debate comments

I’m in complete agreement with board member Blumenthal-Harrison for calling-out bad decision-making. Although not a member of any of the boards that discussed an Eastern Passage high school over the years their slowly building ambivalence is abundantly clear from my reading of events: 14 years of on-again-off-again discussions and postponement, the delivery of a felling blow by the province’s own consultant, and a final board decision that effectively ended the discussion. By the time this board arrived on the scene in fall 2012 the Eastern Passage question was nowhere in sight and out-of-sight-out-of-mind it remained until, to everyone’s surprise, the province announced its construction.

I remember the disbelief among second-term board members and staff. The question of whether or not to build had already been addressed. Why was this happening? The frustration was clear. At that point it had been 14 years since the idea had first gained traction with the board. 10 years since board support had started to waver. 5 years since a failed facilities planning exercise had referenced it. And only a year since the board of the day experienced a reversal of support unanimous enough to remove it from the capital requests list. This school was not supposed to happen. And yet it did.

I share the frustration and unhappiness behind this motion. So many needs in the system. So much excess capacity. A marginalizing of board role and process – circumvented, undermined, and sidestepped. Not to mention the inevitable hard decisions to which it committed the board for the remaining schools in the family. This situation will stand as a model of flawed process.

But two wrongs do not make a right and this motion comes close to that for me. Another wrong. I think it’s useful for having highlighted the problem with the process but that’s possibly where my support of it ends. At this point it’s not obvious what tangible or intangible good might come from this motion.

We haven’t been asked for our opinion. We haven’t been invited to comment. The government has asserted in the legislature that it will be built. They haven’t said or implied that it would be conditional on our feedback. Or this motion. They haven’t reached out. And we have enough experience to be reasonably certain they won’t. And if that’s not enough to relieve us of any notions about an imagined place in the decision-making then the fact that Eastern Passage is a government-held riding should do the rest. At some point I heard it remarked that the Minister may have alluded to some faint willingness to attend to this but it would be optimistic of us to count on that. And risky. And something I’d suggest would be long odds from where we sit. To proceed with the motion given these circumstances seems ill-advised. And doomed. And for what?

If not because we stand a reasonable chance of succeeding then why proceed? To make a point? Are we in the business of making points? Or altruism? Are we feeling that we can’t in good conscience condone it or that any other use of the funds would be superior to this? If so, I’m still unconvinced. In fact I see it then in terms of its potential damage. Continuing along this course might lead other schools in the family to believe that we have some standing in this decision and that their circumstances will remain unchanged. But that strikes me as misleading. We risk filling them with false hope. And in the meantime we will have missed the opportunity to welcome an addition to the Eastern Passage community. It will have been a lose-lose proposition. Not of our own making and owing to circumstances beyond our control but a lose-lose nonetheless.

For me this motion has already served an important purpose. It has emphasized how important it is for the Province to act in concert with its own school boards. And that’s important. I am almost grateful to board member Blumenthal-Harrison for making an issue of it. But right now I’m not in agreement with what it proposes. Thank the government of the day, we will say to the people who end up adversely effected by this decision and to the taxpayers who feel their money is being mispent. But so far it’s been sufficiently demonstrated to me that our hands are tied. And beyond that it is my hope that none of us is so attached to making a point or thinking our disapproval so important that we’d cut off our nose to spite our face.

I went to Conrad’s with my kids on Saturday. They did a good deal of their summertime growing along this stretch of shore and it had been a long time since we’d been back. We returned by way of Cole Harbour Road, taking a left at Caldwell and zigzagging at the other end to check in on the moose at Cow Bay, backtracking to Eastern Passage in search of an ice cream store that no longer exists. And all along the way and because my memory is tragically imprecise I kept saying, Oh, this must be where the new high school is meant to go, until finally one of my daughters said, You’ve said that three times.

At which point I finally admitted that I couldn’t remember the exact location. But the reason I mention this is because there WERE, it seemed to me, that many spots in this now sizable and well-populated area that a school might be built. And that was striking because my recollection of Eastern Passage did not feature such growth. And that led me to my next thought, Why not Eastern Passage? It clearly has merit. I am listening and participating in this debate with an open mind but these are the thoughts and concerns I bring to it.

April 2015: Long Range Outlook

Never before have the times been better for talking about the future of our schools.
The draft Long Range Outlook is this spring’s main event in school boards across Nova Scotia and it’s now time for everyone to start talking about it. Forming the cornerstone of the newly overhauled school review process the Outlook is a  comprehensive and detailed listing of every school in the system. In the case of Halifax that’s 137 schools organized into 15 families. It includes such information as enrolment history, capacity, projections, physical condition, programming, and needs. Completed and delivered to the Province at the end of April the draft document is now available to community and schools for review and feedback. Come September 1 the draft enters the final revisions stage. You’ll find a feedback form here.  
This is the first time we’ve ever had this volume, depth, type, and quality of information about our schools. Tell us what you think of the draft and where you think it needs improving. The format was dictated by the Province, every board in the province is reporting in exactly the same fashion, and ultimately it will give us the means to have the discussions about the future of our schools. Never before has community been in a better position to take part. The Long Range Outlook will make it possible for everyone to have an informed discussion.
But now’s the time to read it and consider how it might be changed and improved. Talk to your school community. Get them involved. And if there’s anything I can do to help, please call or write.

March 2015: Newsletter

Some thoughts on winter and weather-related cancellations

Schools should always be open and parents should decide whether or not their children attend. School should not be open until all routes to school are completely safe. In the last 24 hours I’ve heard both. This winter has been particularly polarizing. And it’s entirely possible that in the end the situation as managed by HRSB senior staff reflects the best middle way. We’re welcome to debate that. But another and possibly more pressing question going forward is how we ensure continued delivery of the Public School Program (PSP) no matter the conditions. What do we need to do to prepare for what will almost surely continue to be a shifting weather landscape?

Sticking to the present for a moment I’ve been among the parents who think school should be open no matter what. I have to work. But what I’ve come to realize is that unlike principals and teachers when I report to work I’m responsible for no one but myself. My staff and I are not responsible for almost 50,000 children. If we’re agreed that the safety of our children is paramount are we comfortable sending them to school not knowing whether enough staff have made it to work to supervise them?

And is supervision the goal? What about education? The funding boards receive from the Province is for delivering the PSP not supervision.  If the school day is reduced to something other than instruction is the funding for education being responsibly spent? Would money and time be better spent finding another way to deliver education in such instances?

At the other extreme are those who call for the complete assurance of safe passage from home to school as the basis for decision-making. Should the HRSB be holding itself to an even higher standard of safety? Ultimately it’s for parents to decide whether safety is sufficiently served. The HRSB brings its own standard to bear and is demonstrably diligent in doing so. Would the cost to education of an even higher standard of safety be supportable?

Back to future winters and the questions that arise. What are we learning from this winter? How do we continue to deliver the PSP assuming disruptions continue in frequency and intensity? Is instruction classroom-dependent? Are families in a position to have children work from home? There are many questions that we might ask ourselves but chief among them is this: how do we ensure continued delivery of the PSP in a shifting weather landscape? At a minimum that’s something all of us could be contemplating.

In other weather-related news. Of the 137 schools in the HRSB more than half had experienced some form of breech in their building envelope even before last week’s storms. A winter that in January looked like it would be kind to the budget has ended up taking its toll in repairs and snow removal. And while some of the repair work is insured it carries a $5000 deductible per school. Up until this most recent round of weather the HRSB had been the hardest hit of the province’s boards, the type and order of weather wreaking unprecedented havoc. And it’s not over yet. That which is frozen must now melt. Leaks are expected to continue until end of spring.

The governing board has requested that streets on which schools are located be given priority by the City when it comes to snow clearing. Unofficially this seems to at least sometimes be the case but according to published guidelines streets on which schools are located are not listed as a priority.

Owing to the efforts of one particularly proactive group, the Halifax Boys Honour Choir, the School Trips Policy has been placed under review. For the time being the superintendent has revised existing procedures to allow for out-of-province travel by elementary school children. While a full review proceeds interim decisions will be subject to his authority. Travel by elementary school children was allowed under the previous policy but removed in 2010, the rationale unknown. The Policy committee will now undertake a comprehensive review.

The first step in the Province’s new School Review process is nearing completion. The HRSB’s Long Range Outlook, a 10-year plan listing and describing each of the 137 schools in the system, will soon be reviewed by the governing board. Features include: new formula for calculating a school’s capacity based on square footage instead of number of classrooms; utilization of the school based on that calculation; programme offerings; physical condition of the school; history; existing Provincial commitments; and opportunities for site development such as the Hub model. The Province’s timeline allows for public review of the Outlook from May to August, an unfortunate scheduling. The governing board will be proposing an extension.

HRM is currently reviewing renewal of the Supplementary Funding agreement. The agreement now set to expire has provided approximately $17m in each of its four years. Its enhancement of education municipality-wide is invaluable. And it’s the board’s hope and request that Council  endorse the same or a greater level of funding in order to continue the extension of supplementary services to all areas of HRM.

The Province has offered a strings-attached “yes” to the combining of the Beaufort and LeMarchant-St. Thomas school sites for construction of a replacement for the latter. The strings? The Province will commit only if HRM says yes and HRM can’t say yes until its consulted citizens via a public hearing process. In short, a costly hearing for HRM based on a conditional “yes” from the Province. The City has asked the Province to revisit the way in which the discussion proceeds.

February 2015: School Trips Policy Remarks

Delivered to the Policy Development and Review Committee at its February 2015 meeting.

Strictly speaking there is nothing in the Policy, that is to say the Principles, those created by the Governing Board of 2010, that prohibits travel outside the province by elementary school students. There is nothing prohibiting it either expressly or otherwise. What the Principles do say expressly is that we recognize the value of trips, and their contribution to the total development of students, and that they must be considered on their own merit. And further, that safety is essential and that every reasonable effort should be made to enable students to participate in trips. It says also, finally, that the Superintendent is authorized to issue Procedures in support of these Principles. It is, in fact, on Procedures that this particular situation turns, that situation being the travels of the Boys Honour Choir. It is with the Procedures that those involved take issue. In particular, the Preliminary Conditions.

That said there is nothing in the Procedures that is being unevenly or arbitrarily applied or used against applicants. It is very clear: School trips for elementary students, Primary to 6, are limited to Nova Scotia and this has been so since 2010. As made clear in the Report, one exception between 2012 and the present fell outside the trips allowed by the Procedures and it did so because, to quote, “there was a lack of policy knowledge” and “the supervisor was unfamiliar with the grade span of the students in the Boys Honour Choir.” It is unfortunate we do not have information predating 2012 and therefore no knowledge of whether there were other instances of lack of policy knowledge or unfamiliarity with grade span starting in 2010 but what we have is sufficient for the purpose. What we also know is that dating back to 1998 and the last Policy, “trips for elementary students were limited to within the province but that exceptions could be made by school administration.” That Guiding Statement and all language of an operational nature, namely the defining of grade spans and limits, was absorbed into Procedures in 2010 and it was from Procedures that the exception clause was removed. It is with Procedures and not Policy per se that the current issue appears to rest.

I mention this and parse it as closely as I do because this Policy is the Governing Board’s responsibility and the Policy seems good and sound. But the Procedures, the operationalizing of the Policy, are perhaps where things fall down. The Policy is very expansive and the Procedures possibly too restrictive, failing to adequately capture and reflect the spirit of the Policy. Exceptions, for instance, are something that would not only be appropriate within Procedures but would possibly more adequately reflect the spirit of the Policy.

We have been warned away from “exceptions” and “exemptions” to Policy because of the eroding effect they have on the strength and integrity of Policy but I would suggest it is not an exception or an exemption to Policy that we might possibly entertain tonight but rather an instruction to the Superintendent to consider an exception or exemption under Procedures on the grounds that they do not, as currently written, represent the full spirit of the Policy. The Policy is fine. It is the Procedures that need work. And it is within our purview as the Governing Board to direct the Superintendent to craft Procedures that more fully embody the Policy, our Policy, the Policy of the Governing Board of 2010, informed by the Principles of learning, development, safety, and accommodation. It is Policy, we are reminded time and time again, that the Governing Board is responsible for. And it is Policy that drives Procedure. It is for the Superintendent to align Procedures to Policy and the Principles it espouses.

I would suggest that what the current situation with the Choir requires and what the School Trips Policy overall requires is not improved wording or expression of its spirit but improved implementation.

I move that the Governing Board direct the Superintendent to revise Procedures to better align with spirit.

I move that the Governing Board direct the Superintendent to revisit the Procedures with an eye to accommodating the learning, development, and safety of the Boys Honour Choir.

I move, if necessary, that the School Trips Policy be placed under review for the revising of Procedures but that the Policy as it now reads remain intact.

February 2015: Newsletter

Feb. 16, 2015: This snow day posting is dedicated to the topic of school boards themselves. It’s inspired by recent readings and a sense that this is a discussion that’s gaining considerable momentum. It’s offered as food for thought on a day when you may be storm-stayed and have a few minutes more than usual for absorbing.

The following two links offer very different views touching on elected school boards, their function, and their effectiveness. One saying they are “the first rung in democracy”, the other that “(they) do not add value”. The Minister’s Action Plan clearly indicates her own desire for clarity on the topic. In the coming year there will be “an audit of school boards by the auditor general to look at their current structure and review their efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.”

The two readings that caught my eye were:

Graham Steele on the Minister’s “Disrupting the Status Quo”

Toronto Star: Secret life of a board member

School board structure is squarely under the microscope and may well be next in line for major change. Now’s as good a time as any to begin to form your own thoughts on the subject.

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

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 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.