School Board Rep David Finlayson’s April newsletter

School Board Rep David Finlayson’s April newsletter Looking for interested candidates

I am still looking for someone who is interested in running for HRSB representative from District 7. While people may make decisions over the summer, the election timeframe will be September-October, so it is important to get going at the beginning of September. If you know someone who may be interested, please let me know. Love to meet with interested candidates to give them the lowdown on what to expect or consider.

Important news for District 7 boundaries

The report on the Bedford/ Hammonds Plains Boundary review is due in this week. I have not seen the report or the staff response yet, but expect it this week. The report will be voted on by the board on April 25 and I hope several community members will be there to express their views. Once the document is ready, I will post a link on my website. If you want to speak at the meeting, just email our Corporate Secretary at the Board to be added to the list (1 week prior)

An unrequested school and what it means (April 5)

I was recently on CBC discussing a pair of government announcements. I want to start by saying that I fully support the decision to add skilled trade and a renovation to Cole Harbour High. This is a change we have been asking for since I started with the Board and this school needs the funds for change. The new skilled trades program is very important for our schools and our province and the school was in dire need of some funding. This school was to be number 8 on our Capital list, so that was good news.

The not so good news is the government announced a new High School that the Board had previously rejected and although there was no final decision (deferred by request of government) I am sure that it would not have passed a vote. This was a very strong lobby to a government that had made promises. They did a great job of getting their desires granted for this group. The government announced a $15 million project without regard for future operating capital for that school (and the changes that it could make throughout the system) and without a plan (that this Board has seen) to justify its’ existence. We have been told that High schools are to be at least 750 students except in extreme cases so that we can offer a full range of courses. This school would be about 400 students (at its’ maximum).

This new school will probably not be able to support IB, O2, French Immersion and other programs that a larger high school could support. This school has jumped in front of some very important projects that we have. While we have been assured that this money for Capital is above and beyond our Capital budget, I am concerned with the precedent it sets. If the government does not want Boards involved in these decisions, then I strongly recommend they take the school reviews/ boundaries and capital planning out of our hands. This would save a lot of our staff time and we can focus on delivering the program and helping our teachers and students to succeed and improve. While many have issues with the way the Boards operate and/ or decisions that we make, there is still a process that should be followed. I would implore this government to either work with the Boards, or take these decisions out of our hands completely.

Too many questions have to be answered:

– How much room is left for students at CH once the skilled trades centre is complete?

– How much extra operating $$ will HRSB be given to operate this school?

– How many students will want to attend the EP school considering the potentially minimal programming?

– How many students from EP will want to stay at CH due to the skilled trade programming?

– Why was the school board left out of this decision?

– Why wouldn’t the government fund other schools of greater need first? (Sunnyside for one)

– With additional $10 million cut out of education, how will we pay for teachers at this school?

– Do all of the parents want this school or just a group? (this is a definite NO- judging by the emails I have received from the school community)

– Why are we adding capacity in an area that has far too much capacity especially when we have been asked to consolidate space by the Department of Education?

– How are the students going to be exposed to different backgrounds, experiences and cultures when they will be staying in a school that is mostly of similar background? How will this effect their socialization?

That’s about it, I am sure there are more. Not to sound like sour grapes, but after 3 + years working on this Board, I am offended that we were left out of this important process when we have so many other things that could use our provincial tax dollars, including: more money to support student achievement, investment in our decaying infrastructure, investment in our IT capabilities or even paying for our lunch supervision which takes over $2 million out of our budget every year. Please take the time to ask these questions to your MLA if you have the chance.

Capital Process

This was a very interesting meeting. The Board is committed to getting a new P-12 school in Sheet Harbour. It will serve over 450 students and we have been working with various provincial, municipal and Federal departments plus the community to make this a true Wraparound school. This will allow us to bring four old schools under one roof and bring the facility to a standard that supports rural HRM. It will also allow us to work with these departments to offer many services at one location and offer many different learning opportunities for these students that are 90 minutes out of Metro Halifax.

The Bedford area had a new Sunnyside school added to the Capital list and a new Ravines High school for 2018. This was a win for the Bedford area as there were other projects such as renovations to Inglis St. and a new combined South End Junior High that were worthy of consideration. The capital process has changed, so this means that every year, any project that is not “shovel in the ground” will have to be re-added to the list. Whoever is elected will need to keep these projects top of mind each year until the projects begin. Please let your MLA and others in the majority government that these projects are important to you.

Other projects include a new Prince Arthur P-8, new Eastern District P-12, a new South End P-6, an energy retrofit program that will save us $2.5 million per year in operations, renovations to JL Illsley, Bihi and Eastern Shore.

School Reviews (April 4)

As usual, this was a painful process for all involved. School communities (both reviewed and receiving), students, board members and staff and other stakeholders. We have a significant problem in HRSB. That is we are paying for spaces that are not being used. This is taking money out of the classroom. Simply put, our extra schools are hurting our ability to deliver our programming and offer new programs and opportunities. While families believe that we are doing this to save dollars, it is to save it from operations and use it in the classroom. There must be a better way to review schools and have everyone participate and support a process that puts more money back into their child’s classroom.

The Sackville schools were prime candidates for closure and we attempted to work with the communities to offer a boundary review. Judging by some of the responses, maybe the board should have skipped this offer and just closed the schools. I don’t mind when people share their thoughts in a constructive way, but some of the emails have been extremely rude. I accept that these are tough decisions and hard for the community, but this elected Board is trying very hard to put more money into classrooms while trying to support communities. As the Bedford boundaries come forward, please contact me with your ideas so I can relay them to other Board members.

There is definitely capacity in Sackville that needs to reconfigured and the smart members of the community knew our decision gave them time to regroup, get all of the facts in front of the Board and suggest a system that works for families and the Board to optimize space and money into classrooms. There is definitely room to close at least three schools, if not more. There are also similar opportunities in Dartmouth and potentially Peninsula Halifax.

We have also had reports from staff that the Irving contract will only add 160 new students to our Board across all of HRM. This will not counter our declining enrollment of close to 800 students this year. Every school felt like they were getting all of these students that would keep their schools open. This is not right. I hope moving forward that these communities will focus on student achievement in their reviews.

Thanks for reading.




Here’s a tip – how to cook a soft boiled Happy Egg

Here’s a tip – how to cook a soft boiled Happy Egg

Birthday Blog, Birthday Blog, It’s The Best Day of the Year Girl