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November 2016 - Vice-Chair Election Comments

posted Nov 3, 2016, 5:15 PM by Cindy Littlefair

We are a generous bunch. I was struck by that when writing these notes. The very existence of this body depends entirely on people offering themselves AND risking rejection. We offered ourselves to our districts for the privilege of sitting at this table and representing them and now we offer ourselves again, some of us, to one another, our colleagues, for the privilege of leading. It’s no small thing, offering. I can’t speak for the others but personally I’m way outside my comfort zone saying, Pick me, Pick me. So I want to start with acknowledging that and thanking us for offering.


I had the good fortune of enjoying the leadership provided by others for four years. I didn’t have to think about it. I came each week and I sat back and I admired it or criticized it but no matter what I didn’t have to DO it. My own neck wasn’t on the line. I could stick to my knitting, be a board member, and leave the heavier lifting to others.


Now I’m ready for heavier lifting. I’m a cautious person by nature and after four years of seeing how it works I think I finally have something to offer. Seeing so many new faces around the table I’ve been thinking about my beginnings here and my desire for guidance and leadership, and what I’ve learned from observing, and how, in addition to wanting to do it, I actually feel some obligation. I’ve enjoyed and learned from the leadership of others and now it’s time to step up and at least offer that to you.


The vice-chair role, as Dave reminds us, now comes with Committee of the Whole chairing duties. I have that experience from being chair of the policy committee for a year and the ad hoc governance committee last year. And I enjoyed it. And I like to think I was effective. I liked being responsible for making sure that all voices got heard. That we stuck to the point. And that we didn’t take forever doing it. AND that we got to where we were going, together, sharing a feeling of accomplishment.  


I like the idea of being part of the executive committee and setting the board’s agenda. The governance work opened my eyes to the many ways in which we can be more effective. One of the ways is the agenda itself. A simple tool, the agenda has immense impact on what we do. It affects everything from the tactical to the strategic. I’d like to be part of bringing a critical eye to the way we use it. And I’d love to be in on the start-up phase of this committee, that approach itself forming a big leap forward for efficiency and effectiveness.


What I offer beyond member and chairing experience and an interest in governance is a particular interest in equity. It isn’t EXplicitly a part of the role but IMplicitly it is. Very much. The governing board’s leadership has to have an understanding of the existence and effect of the historic and systemic barriers and obstacles that stand in the way of achieving equity. And it has to demonstrate an insistence on educating and transforming ourselves in order to educate and be an example to those we serve. Equity is the lens through which virtually everything we do must be viewed. Staff is already doing tremendous work on this front. The governing board’s work needs to be just as rigorous.


And, finally, I’d like to offer - a special BONUS offer - to get us up and running with a communications plan. One that would have us, the governing board, speaking directly to our 136 SACs and related African and Aboriginal Nova Scotian elected bodies on a regular basis. It could be as simple as a quarterly enewsletter but it would be ours and it would put us in touch and it could lead to other things.


I’ve had four years of watching and learning and reflecting and now I offer that to you. I’m stepping up and you’re welcome, with your vote, to tell me to step-off or step back. I’m okay with that. Really. But for the moment, for now at least, I feel the need and desire to offer.

September 2016. North End School Review debate comments

posted Oct 9, 2016, 4:27 AM by Cindy Littlefair   [ updated Oct 22, 2016, 8:55 AM ]


In the near future the governing board will receive a recommendation to review the balance of peninsula schools. I mention this because it’s the district I represent. Part of my district. And knowing what’s coming I’ve watched this review and the last review, Eastern Passage, with particular interest. I’ve watched the demands it places on all involved. I’ve watched the committee and the SAC chairs especially and the work it represents for them, what it has demanded of you, and what it will in all likelihood demand of SAC chairs to come. It is a gargantuan ask, a gargantuan undertaking, one marked of necessity by personal sacrifice, willingness to learn and understand and defend, and selflessness. As volunteer gigs go it’s remarkably demanding. And yet while it’s likely you didn’t sign on for SAC knowing that this work would be expected of you, same for the chairs in my district, it is arguably amongst the most important work you will do as an SAC chair for what it means to the future of the physical delivery of education in HRM.


I'm a product of the old model - an old-tymie SAC chair. Most of us here remember that process. Critics of the new model may have forgotten. Board staff decided which schools should be reviewed, individual schools, and then the governing board yayed or nayed it, and, if yayed, the battle would begin. And it was miserable. It was trench warfare. Us against them. Everyone dug in. Intractable. Isolated. Individual schools set in opposition to the system, the board. Duking it out. Surrender was never an option, people feeling as strongly as they DO about their schools. And it was hard, hard work but not particularly satisfying work because the process, even properly executed, was the wrong process. And everyone knew it. And the results, the responses, were uneven from one school to the next, too often falling victim to emotional appeals targeted primarily at heart instead of head. Desparate. And when the individual schools finally came to plead their case it was as if entering the Coliseum, various forms of officialdom looking on, SAC chairs taking the floor and, as was the case the last time I appeared in front of the governing board as SAC chair, watching my school succeed and witnessing Saint Pats Alexandra’s demise firsthand. It was every man, every school, for itself - the outcomes possibly arbitrary.


This debate happens for me at a very high level. Did the committee do what it was asked to do? Was process followed? Has staff checked it for deficiencies? It happens at a very high level in part, beyond being where governance places it, because we empowered and entrusted a community in the form of the SOC to go forth and make sense of a complex situation on our behalf. We gave them that authority. School review, fraught at the best of times, was especially fraught in this instance because taking place in a particularly beleaguered community. We asked a committee to understand, and figure out, and make sense for us. And make amends. And they did, as evidenced in the report and in the presentation of their report, in a way that none of us at this table could ever have hoped or expected of ourselves. The committee got out and into the community to a depth and breadth and with a thoroughness that meant representation was true and full and where deemed to need to be truer and fuller, made so, tireless in their pursuit of a durable set of recommendations. We gave them a job to do. They did it. And to my way of thinking it is incumbent on us to support it. All of it.


It’s not that I’m uninterested in the details. I’ve read every message I’ve received. If they’d pointed to a major structural weakness and fail I’d have been all over it. If the stars had aligned to produce not only a fatally flawed report but then, perfect storm of perfect storms, a fatally flawed staff report then I and everyone at this table would have, in our individual and collective wisdom, sensed, uprooted, and exposed it. That’s what we do. But that has not been demonstrated. At most we are seeing discrete things that require additional attention and will get additional attention going forward but nothing that suggests that these recommendations or the process needs redoing.


People charge that the Committee is not expert but I say it’s as expert as we’re going to get short of turning it over to paid professionals and we know how trusting and deferential the public is toward decisions made by paid professionals. Not. That's old school. We've done that. Our expectations have changed, grown, they’ve possibly gotten the better of us for being impossibly high - unwieldy, unmanageable. But that's where we are now and that’s the bar we have to meet and that means doing the work ourselves, equipped with the best possible information and support, investing it with our time and energy, and that's what this Committee has done.


It is with sadness that I hear what seem to be people who enjoy privilege twisting the committee’s efforts in reaching out to truly marginalized communities in order to apply that description to themselves. The committee needed not only to represent all voices but work to bring to the table those voices that have traditionally been overlooked, overpowered, or ignored. To those critics who would co-opt this argument I plead for compassion and reflection. The comparison is unjust, baseless, and damaging. A rejection of these recommendations and motions would almost certainly crush and further alienate key stakeholder groups in the community. We can’t keep telling people we have their backs, their best interests, at heart, that equity and inclusion are uppermost in our minds, if only to ignore those things in the interest of expedience. Nor can we think that committees of people will come together to do our bidding, the work of the SOC, if we arbitrarily dismiss their efforts. We can not empower them only to betray them in the final analysis. To do so is at our peril and the peril of future public engagement.


You have done a remarkable job. A difficult job. It has been messy. You have stuck with it. Seen it through. And the proof is in the result. It is so different from and superior to the old system I just described that the result is immediately light years ahead of any its predecessor ever produced. Instead of one school against the system it is a collection of schools, honouring their interdependence, and working with one another to tell the board what is needed. It is community, the on-the-ground, day-to-day experts scrutinizing their collective needs and deciding what's in their best interest given the assigned mandate. It is a decision participated in by hundreds of participants, stickhandled by a diverse, inclusive, committed group. Representative. Is it imperfect? The committee itself tells us so. Detractors tell us so. And those things will be addressed. But is it the best we’ve ever known? Unequivocally. This is the level from which I contemplate the recommendations and the motions. I have profound respect and appreciation for the work of community and faith in the continuing evolution of what is a fundamentally more enlightened approach to managing precious and finite resources.




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Everything you need to know to be a school board member

posted Jun 2, 2016, 5:30 AM by Cindy Littlefair   [ updated Jun 2, 2016, 5:31 AM ]


What do you think? Mayor? Councillor? Or maybe you secretly long to be a school board member. If so, the following is for you. Speaking personally, it’s been a fantastic experience being a school board member. I’ve loved it. I’ve hated it. And most days I fall somewhere in between. It’s an honour and a privilege and I recommend it to anyone who believes and wants to invest personally in public education. Elections are in October, so there’s still plenty of time to prepare with these tips.

1. Attend meetings: Being there in person provides the full picture. And do some homework ahead of time: go online, read agendas and attachments, jot down thoughts, questions and your position on decision items. 

2. Read the Education Act: It’s rambling, hard to follow, in need of overhaul and your new bible. Read the board’s guiding documents: strategic plan, business plan, budget, long range outlook, minutes, reports and policies. They’re online too. The strategic plan expires in 2017. How will you improve it? (Hint: Whatever you do, connect it to student learning. That’s as it is with all things.)

3. Plug into a School Advisory Council: There’s one at every school, advising the principal. Whether parent or community member you can attend and observe. Find out what’s on peoples’ minds. SACs are one-third of the elected voice of education in this province along with the minister of Education and school board members. 

4. Ask yourself why you want the job: I wanted to fix the school board. I disagreed with something staff had done, turned that into generalized condemnation and arrived ready to do battle. The problem? Being a board member isn’t about that. Board staff are good at what they do: the day-to-day running of the system. The governing board needs to be just as good at what it does: providing direction. That involves more than nursing pet peeves and grandstanding. It means understanding the whole system in all its complexity and acting with the best interests of 136 schools, almost 50,000 students and a few hundred thousand citizens in mind. That’s how you serve public education: With students and equity front and centre.   

5. On the edge of a knife: While essential that you understand and respect the system, you’re there to represent constituents. Be their voice. This means being conflicted. Within your district there will be disagreement—not only with you but with one another. How will you handle it? Are you an appeaser who, as Winston Churchill said, “feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last?” Or will you take it all in, all the information your vantage point affords, and form your own opinion? You have to figure out how to marry district representation with that of of every child and citizen. Being there for your schools and issues alone won’t cut it. That means hard decisions and being taken to task.  

6. How much time do you have? It’s a part-time job with full-time aspirations. It’s meant to fit in around the edges of your life. The work is demanding and preparation essential. The board recently received a 115-page package with the agenda; there were five days to read and digest. Generally speaking, the work takes five to 15 hours a week. And the learning curve is steep. My first year it felt like drinking from a fire hydrant. Public office is a right that comes with a lot of responsibility.

Cindy Littlefair

Contributed to The Coast, Mar. 18, 2016.


March 2016

posted Jun 2, 2016, 5:24 AM by Cindy Littlefair


It's perhaps too early to start counting chicks or breathing sighs of relief but so far this winter's been gentler than last, weather-related school closures have been few, and March break is within easy reach. We're well on our way to Spring. 
 
Now underway within the school board are two sets of school reviews.  Initiated in January they focus on Eastern Passage, soon to be the home of a new high school, and the northern half of the Citadel family. Both areas were identified for review based on the findings of the board-produced Long Range Outlook. Heavy lifting though the reviews are, they're also a heartening development for the departure they mark from past process and the opportunity they present for community to play a central role in shaping their own school future, all of it taking place under the guidance of professional facilitators with access to extensive information resources. By May we'll begin to see the fruits of their labours.
 
The replacement Le Marchant St. Thomas Elementary, working name Halifax South Peninsula Elementary, is well into its School Steering Team phase. SAC chairs and principal along with key staff from the Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development, Dept. of Transportation, HRM, and HRSB are meeting to discuss appearance, features, and enhancements in order to advise the designers. Demolition will get underway in the summer  beginning with abatement. The Beaufort school site across the street from LMST will be home to students during construction of the new school.
 
2016/17 budgeting and business planning will get underway shortly. For detailed descriptions of 2015/16 results and a look at how it's shaping up relative to plan, click here for the third quarter  report presented last week.
 
The focus on schools in the Auditor General's November report was about oversight and management of the delivery of educational services during 2014/15. Coincidentally the Halifax board had already spearheaded its own look at governance, feeling that there were improvements to be considered. An ad hoc committee has so far looked at three forms of governance and will report to the full board on its findings in the Spring. Like the schools it oversees the board is responsible for its own continuous improvement.   
 
Superintendent Elwin LeRoux's monthly reports identify stories from within schools and across the board that highlight the strategic plan in action and more.
 
Though still relatively early it's not too soon to It's not too early 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.

Feel like a visit? I can attend an SAC meeting. I can welcome you to a board meeting. Let me know your pleasure an we'll arrange something.



October 2015

posted Jun 2, 2016, 5:23 AM by Cindy Littlefair

October 24, 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

posted Jun 2, 2016, 5:22 AM by Cindy Littlefair   [ updated Jun 2, 2016, 5:24 AM ]


September 17, 2015

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 c.littlefair@ns.sympatico.ca if you wish to be added.


November 2015

posted Mar 10, 2016, 2:23 AM by Cindy Littlefair

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 waye.mason@halifax.ca or drop by Joachim Stroink’s Quinpool Road office to pick one up.

June 2015

posted Oct 24, 2015, 3:02 AM by Cindy Littlefair

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

posted Jun 9, 2015, 6:56 AM by Cindy Littlefair

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

posted Jun 9, 2015, 6:30 AM by Cindy Littlefair



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.
 

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