AMHERST – When the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board releases its 2014-15 budget later this week it won’t be like recent budgets that included teacher cuts and program reductions.
Retired principal and Amherst Rotarian Robert Angel talks to Chignecto-Central Regional School Board superintendent Gary Clarke and board member and Rotarian David Myles. Clarke spoke to Rotarians on Monday. Darrell Cole – Citizen-Record
Instead, board superintendent Gary Clarke said, it will include the hiring of more teachers throughout the system.
“There has been an increase in funding from the province. That was the Liberal platform during the election and that’s what we’re experiencing,” Clarke told members of the Amherst Rotary Club on Monday. “We’re very pleased about that and the new initiatives that are coming from that. It means we’ll be hiring a lot more teachers than we have in several years. That’s really positive for our system.
“The initiatives we’re working on will put new teaching positions into our system.”
Clarke said the province is implementing a cap on class sizes for Grades Primary to 2, while there is renewed emphasis from the province on early math and literacy skills and a plan to put guidance counselors in the elementary school system.
Something Clarke really likes is a $5,000 per school student support grant that will grow by how many students are in the school. For example, he said, a school with 500 students would get an additional $500.
From a gloomy scenario that include massive job cuts over the last two years, Clarke said the board has managed to avoid any serious hits to the classroom because it remains focused on its priorities.
“We’ve managed because we stayed focused on what we felt were our important priorities and we put as much support and resources as we could behind those priorities,” Clarke said. “The new investment we’re experiencing now is positive and supports the board’s priorities and we’re looking forward to continuing to work on those priorities and putting our best foot forward for our students.”
Despite this, he said, there remain challenges for the board including a continuing decline in enrolment. The board loses, on average, 400 students each year, while there is also about a million square feet in excess capacity. That’s space the board has to pay to heat, clean and maintain.
Another challenge facing the board is maintaining and repairing aging buildings across the district, while the board is also struggling to keep up when it comes to technology infrastructure.
The board superintendent said he remains proud of the work done by teachers across the board. He said all board staff continue to be student centered and focused on delivering a world-class program to every student.
While students continue to excel in provincial assessments, Clarke said, there’s always room for improvement. He said the board remains focused on providing teachers with the support and resources they require to maximize success by students in the classroom.
It also remains committed to improving math and literacy skills among the youngest students because research shows that students who are behind after Grade 3 often have the greatest difficulty in catching up as they move through the school system.
The board has also worked to cap class sizes in the Primary to Grade 6 levels while it has also worked to broaden program offerings for both junior and senior high students that not only prepare them for university, but also for community college and other skills courses.
Along with closing the technology infrastructure gap, Clarke said the board also wants to address what teachers and principals are identifying as a growing mental health issue. He hopes to address that with mental health clinicians in the schools and expanding the Schools Plus program.