At the May 20, 2014 public board meeting we were requested to approve the budget for the district for the 2014-2015 school year. I was unable to approve the budget for a couple of reasons. On page 3 of the budget booklet it states: “Our stakeholder input was a vital part of our planning and we encouraged stakeholders to bring forth the issues that they identified as most important. Through the use of surveys and discussion groups, parents, students and employee groups were asked a series of questions relating to their views on relevant issues…of high priority were the issues of class size, faith formation, support for special needs and the need for prudent fiscal management”.
Nowhere in that list did our stakeholders declare that training our teachers for Inspiring Education was a priority for them. Inspiring Education is a provincial initiative which the province should fund. If teachers need to be re-trained to teach in the manner advocated by Inspiring Education, the province should provide money for that training. Our district in this budget is devoting $1 million dollars of our budget to this training which we call “Transform”. I asked the Minister of Education in a May 13 email if our district was expected to pay for our teachers’ training for Inspiring Education and he replied:
“…the first thing is we need to use the PD dollars already in the system to do appropriate training. It’s not just a matter of adding things but actually changing the way we do things today with the dollars we already have. Second there is a desire to add resources for appropriate teacher supports and training. I can’t say exactly how much or exactly what it would be for but my hope is that there will be some coming.”
In my view, adding $1 million to our PD budget for the purpose of training our teachers for Inspiring Education is more than what our Education Minister expects. Our stake holders have clearly stated that their priorities are class size, faith formation, support for special needs and prudent fiscal management.
I believe that we should be devoting that additional $1 million toward these identified priorities. A million dollars will go a long way to address our increasing large class sizes; to enhancing the faith formation of our students through increased funding for our school chaplains; for hiring additional supports for our special needs students. By directing this money to these priorities as identified by our stakeholders we will be also showing our prudent fiscal management.
On May 20th I asked my fellow trustees to join me in requesting our administration to devote our current PD dollars toward Transform as the Minister suggests. I asked my fellow trustees to make one amendment to the budget: put the $1 million dollars currently devoted to the Transform initiative towards the priorities identified by our parents, students, and employee groups. I asked that they trust that our Education Minister will provide money to train teachers in an approach to teaching and learning which is an initiative of our provincial government.
I suggested that we redirect the $1 million dollars to the following:
- We could use this money to reduce class sizes across all grades. One million dollars would allow us to hire 10 more teachers.
- We could use this money to give our special needs students more resources since parents of special needs students expressed in our latest satisfaction survey that they are only 77.9% satisfied with the learning experience of their children.
- We devote only $350,000 in this budget toward our new Canadian students—let us use some of the Transform budget for them.
- We devote only $285,000 toward our junior high chaplains – that works out to $10,000 for each of our 28 junior highs. We are devoting more to Transform than to our junior and senior high chaplains combined ($685,000).
- We have identified within our Accountability Pillar Report that our K-9 students’ learning achievement has been flagged as an issue. Some of this money could go toward addressing the causes for a decline in the rate of Acceptable and Excellent scores on our Provincial Achievement Tests.
I made these suggestions to my fellow trustees but they did not agree that the $1 million dollar Transform budget should be re-directed.