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Concerned Parents, from across Nova Scotia, are coming together in an attempt to Save Community Schools, but we welcome parents and community members from across Canada to join our fight to demonstrate the value of community schools.

Over 20 Schools in NS Under Review For Closure in 2011-2012!
Although on January 21, 2011 the current Minister of Education is quoted in the Chronicle Herald as having said, "[t]his government is going to make sure that we have our community schools open for our students," the province of NS may have 20+ fewer schools as early as September 2012!

BREAKING:

(Dec. 6, 2011)  Parents and community members in the Tri-County come together and present to their Board a case to end the 2011 School Review Process for Weymouth Consolidated School - Visit the News section of our website to read about the Board's response to the presentations ... or take a guess as to how you think they responded.

(Nov. 7, 2011) Parents and community members of 5 community schools in Halifax come together to fight for their schools!  Visit the News section of our website here, for more info.

(Nov. 2, 2011)  Fight to save community school heats up in the Tri-County School Board region!  Remember, it is by working together that Concerned Parents and Community Members Save Community Schools!

For more information about the campaign to save Weymouth Consolidated school, please visit the News section of our website here.


STAY INFORMED:
CBC Information Morning Special on Education:
  http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningns/features/tomorrows-classroom/

BECOME INVOLVED:
  Email: concernedparents@savecommunityschools.ca


IMPORTANT:  Please write your elected SRSB board members and let them know that you support Community Schools, and that they should too! (srsb.boardmembers@savecommunityschools.ca

MORE IMPORTANT:  Since the majority of the SRSB Members have demonstrated that they are not interested in public input, please write the press and your other elected officials, particularly your local MLA, Minister of Education (educmin@gov.ns.ca), and the Premier (premier@gov.ns.ca)!

Past Events:
(Oct. 17, 2011)  SRSB Hosts First Meeting of Rev. H.J. MacDonald Study Committee
The Strait Regional School Board Administrative representatives (Directors of HR and Student Services) chaired the first meeting of the Rev. H.J. MacDonald Study Committee.  The SRSB Administrators reviewed the School Review Regulations, but remained unable to explain how the September 27, 2011 Impact Assessment Report conforms to the provincial regulation 17(2)b.

Just before leaving the SRSB representatives provided a print copy of the Impact Assessment Report (IAR) to the people in attendance, however we couldn't help but notice the document, although dated September 27, 2011 is not the same as the copy of the IAR posted to the Board's website after the September 27, 2011 Board Meeting where the report was adopted.  The updated report has an item 9 page 60 in the table of contents, and page 60 a title page introducing the Identification Report, followed by the Identification Report (from March 2011) as prepared per regulation 16.

The question this raises is, is the SRSB aware of Regulation 17(1), which states: "On identifying a public school for review in accordance with Section 16, a school board must prepare an Impact Assessment Report in respect of the public school and table the Impact Assessment Report at a public meeting of its members no later than September 30." ?   The Impact Assessment Report currently posted on the SRSB's Document Depot for Rev. H.J. MacDonald has a creation date of October 13, 2011, nearly two weeks AFTER the required due date (September 30) - thus the motion passed by the Board on October 12, 2011 has resulted in the Board violating regulation 17(1), as they did in 2010.

It should be noted that in 2010 the Board properly ended the review process in light of the violation of regulation 17(1), so why is it they moved to violate this regulation in 2011 to cover up for violating regulation 17(2)b? 

For media coverage of this issue, please visit the News section of our website.

(Oct. 13, 2011) SRSB Motions Effectively Admits Violation of Regulation 17(2)b
At the regular monthly meeting of the Strait Regional School Board last night the Board voted 8-3 against a motion brought forward by Board Member Frank Machnik to end the school review process for Rev. H.J. MacDonald school (Heatherton).  Machnik's motion made specific reference to the Board's code of ethics, which requires Board Members to abide by the laws and regulations governing education in the province of Nova Scotia, and as such he stated all Board Members have a duty to support his motion, in light of the absence of the 2011 Identification Report in the 2011 Impact Assessment Report accepted by the Board on September 27, 2011, for Rev. H.J. MacDonald school.  It should be noted that the Ministerial Education Act Regulations governing the School Review Process section 17(2)b explicitly states that "An Impact Assessment Report must ... contain the Identification Report prepared under Section 16."

Shortly after the majority of Board members opted to ignore Machnik's call to end the review process, motions were put forward, and adopted by the Board (8-3), which notes the Board will append the 2011 Identification Reports to the 2011 Impact Assessment Reports for the three schools under review in the Strait.  It should be noted that the wording of the motion effectively admits that the Board's 2011 Impact Assessment Reports DID NOT "contain the Identification Report prepared under Section 16".  The preamble in the motion was to the effect, although the Impact Assessment Report contained "virtually all" and/or "updated" information from the Identification Report, the Board will append the Identification Report to the Impact Assessment Report.

Points for consideration:

1.  If the September 27, 2011 Impact Assessment Reports (IAR) contained "virtually all" information from the Identification (ID) Report, it can be concluded that the IAR DID NOT contain ALL the information from the ID report prepared and accepted by the Board in March 2011, although the regulations required (MUST CONTAIN) the entire report as prepared in March, 2011.

2.  If the September 27, 2011 Impact Assessment Reports (IAR) contained "updated" information from the Identification (ID) Report, it can be concluded that the IAR DID NOT contain the ORIGINAL source information from the ID report prepared and accepted by the Board in March 2011, although the regulations require (MUST CONTAIN) the entire report, as prepared in March, 2011.

3.  If the September 27, 2011 Impact Assessment Reports (IAR) have the 2011 Identification (ID) Report "appended" to them then the IARs have been changed and accepted by the Board effective October 12, 2011, in violation of the Ministerial Education Act Regulations governing the School Review Process Section 17(1), which clearly states the IAR MUST be accepted by the Board "no later than September 30"

So, here we are, in light of clear cut violations of the Regulations governing education in the province of Nova Scotia the majority of SRSB Members opted to not support Board Member Machnik's motion to end the Review Process, but rather to attempt a slight of hand to bring the Board in line with the Regulations by effectively changing the already approved Impact Assessment Reports, an act which in itself results in a violation of the School Review Process Regulation 17(1).  So much for the Board's Code of Ethics, which is mandated in the Education Act, which was apparently adopted in part due to the past conduct of the Strait Regional School Board...


(Oct. 12, 2011) SRSB CHANGES MEETING TIME TO 6:00pm TONIGHT!
This is a quick notice to advise concerned parents and community members that we have received unofficial notification that the SRSB is planning to commence their meeting at 6:00pm, rather than 6:15pm as we were previously advised by the Chair of the SRSB.

You are encouraged to be at the Board office by 5:45pm to get a seat!

(Oct 6, 2011) SRSB's Director of Operations Explains IAR Contents
At a meeting of School Advisory Councils, hosted by SRSB Administrative Staff, the Director of Operations, for the SRSB, explained that the regulations governing the school review process require the Impact Assessment Report (IAR) to conform to a format approved by the Minister (he was referring to regulation 17(2)a), and the template provided by the Department of Education did not include a spot to include the Identification Report prepared per regulation 16 (as required in the regulations 17(2)b). 

That seems like a plausible explanation for how this issue came to be, but unfortunately it does not change the fact that the regulation 17(2)b has been violated, and so we maintain that the SRSB Members have an ethical obligation to vote to end the 2011 School Review Process for Rev. H.J. MacDonald school, as requested.

The Chair of the SRSB has advised Save Community Schools that the Board will be meeting on Wednesday, October 12, 2011 @ 6:15pm [edit: changed to 6:00pm] to discuss this issue, before commencing the 7:00pm Regular Board meeting.  We encourage concerned parents, community members, and the media to arrive by 6:00pm to guarantee a seat!


(Oct. 5, 2011) The Casket and 101.5 the Hawk Report on School Review Process Violation
News coverage of the concerns raised by Save Community Schools (Oct. 3, 2011), includes this piece in The Casket - Parent's Group Wants Answers from the Board and was also reported on 101.5 The Hawk news Group calling for SRSB to stop review process for school

The SRSB is meeting Wednesday, October 12 (rescheduled from Oct. 5), at the Board's central office in Port Hastings, and Concerned Parents and Community Members from across the Strait are encouraged to attend to observe our tax dollars in action and to demand accountability from the six-figure administrators and 12 elected Board Members for this ongoing fiasco.  Regular meeting starts at 7:00pm, but we'll see you at 6:00pm, if you want to guarantee a seat! 


(Oct. 3, 2011) Strait Regional School Board Violates School Review Process - AGAIN!
Upon reviewing the 2011 Identification and Impact Assessment Reports for Rev. H.J. MacDonald School, we have come to the conclusion that the Strait Regional School Board has again violated the Ministerial Education Act Regulations governing the School Review Process, specifically:

17(2)(b) An Impact Assessment Report must ... contain the Identification Report prepared under Section 16

Copies of the Identification and Impact Assessment Reports are available on the SRSB's website (www.srsb.ca) or directly from our website under the News announcing the acceptance of the Impact Assessment Reports.

(Sept. 27, 2011) Strait Regional School Board Votes to Continue Reviews!
The Strait Regional School Board has voted to accept the Impact Assessment Reports for three community schools and thus continue the School Review Process to close these schools:
  • Rev. H.J. MacDonald (Heatherton) 8-4
  • Canso Academy (Canso) 12-0 (reported by 101.5 the Hawk)
  • West Richmond Education Centre (West Richmond) 12-0
Reports are still coming in, but some highlights from the meeting include Board Member Machnik's suggestion that the Impact Assessment Report for Rev. H.J. MacDonald school may be bias, with a clear slant towards closing the school.  Two issues Machink noted were the way the IAR reports the Rev. H.J. school's fire code compliance relative to the proposed receiving school and the failure of the Board to include the actual grade P-6 population of students registered with the Strait Regional School Board and residing within the Rev. H.J. MacDonald school's catchment area. 

Administrators responded to Machnik's first inquiry noting that they did not think the receiving school had a sprinkler - when asked why that fact was not highlighted for that school, as it was for Rev. H.J. MacDonald, the Administration responded that they didn't know if it had a sprinkler or not.  With respect to the student population that is supposed to be serviced by Rev. H.J. MacDonald the Administration suggested that the data was not relevant for the report, because the Board has seen a significant decline in student population across the entire Strait Region - however the Report was prepared for one school responsible for servicing one part of that region, if that's not where the population decline is taking place, why should that community carry the cost of having their school closed?

So are the reports bias - is this Administration, who the Board has tapped to act as "facilitators" to assist the public Study Committees prepare a response to Impact Assessment Reports, free of bias and willing to consider the scenario where by these schools may remain open?  One way for you to find out, read the Impact Assessment Reports yourself and draw your own conclusion.

For more information and media news coverage, visit the News section of this site.

Impact Assessment Reports available now on the Strait Regional School Board's website:


(August 2011) SRSB Denies Request to Provide Facilitator to Study Committies
As part of the 2009 Public Focus Group that made recommendations to improve the NS School Review Process, Recommendation #4 was to require school boards to provide an independent facilitator to assist the public (volunteer) study committee (primarily made up of parents and community members) navigate their obligations under the Education Act and Ministerial Regulations governing the School Review Process.  It was believed that such a support would help level the playing field across the province between communities that may have individuals with more research and political expertise than others, and also increase the efficiency of the Study Committee's work, by keeping their work on track.

In the Fall of 2010 the former Minister of Education adopted some of the recommendations, most notably a recommendation that provides school boards an additional aprox. 4 months (from 2 to 6 months) to complete their Impact Assessment Reports while at the same time reducing the time for the public to respond to the reports from aprox. 5 to 3 months. 

Having spoken to representatives of the Public Focus Group it is our understanding that the public representatives on the Focus Group agreed to the change in timelines with the understanding / expectation that a facilitator would be provided to the Study Committees to offset the reduced time.  It seems the Department of Education didn't see the connection, and have refused requests to consider requiring Board's to provide such a support as part of the School Review Process, noting that the regulations do not prevent Board's from providing a facilitator to Study Committees.

In August 2011, the Strait Regional School Board considered and denied a request to provide a facilitator, although Cape Breton and Halifax Boards already committed to do so for their region.  Essentially the SRSB Board Members concluded that the administration and staff of the SRSB can provide the "facilitation" needed by Study Committees.  Here at Save Community Schools we have to wonder if anybody considered the conflict of interest that may exist having Board staff and administrators provide guidence to the Study Committee tasked with responding to a report prepared by the same staff and administrators.  Furthermore, based the SRSB's violations of  the 2010-2011 School Review Regulations, concerns remain, within the community, that the SRSB administration and staff are not adequately knowledgeable of the legislative and regulatory obligations defined for the School Review Process, and thus may not be qualified to act as facilitators.

Over 20 Schools in NS Under Review For Closure in 2011-2012!
Although on January 21, 2011 the current Minister of Education is quoted in the Chronicle Herald as having said, "[t]his government is going to make sure that we have our community schools open for our students," the province of NS may have 20+ fewer schools as early as September 2012!

Halifax Regional School Board puts 5 schools forward in the review for closure!
South Shore Regional School Board SAVES 12 schools from review for closure! - WELL DONE!
Strait Regional School Board places 3 schools under review for closure!
Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board places 6 schools under review for closure!
Annapolis Valley Regional School Board places 2 schools under review for closure!
Tri-County Regional School Board has (?) schools under review for closure!
Chignecto-Central Regional School Board has 7(?) schools under review for closure!

(May 5, 2011) Province Receives Levin Report on Education - Ben Levin's $40k report on Education was received by the province of NS today.  The report makes 5 key recommendations, a most troubling recommendation is #4 to "Make better use of facilities and resources by closing schools that are underutilized." Press Release (here) Read the Report  (here) - Provide feedback on to Department of Education (here) until June 5, 2011.

(May 4, 2011) Book Launch - Dr. Paul Bennett's book, Vanishing Schools was officially launched.  "Here is a lively, stimulating book that examines the rise of common schooling from local, one-room schoolhouses that encouraged local democratic control through to the rise of "super-sized" schools governed by a vast bureaucracy that silences public participation."  (More information available here.)

(April 2011) CBVRSB - Appointed former NS Department of Education Regional Education Officer as a consultant for the 2011 School Review Process.  The appointment of a consultant / facilitator is in line with a 2009 public focus group recommendation to the Department of Education to amend the school review process to require boards to provide an independent  consultant / facilitator to assist the community Study Committees through the school review process - this recommendation was not adopted in November 2011, but the CBVRSB apparently recognizes the merits of the recommendation and opted to provide the consultant. (See News for more information)

(March 30, 2011)  SSRSB Special Meeting - Voted to NOT continue the School Review Process, to close  12 community schools.  Well done concerned parents and community members of the South Shore - your success started by electing reasonable Board Members and concluded by making your case to them!  Congratulations to Board Members of the SSRSB for doing your job and representing the people of region!

(March 30, 2011) HRSB - Voted on motions to accept the Identification Reports and continue the School Review Process to close up to 12 community schools.  The votes resulted in ending the process for 7 of the 12 schools, which means they voted to continue the School Review Process to close 5 schools in the Halifax Regional School Board.  This decision by the Board Members of the HRSB suggests they have considered the input from the public, concerned parents and community members, and made their decision based on more than the recommendation of Board Administration and Staff.  Thoughtful comments, including from the Board Chair, demonstrate there is some degree of reasonable consideration for community schools, when considering school closures, within the Halifax Regional School Board.  As reported on CBC.ca "Upper Musquodoboit Consolidated Elementary was facing review. But Carvery said it didn't make sense to close the only school in the community."

(March 28, 2011) SRSB Special Meeting - the Strait Regional School Board Members voted 9-3 to accept the Identification Reports and continue the School Review Process to close three community schools, Rev. H.J. MacDonald (Heatherton), Canso Academy, and West Richmond Education Centre!

(March 23, 2011) SRSB Working Committee Meeting - Identification Reports presented.  Board Member Machnik had to put forward a motion to have the Board allow a Home & School Association make a presentation, on behalf of their school, at the March 28 meeting, because the Chair did not think it fit the agenda - even though on March 28 the Board will be voting to continue the School Review Process for closing the school!  Almost half of the elected board members voted AGAINST the motion, luckily 6 of the 11 present showed they take their job seriously, and that they respect the public enough to grant them an opportunity to speak. To the Reasonable Board Members: Machnik, Horton, MacLaughlin, Reddick, Peters, and Bernard - Thank you, from Concerned Parents & Community Members!

(February 21, 2011) SRSB votes to initiate the School Review Process Identification Reports, based on a flawed screening report and staff / administration recommendation. Shame on them for not recognizing what we demonstrated in 2010 - by working together concerned parents and community members, Save Community Schools!  See News for more details

(February 17, 2011) SRSB Superintendent effectively admits administration and staff disregarded Board Screening Policy criteria when preparing 2011 Screening Report - the basis of their recommendation to review three Strait area schools for closure!  In response to a question about why the average operating cost / student ($1000 / student) was the same in the 2010 and 2011 Screening Reports, the Superintendent stated they "decided" to "use the same data as last year" - the criteria, as defined by the Board's Screening Policy, is that the value should be the "system average" operating cost - if that average changes year over year, then it must be reflected in the report - it seems the Superintendent has effectively admitted that the 2011 Screening Report is flawed, and as such Board Members must, in good faith, vote against the proposed motions to review these schools.  If the report is flawed - the recommendations are flawed!

(January 28, 2011) Strait Regional School Board responds to Save Community Schools' request to present at the February 2 Board Meeting with a commitment to hear the presentation in March - a full month after the Board is scheduled to vote on initiating the school review process.

(January 25, 2011) Save Community Schools representatives wrote to the SRSB to request an opportunity to present a response to the Screening Report on, or before, the February 2, 2011 vote to initiate Identification Reports - the School Review Process.

(January 24, 2011)  Strait Regional School Board administration and staff present the Infrastructure Rationalization 2010-2011 Screening Report to the Board.  The report concludes with the recommendation of SRSB staff, for the Board to proceed to the first formal step of the School Review Process, by requesting Identification Reports be prepared for Rev. H.J. MacDonald, Canso Academy, and West Richmond Education Centre schools.  See News and Community Voice for responses to this report.

(January 19, 2011) Strait Regional School Board releases their response to the Department of Education's 22% Funding Reduction Exercise.  There is no mention of school closures in the tentative cost-savings measures proposed in that report.

(January 5, 2011) Strait Regional School Board passes a motion to respond to the November 30, 2010 Save Community Schools' presentation, by the end of the month.

(November 30, 2010) Save Community Schools made a presentation to the Strait Regional School Board about inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information presented to the public, throughout the 2010 School Review Process.  (download notes here)  For news coverage of our presentation to the Strait Regional School Board, please visit our News section.

(November 15, 2010) New News Item and Commentary Added.  See News for more details.

(November 10, 2010) More News Coverage posted to the News section of our website.

(October 20, 2010) GREAT NEWS:  Strait Regional School Board formally acknowledges the 2010-2011 School Reviews for Canso Academy, Rev. H.J. MacDonald, and H.M. MacDonald schools have ended!  See News for more details.

(September 15, 2010): SRSB Members Fail To Save Community Schools!  Please refer to the News Section for more information!

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

In the Spring of 2010, the SRSB announced the closure of St. Mary's Education Centre elementary school after completing a review process that provided little opportunity for public participation or input.

In March 2010 the SRSB also passed motions to initiate the review process for three more rural community schools within the district. 

Rev. H.J. MacDonald elementary (P-6) school, in Heatherton, Antigonish Co., NS.
H.M. MacDonald elementary (P-6) school, in Maryvale, Antigonish Co., NS.
Canso Academy high school (9-12), in Canso, NS.

Since starting Save Community Schools (2010-03-21), it is with mixed blessings that we have been receiving support from across the province and as far west as Alberta.  The support is appreciated, but the mixed blessing is that so many other communities are fighting the same battle that communities within the Strait Regional School Board are fighting.

Recently parents in Halifax successfully convinced board members to vote against initiating reviews of community schools in their region - Congratulations Halifax!  More recently, the school board in Cape Breton canceled plans to review eight community schools for closure, because maybe they wouldn't save as much money as they thought.

Let's hope that the work we do together will demonstrate to board members across the province and across the country, that Community Schools are worth saving.  In many cases the limited cost savings achieved by closing community schools are more than offset by the social costs to the broader communities impacted by the closures.  More concerning is that often times the financial savings school boards are trying to achieve can be found in other parts of the budget, which will not have a direct impact on students, communities, or student services.  That's ultimately what we're asking for - let's make community schools and cuts to student programs the last choice in our pursuit of balanced budgets. 

If you have a story to share about community school reviews or closures, or comments about Save Community Schools, please visit the Community Voice section of our website.

To keep on top of news coverage about community school reviews and closures, particularly in NS, please visit the News section of our website.

To view, or join, specific community school groups' Facebook Groups, please visit our Facebook section of the website.

To challenge our assertion that the desired financial savings can often be found in other parts of school board budgets, please visit the SRSB Docs section of our website and analyze the proposed savings (Identification Reports) and financial history (Budget - Business Plan and Audited Financial Statements).

Media requests and news tips may be directed to media@savecommunityschools.ca