During a regular board meeting held Monday (May 28) at Sherwood Park Education Centre in Sydney, (Nova Scotia) board vice-chair Fred Tilley motioned to review a decision to a vocational administrative position at Memorial Composite High School from a full-time position to a part-time position.
“I think we made a boo-boo,” said Tilley.
Memorial is the only composite high school in the province, offering vocational programming in what Tilley referred to as “a school within a school.”
He said the need for skilled tradespeople is expected to rise in the near future. The program currently educates about 300 students.
Northside school board member Charlie Keagan said the province has funded up to $750,000 in improvements for the vocational facilities at Memorial in recent years.
He said the vocational programming has helped students find their way in life.
“Not everybody is an academic,” he said. “And this vocational program has saved a lot of these kids.”
Programs offered at Memorial High include carpentry, cooking, electrical, dining room services, graphic design, heavy-duty equipment repair, information technology, plumbing and heating, welding, broadcasting, motor-vehicle repair and marketing.
Baddeck board member Cathi Pierrard said she wouldn’t support the motion to revisit the decision because it was unfair to single out one educational component.
“We had to look at cutting all the positions,” said Pierrard. “Skilled trades is very important, so is academics. I’m personally am going to vote against. I think that if we open one we have to open them all.”
The motion to review the vocational programming cut was accepted by the board majority.
In response to recent budget cuts, school board superintendent Ambrose White said there will be no program cuts.
He said the board had hoped to expand its after-school outreach program for parents and students that is based in Sherwood Park, but the province said no to extra funding.
The board approved an operating budget last week that will cut 75 positions, including 44 classroom teachers and 12 teaching assistant positions.
The board saw a 2.1 per cent reduction in provincial funding in 2012-2013, a decrease of $2.86 million. Boards were also directed to absorb cost pressures such as negotiated wage increases and inflation, bringing the total shortfall to $4.4 million in 2012-2013.
“Will that impact programs in a way? Indirectly it will,” said White. “There’s less people in our system and less support. It may cause some increase in class sizes, so I mean those are some of the effects of this.”
White hopes to see the return of some teaching assistants if new students moving into the area require those services.
The school board will continue to offer its adult education program but will be making space for some of its programs in area schools, rather than renting out space in the communities.
There are fewer students enrolled in adult education, resulting in a cut of two learning centre teachers and two adult day school teachers.
The board is currently in the second year of a three-year mandate to cut 30 per cent of a total 30 consultants. White said 6.5 positions were cut last year. Two positions will be cut this year, and another 1.5 positions will be cut next year.
Some of the consultants are school based, while others are based out of the board’s Northside office. White said consultants are paid as department heads.
“They do math and literacy support, tech support — a broad range,” said White. “They help with the professional development of teachers. They go in and help teachers one-on-one.”
White said if a consultant’s position is cut, that person is put back into the classroom.
Cape Breton Post