Thursday October 30, 2014

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

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Cornerstone board holds February meeting

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The South East Cornerstone Public School Board discussed financial documents and other issues during its annual meeting of electors on February 20 in Weyburn.

Manager of finance Marilyn Yurkiw outlined the 2012-13 public accounts and the audited financial statements.

The 2012-13 fiscal year resulted in a surplus of $9.6 million, which is higher than the budgeted surplus of $5.2 million. Revenues were $106.7 million and expenses were $97.1 million.

The two major sources of revenue for the division continue to be provincial grants and property taxation. Forty-seven per cent of the division’s revenue came from property taxation and another 47 per cent were through provincial grants (36 per cent operating and 11 per cent capital). Total revenues for the year were $1.6 million, or 1.6 per cent, above the budget.

Seventy-two per cent of expenses for the division were for salaries and benefits. Total expenses for the year were $2.7 million, or 2.7 per cent, under budget.

The division's annual report – which reflects on accomplishments from 2012-13 – was also released.

The annual meeting was part of the board's February session. Other highlights from February's meeting were:

*The board approved the proposed calendar for the 2014-15 school year. It includes a return for the one-week winter break in February, which was scrubbed for the 2013-14 school year, and a traditional one-week break after Easter.

*The board will support the 2014 Education Sector Strategic Plan. The draft plan was developed collaboratively between school divisions, community members, students, parents and the Ministry of Education.

*The board has revised its policy handbook, which highlights and supports the governance function of the board. It also clearly defines the role of the board chair, the role of the director of education, and the delegation of authority from the board to the director. The policy can be found on the Cornerstone division's website.

*The First Nation and Métis Committee recommended the process for honouring and unveiling a statement of apology, to be displayed in each school. In accepting the recommendation, the board noted that the proposed process will include Elder Armand McArthur’s participation in the unveiling, with an invitation to be extended to Saskatchewan's lieutenant governor, and appropriate activities celebrating the event.

*The board approved the revised three-year preventative maintenance and renewal plan, which will be submitted to the Ministry of Education for final approval. The plan is the new method used by the ministry to fund capital projects that are less than $1 million. The renewed plan realigns some divisional priorities and outlines strategies for addressing them accordingly. It also impacts the reallocation of the facility capital budget.

*The board approved a budget adjustment for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Funds for the Radville boiler will be reallocated to the Wawota School for replacement of the roof over the gymnasium.

*An update was provided on System Goal No. 2 for students to achieve at high levels. The board received five pieces of evidence that point to the high levels of achievement by students.

For example, in English as an Additional Language (EAL), students are provided with the tools and support necessary to perform at their best. Chrisella Fesalbon, who is a Grade 10 student at the Weyburn Comprehensive School, shared with the board her experiences as an English as a student and the transition to the public education system.

A native of the Philippines, Fesalbon noted that with new vocabulary, culture, courses and different terminologies, forming social relationships with other students was a challenge. But with the support received through EAL, she is now able to form friendships, improve note taking and studying skills, enhance vocabulary and is more comfortable in her new environment.

Also, teachers are always on hand to provide assistance, support and additional strategies to ensure student comprehension. Ensuring that these aspects are taken care of, according to Fesalbon, is important for the success of any student and improves organization and school performance.

The board was also presented with a PowerPoint presentation by a Grade 10 multimedia enthusiast from Lampman School. Presentations highlighted student success and achievement in drama, athletics and general proficiency awards at the regional and provincial levels.

*Environmental consultant Scott Lawrence, who is with Lawrence Environmental Services, requested that the board donate the Queen Elizabeth School in Weyburn, once the decision has been made to vacate the existing structure. Lawrence proposed that the building would be used as a short-term shelter for men, women and children who do not have a place to stay, as well as gym activities for children and social networking for adults. The board advised Lawrence that they are not in the position to make such decisions at the moment, as there are too many factors outside of the board’s control.

*Manager of information systems Brian Belinksy and coordinator of instructional technology Peggy Lawson shared with the board the strategic plan for the division, with a vision to provide a progressive technological environment that empowers continued success and achievement.

In ensuring that all individuals are provided with the best technological resources, the division's goal is to have teachers who are competent and confident using and integrating information technology, with reliable, cost effective and secure technology infrastructure that will support the learning, teaching and administrative goals of the division.

Belinsky also noted that the division will use technology to improve administrative effectiveness through efficient business practices, communications, planning and record keeping, with technology-trained teachers who have ample resources and the most current, accurate and extensive resources to all learners.

According to Lawson, the strategic plan was drafted using a process called Thoughstream; the process allowed the division to garner additional input from students, parents, staff and community about some of the key challenges and benefits of technology in schools and how those influence the strategic directions of division. The process brought together 2,326 participants citing a number of common challenges and benefits in the division.

Using the feedback, the division will build on 21st century skills through communication, digital citizenship and fluency, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and collaboration.

Grade 4 to 12 students will see an improvement in the student-to-computer ratio from 2.7:1 to 2:1. Mobile devices will also be provided for all Kindergarten to Grade 3 students.

Belinsky also provided the board with updates on the state of the network. In the 2013-14 school year, the information systems department refreshed student computers and school technology infrastructure, updated computer wiring, storage areas network, email, the SharePoint and systems center, as well as the wireless infrastructure and divisional supports in some schools.

Some schools across the division will also receive bandwidth increases up to 100 megabytes per second. Throughout the rest of the academic year, the department will focus primarily on infrastructure, privacy, security and security delivery as they implement technology enhancements for divisional organization goals and strategies.

*The next meeting will be on Thursday, March 20.


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