School is the heart of a small community
· 1 Mar 2013
· The Amherst Daily News
For most parents, recognizing the unique qualities and potential in each child comes naturally. Every child is unique and so are their circumstances.
I believe the same principle can be applied to our rural schools. Each community in Nova Scotia is unique. The circumstances a community is in and its potential is something the residents, like all parents, see every day.
This is why I am disappointed the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board (CCRSB) has placed schools like Wentworth Consolidated Elementary and others on the review list for closure. The assessment is another sign that the Nova Scotia Department of Education in Halifax is failing our schoolchildren and does not take into account the unique circumstances of some rural schools. It is no wonder the school’s review committee, made up of parent volunteers, is frustrated with the lack of transparency and co-operation from their own government. The parents and staff of River Hebert District High School have also experienced the frustration of dealing with the Department of Education. Despite repeated promises to the community, tenders have still not been called and the community is left on hold; waiting to hear about its future and the future of its young people.
A school has many great things to offer a community. It offers our young people a sense of identity and the promise of hope, through education, bonds of friendship and trust between students, teachers and the community. It is a place for students to feel safe, to feel inspired and to feel at home. How do you quantify those influences? A school is the heart of a small community and a way must be found to keep them open.
Schools across our region and the province are coping with the review process. Last week, the Department of Education released the School Board budgets for the next fiscal year and, again, five of the eight provincial school boards will have to cut costs. However, the department has not provided leadership to make sure that money is taken from the boardrooms, and not the classrooms. I do not accept that all has been done to reduce administration costs.
The Nova Scotia Department of Education continues to ignore the investment that it makes in our children and ultimately our province’s future.
In November, Ray Ivany, the chair of the Nova Scotia Commission on Building our New Economy said, “We are at a unique point in our history. As Nova Scotians, it is incumbent on us to take stock of our strengths and face our challenges directly.” Rural communities have been facing challenges directly for years, but the closure of its school is one challenge that many communities have struggled to recover from.
Time has come to look at school board structure and department structure to see where savings can be made. The Department of Education is the second-largest in government. Nova Scotians deserve to know exactly how their money will be used to give our children the best opportunities to succeed.
I urge the CCRSB and the Department of Education to listen to the communities with at risk schools and work towards a solution for the kids and the communities.
Jamie Baillie is MLA Cumberland South and the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.