Tag Archives: AVRSB

The view from Hantsport

We have had occasion in the past to be in contact with Heather Davidson, editor of Hantsport’s  News and Views “the monthly community newspaper with no ads.” .[We have been corrected- it now has a few ads!]  We contacted her recently to get another point of view on the school issue.  These excerpts, reporting  on recent school meetings, were taken from the upcoming (Dec.) issue of News and Views.We have interjected some thoughts.

Reporting on the Hantsport meeting of Nov. 16th:

…Citizens, under the leadership of consultant Jemma Lambert, discussed the school’s future as set out in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board’s Eastern Kings School Review Phase 2. Town council discussed the issues but made no decision. It organized this meeting to hear the public’s opinion. …
The good news: the school is not slated to close in the near future. The board advocates all grade 9 students attend Horton High School. Colin Chase, principal of Hantsport School,stated that the board wants the future of grade 9s discussed.
The board seems to prefer one consolidated “middle level” (grades 6-8), but, Paula Lunn (Hantsport’s school board resentative) added, “not necessarily separate.”

This we think is an important point – “Not necessarily separate.”

…Jemma reminded the audience that the school board will be basing their decisions utilizing several criteria: operating costs, facility improvement costs, student enrollment, plus a range of mitigating factors.

A member of the audience asked, “Is the board considering what is best for the students?” No one answered.

Isn’t that a good question!? One wonders why no one from the Board had the cojones to answer.

Marie Doucette asked if Hantsport and Wolfville would work together for option 4. CAO Jeff Lawrence responded that the town asked Wolfville to jointly pursue option 4. After an initial meeting with its Citizen Advisory Committee, Wolfville declined
the invitation.

That statement is revealing. We recall that someone at the later Wolfville meeting suggested working together with the other communities to show a united front for option 4 (status quo minus Gr. 9)  yet we don’t remember anyone from the Wolfville Advisory Committee or our Town Council responding to that comment to disclose that an offer had been made and declined. Why not?

At the end of the meeting, some supported keeping P-9. Another favored P-8. The least favored option was P-5. Its implementation would eventually result in the closing of the school and the inevitable decline of the town. Every town in Nova Scotia has its own school – the hub of the community.
If Hantsport grade 9s went to Horton, Chris Cuvilier (L) was concerned about the limited sports program for grade 9s. Renda VanderToorn would regret the loss of role models.

Do those arguments sound familiar?

The report on our Wolfville meeting (Nov 18th)  suggested it was more partisan than the Hantsport one, at least according to George Townsend who attended both.

George acknowledged that people want to keep their
school. But he advocated making the best decision – not a political one – for the good of the children’s education.

A voice of reason.

Mayor Bob Stead reported that the people at the meeting were passionate about their school the way it is. “We went into the meeting knowing the school will remain open. Grade 9s going to Horton is the foregone conclusion.”

A pitch for passion.

The News and Views reporter estimated the crowd at the L. E. Shaw meeting on Nov. 23 at about 200 and she noted how the towns were pitted one against the other at that point.

…The large sign,SUPPORTING HANTSPORT SCHOOL STAYING AT GRADES P-9 KEEP OUR KIDS LIVING & LEARNING LOCALLY greeted everyone outside and inside the building. Sweaters prominently displayed buttons reading SAVE WOLFVILLE SCHOOL and tags reading HANTSPORT SCHOOL.

Speakers for Wolfville outnumbered Hantsport and Avonport speakers 6 to 1 while no one from Gaspereau spoke.

Speaking on behalf of the Hantsport PTA, Penny Sheffield stated.“Children are not just numbers on a spreadsheet.” She advocated that taxpayers make the
decisions concerning the schools.” Penny argued that changes to the schools will change the communities.
Jemma Lambert, Hantsport town council’s consultant, also emphasized the significant relationship between the school and the community. She outlined the importance of the small school movement. The group Jemma represented favoured Hantsport and Wolfville as P-8.

Both LE Shaw supporters stated that parents of children at the school favoured LE Shaw as a middle school.
Wolfville representatives including the mayor, several factions of the School Advisory Commitee, a business owner, and two students favoured Wolfville and Hantsport as P-8.

A certain uniformity of views in each community it seems.

At the end of the report is this contact information which might also be useful to our readers.

Send written submissions until February 28 to Stuart Jamieson, Director of Finance & Operations, Annapolis
Valley Regional School Board P.O. Box 340, Berwick, N.S. B0P 1E0 or by email to schoolreviews@avrsb.ca.
Suggestion: balance your emotions with facts from the Hantsport School Study.

The News and Views issue is not online but there are photos and contact information available at the News And Views website.

Later (Nov. 28th) – Register report of the Nov. 23 meeting.

The school funding issue

An issue not much discussed at recent “save our school” meetings, at least in open forum,  is the school funding formula. Although little understood it seems, this flawed formula could be the crux of the present dilemma. The reality is our Valley schools are under funded and everyone and their dog has been ducking the responsibility of taking on the monetary burden.

The funding issue was discussed [briefly] at a Town Council meeting last year [sorry – we couldn’t find the reference in the minutes] but our recollection was that the Town of Wolfville pays an amount per student [said,  in one reference, to be $1,250 per student] but there had been a request for municipalities to negotiate a change the formula to base funding at least partly on assessments. If the Town agreed to this our education charges  would increase. This article gives some ideas of what the impact might be.

The current funding agreement is based on student numbers. However, all other areas in the province base municipal education contributions on uniform assessment. The county has expressed an interest to switch to an agreement based on uniform assessment, citing a concern that the current agreement is impacting negatively its ability to provide needed services to ratepayers.

Switching to the provincial formula would have saved the county over $1 million this fiscal year and Berwick would have saved $38,342. However, Hantsport would have paid an additional $120,893, Kentville would have paid an additional $324,947 and Wolfville an additional $608,234.

[The Advertiser, 03 April,'09]

There is another problem also – a skew in funding supplements which are not kind to Valley schools with falling enrollments. These policies have been questioned by a number of municipalities.

The town [of Bridgetown] also questioned the Department of Education’s funding formula which is perceived as unfair to AVRSB schools because they don’t qualify under two components of the formula – enrollment supplement and class size supplement. In effect, said the town, Valley schools are forced to use core funding to sustain schools with declining enrollment.

The Spectator, April 3, '09

This is explained more fully in this article which quotes Bridgetown mayor Art Marshall, a former school principal.

Provincial and municipal funding to school boards in Nova Scotia is distributed by formula. To a large extent, the formula generates revenues for school boards in various categories driven by student enrolments. The core funding components of the formula provide money for programs, special education, support services, property services, transportation, board governance and administration, school administration, and textbooks. These core components allocate most of the available dollars and appear to be consistently applied to all boards in relation to their respective enrolments. However, two of the eight school boards in Nova Scotia, the AVRSB and the Halifax Regional School Board, do not qualify for funding from two components of the formula, the Enrolment Supplement and a Class Size Supplement, valued together at more than 20 million dollars. [emph ours]

The Enrolment Supplement is provided to offset the effects of enrolment decline in a school board that exceeds an average of two per cent per year over a five-year running average. This provision does not recognize the extreme disparity in school enrolment within a school board such as AVRSB where the Annapolis County schools enrolment is declining at more than twice (4.2 per cent) the eligible rate for supplementary funding. In effect, the AVRSB is denied supplementary funding and is expected to use money from the core funding components to sustain schools with declining enrolments when other boards in Nova Scotia with declining enrolments are not.

The Class Size Supplement provides an additional $10.6 million to school boards who have average class sizes below the provincial average. AVRSB does not qualify for this funding. When the baseline was established for Class Size Supplementary funding, the Annapolis Valley and Halifax Regional School boards had the highest average class sizes in Nova Scotia. For AVRSB, efforts to maximize the benefit of education dollars in the past have created an uneven playing field in relation to current eligibility for additional funding from this pool money.

A third pool of money, a type of top up fund to help school boards bridge year-to-year budget shortfalls, amounts to more than $53 million annually. Although these dollars are not included in the formula funding, they are allocated proportionally according to the formula. This extra funding further increases or compounds money for boards who qualify for the two categories of supplementary funding. [emph ours]

A fair share of Enrolment and Class Size supplementary funding alone would provide several million additional dollars to the AVRSB annual budget. This amount of money would have a significant impact on the board’s ability to maintain schools with declining enrolments for years to come. If the Province of Nova Scotia is truly committed to achieving its sustainable prosperity goals for all Nova Scotians, it will re-examine the mechanisms by which resources are distributed and ensure that all parts of the province are able to participate fully. [ Spectator March 4, ’09]

Our school advisory committee members would be well briefed on both these funding problems, one would suppose, and could perhaps shed further light on the details of our situation in Wolfville.

Another question to be asked is – Should any School Board funding come from municipal coffers at all or should all Boards be fully funded from general provincial revenue?