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April

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    MLAnln
    Apr 19, 2016 10:31 am | Newfoundland,
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    MLAnln
    Hello Everyone: Please share the petition calling on government to eliminate the unfair Liberal Levy.
    Apr 18, 2016 11:56 am | Newfoundland,
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    MLAnln
    Lorraine Michael, MHA, St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi Private Member’s Statement Swinging Belles April 11, 2016 Last week, the Bishop Feild School community celebrated a major musical achievement – the Juno Award for Children’s Album of the Year went to The Swinging Belles for their album More Sheep, Less Sleep. The Belles are primary school teachers Laura Winter and Erin Power with guitarist extraordinaire Duane Andrews. They call themselves a swing band for children, but you’ll hear overtones of all kinds of genres, as you’d expect from such a multi-talented trio. The polka dot celebration at Bishop Field last week was a big one, as the three band members are all well-known to the school. Laura is Mme Winter, a teacher on staff. Erin and Duane are both Feildian parents, with Erin also serving on the school council. The Belles discovered they had won the award at a gala Juno dinner in Calgary Saturday, April 2. They were surprised, but local fans familiar with their blend of good time music, interactive storytelling and dancing were not. Mr. Speaker, I won’t ask any honourable members to show off their own dance moves here, but I will invite them to join me in congratulating The Swinging Belles, the only 2016 Juno award winners from Newfoundland and Labrador.
    Apr 12, 2016 6:24 am | Newfoundland,
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    MLAnln
    Below is my presentation to the Board of Trustees of the NL English School District on the impact closing Holy Cross Jr. High will have on not only the students in that school, but other schools as well. You can still provide feedback on school closures at hhpwcfeedback@nlesd.ca NLESD School Review Presentation Board of Trustees 1.GREETINGS Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to present to you and the other NLESD Trustees tonight at the consultation regarding the proposal to close Holy Cross Junior High School. As Member of the House of Assembly for St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi I thought it important that I avail of this opportunity. While the Holy Cross building itself is not in my district, other schools affected by the proposal, Brother Rice Junior High School and Bishop Feild Elementary are. As well, part of the catchment area for Holy Cross is in the district I represent. 2.PREAMBLE Mentioning the catchment area, I think it is important that I point out how difficult it was to obtain information about the catchment areas for the schools mentioned. At one time the website for the St. John’s East School Board was fully functional and such information was easily attainable. Maps were on line that one could easily navigate in the search for data. Such is no longer the case under the English Speaking School District. We had to spend hours in our office to try to piece together a full picture of the school population and the overall population of the part of the city affected. Such information was very important so that we could try to understand the rationale of the District Board in proposing school closures, and especially the closure of Holy Cross Junior High School. It is still not clear to me what the basis is for the figures used by the District board in making its prognostications regarding future population of the schools in the heart of the city. As an MHA representing a major part of old St. John’s I am concerned that you are making decisions that are using too narrow a lens and that are not based on reality. I have a couple of preamble comments to make. The first is one of the things that was promised to people in the dismantling process of school boards which began in the 1990’s was that the new system would be ensuring community schools. I can say without any doubt such has not been the case in St. John’s. I spoke against the closure of MacPherson Elementary some years ago, to no effect as we know, and right up until I was MHA of the former district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi I stood by the school council of Virginia Park Elementary to maintain that community school, though a new building would be needed. The School Council of Holy Cross Elementary has spoken eloquently about why that community school should remain in place. I urge you to listen to what was said. The second is it seems illogical for the District to be doing a school review rather than a school system review. The web page for the school review process indicates that the Holy Heart High and Prince of Wales Collegiate System is under review while the details show that it is basically one school only that is being reviewed. I am not here to talk specifically about Holy Cross Junior High – you have heard from the parents and community about why that school should remain. I am going to focus on the broader picture than just that one school. What I say will be questioning the validity of making a decision to close that school without an adequate review of the impact of that decision on the whole feeder system it is part of. I am concerned that in the process of consultation you conducted you didn’t seem to see the importance of the proposal re Holy Cross on Bishop Feild Elementary, for example, and the wisdom of consulting with parents there of what was going on. It seems to be a no-brainer to point out that adding more students to Brother Rice impacts those who are there now and who are already earmarked to attend and not just those who are being added from a new feeder school. If the District were really concerned about a serious review it should have put in place a system-wide process that would have looked at population growth and needs within the whole system as well as details such as the catchment areas in that system. The whole feeder system in question, and maybe others adjacent to it, would have been reviewed and assessed. It is very disturbing that in doing the school review you seem to be focused on one major thing, that of population decline, even though there is no indication of a new major drop in population. In addition, we are only a few months away from a national census which will give real up-to-date figures of the population of the centre of the city of St. John’s, though the July 1 Population figures from Statistics Canada which we use do give us very accurate figures every year. 3.SCHOOL REVIEW RATIONALE The rationale the District has given for the school review is found on your website under the heading “School System Review Process, Holy Heart High and Prince of Wales Collegiate System,” in a “Presentation provided to Trustees at the March 5, 2016 public meeting.” This presentation cites the following as things that could require a school review to occur: o Declining Enrolment creating excess capacity o Current and Projected o Significant capital improvements required and/or safety/environmental concerns o Potential opportunities to enhance program delivery through reconfiguration of schools and/or catchment areas o Changing demographics requiring catchment configuration o School population creates capacity challenges o Other circumstances In earlier school reviews, the former Eastern School Board cited declining population as part of the rationale for school reviews. Surely, all of those indicators would be based on the newest possible information and seen through the widest of lens to determine the reliability of any of those indicators. Sometimes decisions are based on projections that are looking far into the future. Such projections are based on honest speculation that is not evidence-based and as time plays out turn out to be incorrect. For example, let’s look at the 2005 review – The School Organization Plan – that was done for the Eastern School District. It stated that. “With few exceptions, school enrolments in the district have been declining and will continue to decline for some time.” The report also said that a major challenge facing the District was a rapidly aging population and a population shift, caused by declining birth rates, low immigration and high out-migration. The report noted that the size of the kindergarten cohort in the district would decline from 2,901 in 2005 to 2,700 by 2010. But in fact, kindergarten enrolment in 2010 was 2,881—hardly a decline at all. And, in 2014 there were 3,148 children enrolled in kindergarten in the Eastern Region of the new English School District – a far cry from the projected 2,700. That 2005 report also predicted that total student enrolment in the Eastern School District would decline from 43,900 in 2005 to 38,877 in 2010. In fact, although enrolment in the Eastern School District declined, it was not by that much. In 2010 it was down to 40, 673, but soon after that it began increasing and reached 40,928 in 2014. 4.GENERAL POPULATION INCREASING And let’s look at what is happening in the general population. In 2011, the Census population of the former Eastern School District was 306,250, an increase of 4.4% since 2006. Over the same period the province experienced a population increase of 1.8% (505,470 to 514,535). Population in the City of St. John’s grew 7.0% between 2001 and 2011, to 106,172. The surrounding areas in the St. John’s Census Metropolitan Area grew by 23%. The total population of the CMA grew 8.8% to 196,965 in 2011 and 214,300 in 2015. I use these examples to underscore why I believe the District, of which you are the Trustees, is extremely short sighted in choosing one feeder school of one system in the greater St. John’s area to review. Holy Cross Junior High is part of a bigger system that is being impacted by growth. For example, the population of Bishop Feild Elementary has been growing since 2010 as has that of St. Teresa’s and Bishop Abraham. If a review is required it should be that of whole systems, as I indicated earlier, not just of schools that are working well and have been cherry picked for some reason not clear to those outside of the decision-making circle. If the NLESD believed in community schools, as people were promised two decades ago, then review of systems would include a goal of maintaining community-based schools. In the list of considerations for a school review process the District has included “other circumstances.” I would find it very interesting to learn what some of the other circumstances could possibly be. I believe that the Review Process that the District entered into has been hurried and ill-conceived. Consequently, I urge you to reject your own motions on April 16, put everything on hold and put in place a motion that would direct the new Board of Trustees to recommend that the Department of Education oversee a full review of the school systems in the province. Perhaps that could be the goal of the Task Force to improve educational outcomes that the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development has been mandated to put in place. Perhaps there is much more to educational outcomes than just curriculum. Thank you.
    Apr 06, 2016 6:40 am | Newfoundland,

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