Notes from the June 16, 2021 Regular (Public) Meeting of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) Board of Education
Honouring Indigenous Children
A near 4-minute video compilation of how SECPSD schools chose to honour and acknowledge the 215 indigenous children whose lives were lost at the former residential school in Kamloops, BC was presented to the Board of Education at the top of their regular meeting held on June 16 in Weyburn. The message that Every Child Matters resonated across the division via memorials, walks, orange apparel, pavement drawings and paintings of hearts, handprints and footprints, students' messages written on orange paper t-shirts, and a truth and reconciliation art project inspired by the 94 Calls to Action. In addition, there were tributes in the form of messages and artwork created on paper feathers and hearts, and in school windows flower and footprint displays were visible. Further, there were numerous drawings and displays on school walls, a school assembly with First Nation elders, and flags flying at half-mast from May 31 to date in mourning and solidarity across the division, province and country.
Quarterly Operating Financial & Board Expense Report
The Quarterly Finance Report was presented by Marilyn Yurkiw, Manager of Finance. The report presented was reflective of revenue and expenses received and incurred up to May 31, 2021. The Statement of Operations indicated that revenue of $82,481,302 was received up to May 31, 2021, while expenses incurred up to this period of time were $86,618,890.
The projection for the full fiscal year was provided within the report. This projection was completed with the additional costs as well as the projected savings in various areas resulting from the changes due to COVID-19. The projection included variances in most areas of the revenue and expense budgets. Revenue is projected to be over budget by $2,861,340, and operating expenses are projected to be $1,948,062 over budget.
An overview of the school division's proposed budget for the upcoming school year, presented to the Board by Superintendent of Division Services/Chief Financial Officer Shelley Toth, received board consent and will be submitted to the Ministry for approval. The Superintendent reported that the budget includes total revenue of $102.6 million, operating expenditures of $112.2 million, capital expenditures of $2.4 million and total staff of 1,080.54 full time equivalents.
The budget is prepared in accordance with Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) standards which requires the amortization of capital assets over their useful life and the recording of provincial grants at the time they have been authorized. The PSAB operating deficit for the year is $9,574,710.
Toth explained that the division had received a decrease of $1.1 million in provincial funding for the 2021-2022 fiscal year and that conversion of the budget to a cash basis shows an operating deficit of $4.6 million, which is the same as last year's cash deficit. She stated that a balanced budget was not obtainable given the decrease in provincial operating funding, increased costs for salaries and benefits, and general inflation.
In order to maintain current programming and pupil-teacher ratio (PTR), the Board will need to use accumulated surplus from prior years to fund the deficit. At the end of the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the division had $26 million in unrestricted surplus. This surplus will decrease to $16.9 million at the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year if the budgeted deficits for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 are realized.
The Superintendent then went on to highlight the budgeted revenues and expenses for the Division, stating that 97% of revenue comes from various provincial operating grants and 73% of operating expenditures are for salaries and benefits.
Bi-Annual Transportation Report
At the end of the month, after transporting just over 3,300 students to and from school over the past school year (compared to 4,158 in 2020 and an average of 4,167 in 2019), school buses will roll to a rest in the division's three transportation shops/compounds for annual inspections, maintenance and repairs in preparation for the resumption of student transportation services on September 1.
The bi-annual transportation report presented to the Board by Andy Dobson, Manager of Facilities & Transportation, for the January to June period, focused on transportation performance information and fleet data for the three service areas of Estevan, Moosomin and Weyburn. The number of route cancellations varied from 402.5 (2019) to 103 (2020) and a whopping 570 in 2021 due to mechanical issues (33), weather (285) and lack of substitute drivers (252) with snow, ice, varying temperatures and COVID-19 related issues factoring in.
The division continues to recruit bus drivers particularly after the loss of drivers due to the pandemic, which resulted in some retirements and employees finding work elsewhere. The area with the greatest need is Moosomin where there are openings for four regular route drivers. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact the division office.
Dobson explained that due to the need to decrease ridership during the pandemic, the division had moved to 1 km elementary walk zones where urban transportation is provided, namely in Estevan and Weyburn, but this will revert to 750 metre walk zones in the fall. He mentioned that there had also been an urban run in Moosomin but it was discontinued due to there being no driver.
Fifteen new school buses on order are anticipated to arrive in July. Dobson said this will help with the 17 routes in Gladmar, Radville and Stoughton that the division will be assuming from First Student come September.
Reflection on 2020-2021
What a year it has been! Director of Education Lynn Little aptly wrapped up the last regular (public) board meeting of the school year by taking a few moments to "look back over the year on a high level in terms of where we've been and where we are going." Referring to the wall walk conducted with the Board, Senior Leadership Team and Coordinators earlier in the morning, Little explained that there are opportunities and work to do but that good gains were made over the year.
The 15-slide PowerPoint presentation outlined what was different in 2020-2021 than previous years. Little explained that before school re-opened last fall much work was carried out to create safe learning and teaching environments across the system through alignment with and guidance from the Government of Saskatchewan Primary and Secondary Education Institutional Guidelines, the Saskatchewan Re-Open Plan, CMHO and LMHO recommendations and Public Health Orders. Little expressed appreciation for the weekly guidance and insight provided by provincial medial health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, via weekly meetings with Directors of Education, as well as assistance from local health experts who worked with the division throughout the year.
Every school division developed and implemented a Health & Safety Response Plan which was aligned and reviewed at the provincial level and updated as required, with school plans then aligning under the division plans in accordance with local context.
Deputy Director Keith Keating interjected that SECPSD schools and departments were very responsive to the changes at the provincial level and the advice of the local health experts in the adaptation of the delivery of different kinds of learning. "There were many shifts throughout the year as the scientists learned more about the spread of the disease. We were able to make changes as the year progressed," he said.
SECPSD's Health & Safety Response Plan provided guidance in terms of education delivery, personal protection equipment, hygiene, limiting physical contact, limiting shared materials and equipment, extra-curricular, facilities, cleaning and sanitation, illness in care, nutrition programs, mental health, socio-emotional supports, students with intensive needs, communication plans and processes, and transportation.
With families having the choice of what learning method best met their own circumstances, the division saw Cyber Stone Virtual School expand from a Grade 8-12 school to include K-7 and an increase from 40 base students to 400 students over the course of the school year. As well, the division worked on the processes of home education to adapt to the uptake in enrolment. The Director of Education stated that now that there is more comfort since the province is in a different space in terms of the pandemic, many families are requesting to return to their physical schools in the fall.
Fluid adjustments to education delivery via the four-leveled approach outlined in the Health & Safety Response Plan were implemented as the impact of the pandemic dictated. The Director's presentation included a list of 23/37 physical schools where the full school or whole classes moved to level 4 (virtual learning) as well as 5/37 which did not have any known positive cases of COVID-19. The Director was pleased to announce that as of June 11 no classes were on remote learning, graduations and farewells are resuming within provincial guidelines, and final assessment outcomes are underway. A plan for interventions will be implemented once assessments are reviewed and supports are identified.
Little said the provincial education interim plan for 2021-2022 will focus on three main themes: mental health and well-being, reading (focus on grade 1-3) and learning response. She emphasized the importance of children being able to read by grade 3 when they transition from learning to read to reading to learn, stating, "Those skills set the stage for success throughout the years."
Although 2020-2021 presented many challenges, Little expressed appreciation to all for "walking the journey" with SECPSD, and is optimistic for the future. She committed to ensuring a safe learning and teaching environment where the goal of success and achievement for every student in every school remains forefront. View the full presentation here.
Articles by Norm Park
Articles submitted by Norm Park, contracted reporter for SECPSD, are available at these links: Board News Briefs, Budget, Reflections, Transportation
|Thursdays||Board Chairs RPT Update|
|August 18-19||Board Annual Strategic Planning Meeting|
|August 27||SECPSD Teachers' Convention|
|September 1||Board Strategic Planning Meeting|
|September 15||Committee-of-the-Whole Board Meeting|
|September 15||Regular (Public) Board Meeting|
For more information, please contact:
South East Cornerstone Public School Division
80A-18th Street N.E., Weyburn, SK S4H 2W4
Telephone: (306) 848-0080