School board boosting student success

Programs aimed at improving student achievement were given a shot-in-the-arm Tuesday night when the Rainy River District School Board approved a transfer of more than $1 million into various initiatives to support the its strategic plan.
The funds will be shared between nine projects, including the purchasing of more aboriginal cultural resources, instructional resources at both the elementary and secondary levels, and professional development for teachers.
The board also will expand its high-tech classroom project. There currently is one high-tech classroom at Robert Moore School here.
Superintendent of Business Laura Mills said the board hopes to outfit up to five more classrooms with this specialty equipment, including an interactive whiteboard, document camera, projector, and sound system.
The board also has indicated it will seek to build partnerships with local aboriginal associations and bands, and to hire a part-time student achievement teacher at the secondary level.
Other funds will go towards expanding the Achievement Schools project to all schools, to add another course to the advanced placement courses offered at Fort Frances High School, and to a “Later Math Pilot.”
“Our EQAO results are signalling a greater focus is needed in math,” Mills noted.
The $1,115,000 in funding will come from the classroom reserve.
Also Tuesday night, the board approved the transfer of $150,000 from working funds to cover a funding deficit in the MISA project.
MISA, or Managing Information for Student Achievement, is a province-wide computer database to determine the effectiveness of various programs on student success.
Ian Simpson, assistant superintendent of education, said the board received considerably less funding from the Ministry of Education for the project than anticipated.
The transfer will help make up for this shortfall, he noted.
Mills also presented trustees with the 2004-05 audited financial statements, and reported a year-end surplus of $1,468,746.
In accordance with ministry guidelines, the board transferred that money to reserves: $542,614 to classroom, $566,532 to working funds, and $359,000 to capital.
Earlier this year, the local public school board also had set up two special reserves for upcoming renovation projects. The Rainy River HVAC reserve contained $800,000 while the Donald Young reserve contained $250,000.
The ministry since has come forward and offered to pay for the installation of the HVAC at Rainy River High School through the “Good Places to Learn” grant.
As well, any work on Donald Young School in Emo has been postponed since the province recently designated the school “prohibitive to repair.”
As a result, the board voted to transfer both of those special reserves to the capital reserve for future projects.
The recent designation of DYS, as well as Robert Moore here, as “prohibitive to repair” means the cost of renovations exceeds the cost of replacement of the school.
As such, Mills said the board may be eligible for funding to replace those two schools entirely, though she noted that process takes time.
The board will apply to the ministry for funding to have those two schools replaced, she said, but noted “we don’t know what they’re going to ask us to do.”
“We don’t go ahead with any plan until we secure the funding,” Mills stressed, adding they will have to wait and see what the province decides to do.
In the meantime, the board has designated Riverview School in Rainy River and J.W. Walker School in Fort Frances as its locations of choice for the “Best Start” program, which will see day care spaces incorporated into existing schools.
While there is no day care centre in Emo, the board did not choose DYS as a “Best Start” location due to its “prohibitive to repair” designation.
Mills noted, however, that should the ministry agree to fund a new school, the board could build a new school with a day care facility included in the plans.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, J.W. Walker student Emma Kunkel read her story, “The Spunky, Punky Giant,” to the board to illustrate her school’s “Lunch with an Author” event held last May.
Each student wrote a story and read it aloud to their parents, who were invited to the school for the day.
The event also included an anti-bullying presentation for parents, as well as a performance by students singing “Don’t Laugh at Me.”
And Ed Cain’s Grade 5 class performed the story “Thank you, Mr. Falker,” which illustrates the impact of literacy on a child’s life.
The school received the board’s monthly Recognition of Excellence award for its efforts.