When voters go to the polls this October, they’ll be deciding more than the fate of the Halifax Regional Municipality council. The Halifax Regional School Board elections will be taking place at the same.
In order to be informed about what you’re voting for, it might make sense to first understand what the HRSB does. Here’s our explanation:
The HRSB was formed in 1996 after the amalgamation of the Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County school boards.
It is now the largest school board in Atlantic Canada with approximately 49,000 students and 137 schools.
The board is comprised of 10 members. Eight are split into districts, each representing their constituencies. One is elected to be the African Nova Scotian Representative and another member represents Mi’Kmaq interests.
Since 2003, the board has also included two (non-voting) student advisors who bring forward student issues. These student reps are elected by their peers in student councils across the municipality.
The school board implements policy and appoints superintendents to monitor activities in the regions schools.
Some board members said they’ve been faced with challenges recently.
“The last two years have been the most challenging for the elected board due to the large budget cuts imposed by the Department of Education,” said Donna Hubbard, board member for the Lower Sackville area.
“The resulting restraints have meant making decisions that would result in changes that keeps as much of our funding as possible going to support our students. This means using our facilities wisely, deferring maintenance as well as putting new initiatives on hold.”
Donna said that the recent education cuts have lead to sacrifices in every area, including her own.
“This area grew quickly on the 70s and now, with decreased enrollment, there is the difficult reality of decreasing the number of aging schools so that funding is directed to supporting the classroom,” she said.
The school board will have to go through public consultation before shutting schools down, but with less money in the coffers, the situation becomes more likely.
They’re budget for 2011-12 totals $399,119,000, of which $285,725,300 came from the Nova Scotia Department of Education, and $99,769,700 from the HRM.
Gin Yee, who is the current board member for Dartmouth centre and planning to run again this year, said it can be difficult to get his campaign message out there.
“With the size of how many citizens we represent, there’s no way you can knock on every door,” said Yee. “It’s definitely a challenge, but that’s how it was configured.”
Yee is hoping to use social media to help boost awareness for his campaign.
“We went from 13 to eight districts in the last election and it has helped with the governance of the board,” Yee said. “This time around its run much more efficiently and you haven’t heard us in the news as much as the last board. Having a smaller board seems to work.”
Advanced polling beings Oct. 6 until the 18. In person voting is on Oct. 20.
HRSB by the numbers (2011):
Elementary schools: 84
Junior High/Middle schools: 28
Primary to Grade 9: 9
Junior-Senior High schools: 3
Senior High schools: 13
Students, Primary to Grade 6: 25,143
Students, Grades 7 to 9: 11,233
Students, Grades 10 to 12: 13,176
Total staff: 9,000 (approx.)
Number of teachers: 3,851 (Full-time equivalents)
(Data as of Sept. 30, 2011)