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Board approves “good news budget” investing $1.2 million in student learning
April 26, 2018 – The New Westminster Schools Board of Education this week adopted a $79.5 million annual budget for 2018-2019 that puts $1.2 million worth of innovative programs and supports in district schools.
The new budget represents “an incredibly important set of investments in learning,” that will mean more classroom resources, improved student nutrition and food access, strengthened supports for educators, innovative initiatives in personalized learning and more, said Board Chair Mark Gifford.
That adds up to a good news budget and a big moment for New Westminster Schools, said Gifford.
A total of $1.2 million in unrestricted (unallocated) surplus accumulated from the 2017 fiscal year end will be targeted to enhancing a host of strategic educational priorities and initiatives – from ‘leveled’ reading books and digital literacy resources to teacher mentoring, student peer support programs, and far-reaching mental health education initiatives.
The $79.5 million budget is based on government per-student allocation formulas and student enrollment projections, with about 90 percent of the district’s operating budget directed to salary and benefit expenses.
The $1.2 million investment in learning resources is over and above what is already allocated, a significant infusion of money for the district that trustees called “really exciting.” A strengthened focus on financial health and operational systems has positioned the district to make these investments.
Teams of teachers work together to bring innovation and creativity in the classroom to better support student learning, thanks to the Innovation Grants program…
Supporting creative and imaginative initiatives across the district…
Anticipating a surplus earlier this year, the Board invited senior management to identify key learning and resource budget priorities as educators in the district implement BC’s Redesigned Curriculum.
Management recommendations build on key education priorities outlined in the Board-commissioned report,Teaching and Learning in Diverse Classrooms: A District Blueprint for Learner Success (March 2017).
The $1.2 million investment will support a range of priorities, including:
- strengthened support for school resources in literacy and numeracy – such as ‘leveled’ literacy books designed to bring children quickly up to grade-level competency; Aboriginal education resources; digital textbooks; and Google Read and Write – an extension that supports student literacy in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
- new and ongoing opportunities for educators to collaborate as they address student achievement through inquiry and project-based learning. Now in its third year, the Innovation Learning Grants program at New Westminster Schools, for instance, is a key initiative supporting teams of teachers to work together on action research projects, leading to innovation and creativity in the classroom.
- support for positive classrooms and school communities. That includes resources geared to Aboriginal student success, and additional resources for the province’s SOGI 123 initiative promoting safe and inclusive schools.
- targeted supports for educators – such as teacher coaches and mentorship programs – as they transition to concept-based curriculum and instruction.
Trustees called the additional investment in such key strategic educational priorities “an unprecedented” and “exciting opportunity” for New Westminster Schools.
Superintendent Karim Hachlaf welcomed the newly adopted annual 2018-2019 budget as an important opportunity to launch new initiatives and to continue and extend programs recognized for their creative and imaginative work in building capacity across the district.
An investment opportunity a long time in the making…
For the Board, the ability to invest in learning resources over and above operating grant allocations feels like a long time coming – and is a reflection of what they agreed was a responsible and disciplined approach to fiscal management in the district in recent years.
The 2018-2019 budget draws on the district’s accumulated unrestricted operating surplus as of the end of its 2016-2017 fiscal year for its learning resource investments. In addition, a number of factors have led to a reduction in anticipated salary costs of about $400,000 for the current year. The newly approved budget will leave about $200,000 in unrestricted surplus – in addition to $500,000 in restricted contingency funds that the district has also set aside.
“Given all of these factors, I am very comfortable recommending the surplus allocation reflected in this budget,” Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Lorenz reported to the board’s operating committee as it considered adopting the budget earlier this month.
Board Chair Mark Gifford called the adoption of the budget this week a “big moment” for the district as Lorenz, who will be taking a position with the Okanagan-Skaha school district, leaves the district in “great shape” while giving the board every confidence in moving forward.
Trustees congratulated both staff and the board for leadership that has put New Westminster Schools at this positive point, characterizing the 2018-2019 budget as one that has a student and learning focus at its heart.