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Northland starting school year with 190K decit Tuesday July 21 2015 11 EDUCATION BUDGETS 6.8103 in x 6.3125 in By DALI CARMICHAEL The Northland School Division NSD which serves primarily First Nation and Mtis students in 24 schools in the Northern half of Alberta is facing a decit in its 2015-2016 budget recently approved at a regular board meeting held on June 27. Thebudgetpresentsrevenuesof64163310 and expenses of 64356912 for a total de- cit of 193602. The largest source of revenue for the divi- sion comes from Alberta Education at 38.3 million. The federal government and First Na- tions also contribute roughly 22.2 million. BackinMaythenewNDPgovernmentrestored educationfundingfollowingcutsannouncedby the previous Conservative government. While superintendent Donna Barrett was comforted by the move she admitted the NSD is still fac- ing numerous nancial challenges. Weve lost staff from central services weve lostpositionsinschoolswevelostinstructional supportsandadministrativesupportsshesaid notingthecutsamountedtoabout1.7million. Oneofthemajornancialburdensidentied bythedivisionisthesystemofsalaryincreases andgridmovementforcertiedteacherswhose collectiveagreementcallsfora2percentincrease in salaries this year plus an additional 1 per cent this coming November. All in all the cost forthedivisionisaround1.2millionthisyear. Signicant salary costs also come from having schools in remote regions where class sizesarewellbelowtheprovincialaverage.The provincial funding model for schools is based on enrollment rates creating a difcult for- mula for those schools in small communities. Services could be impacted Some basic services provided by the school board are dangerously close to being impacted by its nancial situation according to Barrett. Schools in the NSD provide in excess of 475 hours of instructional time for Early Child Services students but current fund- ing makes this a challenge. AswellthedivisionoffersahighschoolCredit EnrollmentUnitsprogram-amethodofallocat- ingfundstoschooljurisdictionsforseniorhigh school courses - but has low completion rates affecting the projects funding. The budget re- portsthatwiththecurrentmonetarymodelthe NSDs high school program is unsustainable. Were working with the department of Education to address the concerns we have so it can understand our needs. Were very pleased about that Barrett said. She was un- able to give any further details on the discus- sions regarding amendments to the funding model but said government representatives had been very open to hearing the implica- tions for us. A small break for the NSD recently came in the form of teacherages new modular homes supplied to teachers living in remote communities with limited housing options paid for by the Alberta government. We are replacing 30 of our teacherages Barrettsaid.Therearealsoplaceswhereweve soldsomeofourteacherageswheretheschools arenowcloseenoughtoplaceswhereteachers can live so we dont need to provide housing. However even with grants from the govern- ment the NSD still faced a bill of 850000 to move the units into place. Maintaining the roughly 150 teacherages owned by the NSD - in addition to the educa- tion facilities themselves - remains a matter of importance as well. Balancing responsibilities Meanwhile the division is working to up- hold its priorities outlined by the Northland Inquiry Team Report a list of recommenda- tionsfordivisionimprovementscreatedin2010. At the top of that list is encouraging literacy improving abysmal student attendance rates andpromotingindigenousculturallearningby hiring teachers from within the communities. We have a salary incentive for staff who are uent in either Cree or Dene Barrett said. We receive dollars from the province to support First Nation and Mtis students and we allocate those dollars to schools to promote language and culture programming. Its a lot to deal with on a decit budget but Barrett is optimistic that with a little time and some intense planning the future of the NSD could be bright. Recently the division released numbers from its Literacy Initiative indicating the number of students in Grades 1 through 8 reading at their appropriate level had in- creased by 19 per cent in the last three years. Its an ongoing process she said. Were seeing good growth with our students but there is still lots more work to do and were going to sustain that emphasis on literacy language and culture. Northland School Division superintendent Donna Barrett says the school board is working with itsschoolsandAlbertaEducationtomeetitsmanystudentimprovementgoalsonatightbudget. PhotocourtesyofNorthlandSchoolDivision