The most recent meeting of the board of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division saw several reports presented, including the audited financial statements for the previous school year, as well as the annual report from the Director of Education, Keith Keating. 

The financial numbers that were presented showed the deficit for the 2022-23 fiscal year was $1.3 million lower than expected, but was still $5 million. This was due to revenue for the year being slightly higher than originally budgeted, with expenses being around 0.9 percent lower than budgeted. 

The biggest differences were the grant revenue for the division being $987,000 lower than budgeted, which was offset by increases in grants from other provincial ministries, such as a Mental Health Capacity Program with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and money through the Invitational Shared Services Initiatives with First Nations in the area. 

In terms of savings on the expenses side, $797,000 was due to instructional expenses, with teacher and program support vacancies being left unfilled. Student transportation was also under budget due to a lower-than-expected cost for repairs and maintenance of the buses. 

"It was great to see less of a deficit than initially planned, but we are still running a deficit budget into this year," Keating explained. "It becomes a little worrisome when, each year, we draw on what surplus we have left. That amount's dwindled from a high of about $32 million to approximately $17 (million) if we realized our deficit this year. So, we're looking at making sure that we maintain programming and teachers and schools the best we can while trying to manage those deficit budgets."

The annual report highlighted the work School Community Councils play within the division. For the 2022-23 school year, there were a total of 290 members of the 35 SCCs throughout the division. The councils collaborate with the school staff to develop an annual plan, working with the parents and the community.

"SCCs are a vital part of our school community," Keating said of the councils. "They help support our learning plan in our schools by bringing parents and community into the conversation around education in our communities. They help support parent engagement through a variety of activities, all the way from things like pancake breakfasts to reading nights, hosting talent shows and supporting a myriad of educational activities in those schools."

Keating also discussed the relationship the First Nations play in the area when it comes to education within the SECPSD.

"That's something very important to our schools, our division and within our province," Keating stated. "When we talk about the hard work of truth and reconciliation, that takes education and a commitment to action on the part of the division and schools."

Truth and reconciliation is an important part of the Provincial Educational Plan. The interim plan was in place for the previous school year, with a new one, based on that interim plan, being rolled out this year. 

"We're pretty appreciative of all the work of our school communities because our metrics are typically above the provincial average," Keating boasted, and the numbers back that up. SECPSD has some of the best graduation rates in the province, well ahead of the provincial average.

"There's a little bit of a shifting focus in the new provincial education plan as we're looking more closely at mental health and transitions, as well as truth and reconciliation along with the teaching and assessment pieces that were in the previous plan," he continued. 

The regular board meeting also included the annual organizational meeting. This part of the meeting saw Audrey Trombley and Jim Vermeersch acclaimed as chair and co-chair, respectively, for the remainder of the school year.

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