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Let's begin the task, Aspin says

Near North District School Board chairman Jay Aspin gave his innaugural address Tuesday night at the board's Airport Road headquarters.
Near North District School Board chairman Jay Aspin gave his innaugural address Tuesday night at the board's Airport Road headquarters.

Here's what he said:

"First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to the board for allowing me the privilege to serve as your chair for the upcoming year.

May I extend my congratulations to trustee Linda Williams for her acclamation as vice chair. Linda, I look forward to working with you during the year ahead.

I would also like to acknowledge past chair Eunice Saari for her many years as chairperson.

Eunice, you have given unselfishly during your term as chair. Your passion, dedication and hard work in your leadership role has guided this board through very challenging times in education. This Board owes much of the credit for its stability and progress to your stewardship over the past five years. We will no doubt draw on your experience during the coming year as we continue to move forward.

I would like to take this opportunity to say how privileged I feel to be working with such a dedicated group of individuals who currently constitute the board of trustees. Since my first full year on the board, I have learned to admire and appreciate each one of you not only as fellow trustees, but as genuine, fine people. You have always demonstrated your pride in offering your skills and dedication to assist the board reach its goals.

I would be remiss if I did not mention our director of education, Colin Vickers and our senior administration team, Bill O’Hallarn, Della Krieger and Tom Shultz.
We are most fortunate to have such a talented, seasoned group of professionals committed to face the challenges ahead.

Speaking of challenges … we face many major challenges ahead. Some are of a localized nature such as:

* City of North Bay tax invoice;

* Student achievement scores;

* Unfunded liability for retirement gratuities being sought by le conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord;

* Imputed enrolment financial obligation to le conseil scolaire de district du Nord-Est de l'Ontario;

* Funding shortfall for our new school;

* School accommodation.

We also face challenges of a broader nature which require resolution at the provincial level such as:

* Funding model for special education;

* Salary funding envelopes;

* Transportation;

* Benchmarking;

* School renewal in Northern English District School Boards.

It is my view that we must be proactive in addressing these challenges.

As I indicated, during my remarks when I placed my name before you as a candidate for board chair in December, ‘Like any good organization, we must be prepared to examine ourselves and we must adapt and change with the times.’

Given the amount of talent and genuine good will that exists around this table, I am confident that we can position ourselves to overcome our obstacles.

From our October workshop, it is clear, that to operate more efficiently, we must streamline our policies and procedures, determine better methods of monitoring policies, examine possible alternative formats for board meetings and simplify our board agenda.

Clearly, when we manage to morph our system to reflect today’s needs, we will have more time for discussion of the crucial items that trustees and staff feel are important.

I feel very strongly that trustees should feel that you are engaged in the process and feel a sense of accomplishment as a result of your contributions to the process.

After consultation with the vice vhair, I believe that in order to be effective, we must begin to position ourselves more effectively and prioritize our efforts as soon as possible. I am proposing that we begin the task by organizing a strategic session to allow the board to determine its priorities and course of action with regard to its challenges, to act as a basis for moving the board forward during the coming year.

We need to implement change to deal with the changes and challenges we face.

By affecting this in a spirit of care and cooperation, the beneficiaries will be the 13,000 students of our Near North District School Board … and when you really think about it, isn’t that what trusteeship is all about?

You are a very special group of ladies and gentlemen and I truly look forward to working with you during the year ahead … now let’s begin the task."