A viable budget is one of the priorities for Nanaimo school district’s new superintendent and CEO John Blain.
The district announced last Thursday that Blain, acting and deputy superintendent, has been appointed superintendent and CEO, replacing David Hutchinson, who stepped down in January.
“In our district we still have the technical pieces that we need to deal with, which are schools, older schools, the geographical obstacles sometimes for where our students go to school and the age and condition of our facilities,” he said. “In order to have a sustainable budget, we also need to get our facilities issues into something that is reasonable and influences the budget positively and not negatively.”
He said the facilities plan has a direct influence on the school district’s budget and until that is addressed, there will be difficulties in balancing the budget.
“Whether or not that is redistributing students in a way that is positive both for students and facilities in a budget or whether it is school closures or whether it is looking at new initiatives to engage students in learning in different ways, all those things can have a positive effect on a budget or negative effect.
“Right now [there are] negative influences from the facilities plan of too many schools, too many properties, too many empty seats and our schools moving into the aged conditions. Until we get that under control, in my opinion, we’ll continue to have financial and budgetary issues,” said Blain.
With the school board expected to vote to re-open the school in Cedar as a high school for 2016, Blain said his focus will be on the next steps, to create the best learning opportunities for students in Cedar.
“How does that fit into the entire district with the ultimate goal of becoming sustainable in our budget and positive facilities for students to learn in?” Blain asked. “We can make those adjustments and changes. Our district doesn’t revolve around one school. It is a combination of schools collaboratively working together with some common goals … learning and improved learning for students. One of the sub-goals with that is to maintain a sustainable budget,” he said.
With a background in education, Blain first came to the district in 1997 and was principal of Dover Bay Secondary School. Previously, he played professional football. He won a Grey Cup and was a CFL all-star as a member of the B.C. Lions.
He says former Lions head coaches Don Matthews and Vic Rapp were influences. Rapp was about discipline and structure, while Matthews looked at things creatively and was a problem solver.
What they taught was hard work, the ability to critique yourself and the aim of continuous improvement. You can’t dwell on your mistakes, said Blain.
“You work for improvement, you hone your skills, you fine tune [them], you use a battery of skills and it’s not just your physical skills, it’s your mental skills and your logic … your willingness to try and understand different ways of doing things,” he said.