The column is largely about the board's pending review regarding the vote to close Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute earlier this year. A Ministry of Education reviewer has been appointed to conduct the review after the petition to do so was approved by the powers that be.
MacDonald points out these reviewers (she lists David Cooke and Margaret Wilson, missing Joan Greene) make a wad of cash every day they're on the job.
This was the most interesting part of her column:
Nevertheless the education ministry continues to approve the reviews, as long as someone is able to gather enough signatures of parents or community people who participated in the closure discussions, to equal at least 30 per cent of the school's enrolment.Having seen three or four of these reviews in the district I cover -- including one petition that was turned down -- Moira's tapped into the overwhelming sentiment on the usefulness of this process. That futility was an important part of the formation of the Community Schools Alliance, which as readers here know is requesting a 'smart' moratorium on closures. One of the reasons why such a request exists is to devise a better appeal mechanism, one that actually includes the possibility of overturning a school board's decision.
They also have to show how the process used was not compliant with the board's policy.
If not a single case has been successful, sounds to me like either the fix is in or the vetting process for review applications needs tightening up. If this is supposed to be an exercise to allay people's concerns they haven't had a fair hearing, why get their hopes up and waste taxpayers' money on a process unlikely to validate their complaint? (bold my emphasis) Why not create a tougher standard, and give those who manage to make it over the bar a fighting chance of actually overturning what could indeed be a poorly-made decision?
But the other problem is these reviews risk bogging down the entire exercise of getting our school space down to a manageable size.
I'm of two minds on this one-- communities do feel as though their opinions and recommendations aren't being given serious consideration by trustees. How often is that actually the case, and how often is it a matter of trustees and school boards doing a piss-poor job of explaining why they made the school-closure decision they did? Conscientious trustees surely must have solid rationale for why they supported a closure decision and I think they're doing a crappy job explaining why. If they don't, then they need to be explaining why as well so they can be held to account in November 2010.
I also understand why the petition/appeal process doesn't include the ability to overturn a board decision. This government, while creating policy and procedure that increasingly centralizes K-12 education out of the Bay Street government block, doesn't want to be seen as removing this particular decision from 'local' control. If every closure could be overturned on appeal, then every one would be appealed by someone disgruntled with the decision and the appeal body (province) would end up making the final decision. How does that respect local decision making? It doesn't.
I don't have the answer to what the better process post-board-vote process is, but would welcome any suggestions.