The main example here comes from the London Free Press Thursday, with Pat Maloney's article about Coun. Bill Armstrong's refusal to allow himself to be nominated for an upcoming Thames Valley District School Board review. There was a followup piece Friday.
Armstrong is quoted in the article itself and in the comment section noting he will not participate in the ARC because he wants all four schools to stay open and would rather concentrate on a community based campaign.
Armstrong raised his concern Wednesday as board of control discussed a Thames Valley school board invitation to put a city representative on a committee reviewing the future of four east-end schools: F.D. Roosevelt, Lord Nelson, Prince Charles and Sir Winston Churchill.Then, just to make sure you understood his point, from the comments section of the same article:
All those schools except Roosevelt are in Armstrong’s Ward 2. School board administration has recommended closing Churchill.
Armstrong said he won’t join the Thames Valley board’s accommodation review of the four schools — “you’re just lining up to take flack” — but he plans to set up a community group to fight any closing.
“This is what the review is all about — whether they should stay open or closed,” he said.
The schools in question form part of neighbourhood communities. Closing any of these schools would have an impact on the community. In order to save a few dollars, I cannot and will not support forcing students to walk further or be bused when they currently are happy in their neighbourhood school.It frustrates me when members of municipal councils fail to understand what a review committee is and what its task is. These councillors all sit on a board (of their municipal corporation) where staff bring them reports containing recommendations. Councils have committees that study controversial matters and, using both the information and recommendations received from staff members serving the committee, committee members and those in the public who address the committee, make decisions and recommendations. Armstrong's own role as a city councillor relies on receiving recommendations, advice and public input into the decisions he is compelled to make as a municipal councillor. I would guarantee every councillor in municipal politics has looked at the information and opinion before them and made a decision that was controversial. That they've made what they felt was the best decision for the interests of the greatest number of people that some people vehemently oppose.
These neighbourhood schools provide many services. This would all be lost. Finally, I have heard negative comments about the ARC process from other Councillors. This is why Board of Control is recommending that I or any other member of Council not sit on this Committee.
I made this very point with a politician in my coverage area during the first round of reviews. He was opposed to the school board's decision on rural school closures, yet in the very same term had been part of a library board (a committee of council) that had closed a series of small county library branches. So while pulling one service out of these smaller rural villages, he was opposing another board's process to consider the same factors for schools.
So serving on a review committee shouldn't be rocket science to a municipal councillor.
Yet the City of London in particular has done a piss-poor job of sitting on most accommodation reviews held for London schools. If Coun. Armstrong wants his community schools to remain open, he can be part of the review committee that develops alternatives for trustees to consider. As a councillor, he just might be able to facilitate conversations about alternatives and discussion of partnership opportunities between school board staff members and either the city itself or community agencies.
Or, I guess, he can just crap all over the committee and the school board at the 11th hour, when the committee provides recommendations to trustees he can't support.
So which one is truly the more effective strategy? Which one is actually going to help students remain in community schools while accessing the best possible physical learning spaces and program opportunities that can feasibly be provided by the school board? Which one would allow for new partnerships to be developed between the school board and the municipality or community agencies?
Or, which one provides the better platform to throw stones from the sidelines and complain about the end result (that you played no part in)?
It brings to mind another one -- a la Community Schools Alliance -- where councils are calling on the Avon Maitland District School Board to postpone reviews until the Education Funding Formula review is complete. There's nothing like a vain attempt to delay a review that should probably happen now and won't be any easier to do if delayed another couple of years.