Readers here would remember Armstrong ruffled some feathers and stirred up some dust in January for refusing to participate in a Thames Valley District School Board school-closure review for the Argyle / east London area of the city. At the time he said he wanted no part in the review as he believes none of the schools included in the review should have been pegged for closure.
He held a press conference with MPP Rosario Marchese (NDP-Trinity--Spadina) and MP Irene Mathyssen (NDP-London--Fanshawe) to slam the board and speak about how the pending (he says) sale of a hospital site that will (he says) be redeveloped into housing. He claims thousands of housing units will be built on the hospital land, netting 635 new elementary students. All of which will happen overnight of course, as the magic fairy dust settles on the hospital lands and instantly creates all those houses filled with school-aged children, created out of thin air...
From this new article, filed by John Miner:
Armstrong said he knows school board trustees never read the city's report on the area. School board officials could not be reached by the Free Press for comment Friday night.I have some issues with this article, as it allows Marchese and Armstrong to make some whopping nose-stretching claims. Deficits aren't driving school closures, Rosario. Declining enrolment and facility conditions are. Keeping in mind his own riding, I'm sure there are some kudos coming to Rosario given the Toronto board's own accommodation issues.
"Obviously there is a disconnect between the school board and the city," Armstrong said. He was also miffed the board refused to let him hold his press conference and meeting with parents at the school, or even hand out notices of the meeting.
He told a handful of parents at the press conference he intends to persuade the board to change its recommendation for the school.
"This is a battle we intend to win," Armstrong said.
Hey, Coun. Armstrong-- is there really a disconnect between the school board and the city? Whose fault is that, really?
In August, the city receives the resolution from the Community Schools Alliance, calling for a 'smart' moratorium on disputed school closures. It eventually fobs it off to a committee for further review.
In November, school board trustees receive their annual accommodation report, confirming the desire to begin a new review of four schools in Argyle / east London area (item 14.b on the agenda), given the demographics of the schools, their neighbourhoods and catchment areas. This review had actually been given the OK to proceed by an advisory committee in January of 2008-- a committee which at the time included City of London councillors. The November recommendation from staff members is to close Churchill and through boundary review accommodate students at existing, vacant space in three other area schools.
In January, the city council committee finally gets around to considering the alliance request-- this is the time the city is also being asked for reps for the accommodation reviews about to get underway, and when Armstrong has his first snit.
In February, directors of education from both local boards come to the city committee meeting and explain to those present why a 'smart' moratorium isn't smart at all. Council later would vote to endorse the alliance request, and then also calls on both school boards to revise their review policies to be more accommodating to local and municipal input. Well, they are, but the city had missed that part, given it was refusing to participate in many of these reviews and absent in situations where it might have been able to bring some options to the table.
Coun. Bud Polhill will actually sit on this particular review Armstrong is all steamed up about, which hopefully will show Armstrong when someone joins the process and can bring something to the table, it might change end results. One, perhaps naively given the obvious political end Armstrong is gunning for, would hope Polhill could bring the report Armstrong references to the committee's attention. That there would also be an opportunity for dialogue when the board's demographer presents student projections for the area-- wouldn't it be apropos if the city's demographer came that night? Armstrong assumes the decision is made because trustees have supported the recommendations from staff in other reviews (though I'll note staff recommendations have changed as a result of ARC processes). He could read the reasons behind the disbandment of the Ross/Thames high school review, but that really doesn't fit with his political mantra that the Churchill closure is a done deal that he needs to battle in order to ply enough tick marks on ballots this Oct. 25.
The review will hold its organizational meeting this month, and actually won't be complete until well into the new term of office for the next city council and board of trustees.
Disconnect? Yeah, I'd say. It's hard to connect when the person you're reaching out to has turned their back to you and is running away to hold press conferences with opposition politicians to score political points.
I'll write it again-- those who refuse to get dirt under their fingernails but want to sit on the sidelines and direct the construction of the sand castle should realize they might not get their way. Kudos to the board for not granting him the ability to use the school for his own political ends-- if he really wanted to contribute he could have volunteered to sit on the committee and then he'd get to yell and scream from inside the school on meeting nights, at least.
Let's see what Polhill (whose daughter is a trustee, I might add) brings to the conversation that review committee will be having over the next year. As for Armstrong?