Friday, July 10, 2009

Community Schools Alliance on the web

This just came in-- the Community Schools Alliance released a number of documents today as well as launching a website. Be prepared-- if you click that link today, it takes you to the homepage where a Flash video of Southwest Middlesex Mayor Doug Reycraft loops, endlessly. The links were also loading veeerrrry slowly.
From the release:
The Community Schools Alliance is asking Minister Wynne to support a “smart moratorium” on all school closings disputed by municipalities. The goal of the smart moratorium is for the Ministry, schools boards and municipalities to work together and develop policies addressing such issues as planning for declining enrolments, a mutually agreed upon Accommodation Review Committee process (ARC), a review of funding to rural and small community schools, and defining the working relationship, transparency and accountability between municipalities and school boards.
Reycraft, Chair of Community Schools Alliance said, “No community should lose their school if they don’t want to lose it. Ontario municipalities are concerned about the Accommodation Review Committee process and the impact this flawed process has on the socio-economic fabric of our communities.”
A smart moratorium? Smart according to whom?
Gerard Kennedy's 'requested' moratorium from 2003-06 is what's brought on the rush of ARCs and closings currently under consideration today. The very reason this coalition has been founded. Another moratorium, whether smart, dumb or otherwise, is only going to defer and delay the challenges ahead of virtually every school board in the province. The Declining Enrolment Working Group on which Reycraft himself sat was very clear we simply cannot defer, delay or ignore this issue.
Working together more effectively? Absolutely. Agree 150 per cent. Come to ARC meetings prepared to contribute -- and bring your wallet. Learn to accept that just because you've planned for 15 years of residential growth, it doesn't mean the people who move into those residential units are going to be punching out five kids each. You can't create school-aged children out of thin air and there are fewer and fewer of them every year. Municipalities also need to understand that just as they've updated municipal services and facilities, education needs to update its services and facilities in a sensible way with the best use of the resources at hand.
Just to show equal-opportunity lovin', the school boards should make sure they are more open to municipal offers of cash and other resources (ie: land) that could help find sensible solutions to accommodation challenges. Trustees should make sure they're seen vetting the accommodation review committee recommendations as thoroughly as possible. When a closure is the decision, particularly a "community school" closure (what school isn't a community school...), trustees need to work double-time to explain, in plain English, why that was the best option for all students.
In the meantime, this gives us something to keep an eye on as we head through the summer.


Anonymous said...

trustees have been swallowed up by the Ministry and board bureaucracy ER.

I'm beginning to think that individual trustees need to do some of their own advocating and reconnecting with their communities and their schools and get closer not further away from decision-making and future planning.

When trustees are looked up as politicians or part of the government interest dies, and eventually voters stop voting almost as if they don't care who they trust education to.

"this gives us something to keep an eye on as we head through summer."

As if we needed MORE.

You don't sound very supportive of this guy's initiative ER. How come? Don't small/rural communities deserve their kick at the can of noisemaking?

I mean look what it did for the TDSB..all those bailouts and concessions, and half-empty schools still getting funding and staying viable.

Education Reporter said...

I welcome any person or place that wants to contribute to the process and the outcome.
I've also been around the block a few times. I've covered school closures from beginning to end and been there with communities rallying to change the outcome every step of the way. I have provided a platform for many communities to speak and be heard on their concerns for their community schools.
Everyone deserves their kick at the can.

Anonymous said...

This debate comes down to a simple one for me – on what do we want to spend the dollars we have to educate children? Bricks and mortar? Classroom supplies and equipment? Teacher training? Programs such as music and art that have largely vanished from elementary schools (and are under increasing strain in secondary schools)? Ensuring that all kids have access to equitable course offerings, etc, etc, etc. This will always be a debate about priorities, and how to allocate resources that will never be sufficient to do the things we want to do in education (or any other area of public policy). Does it make sense to pay to keep a lot of very small schools open (many of which were arbitrarily placed in the geographic centers of arbitrarily defined municipal structures, rather than where the people in the communities live, during the first round of consolidation) when it is expensive to do so and you can use the money more profitably (I would argue) for other things in education?

So while I understand the emotional arguments behind the position that you should keep all schools open (I’m guessing there won’t be many municipalities that ask for their schools to be closed), I don’t understand it from the perspective of offering kids in Ontario (rural or urban) a high quality education.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 17:19 wrote "on what do we want to spend the dollars we have to educate children?"

It's not like "we" have the power to decide anymore. That line is being blurred beyond recognition.

I think it far better for a school community to decide what it wishes to spend that money on than to have such a top-down, and sometimes too overly prescriptive policy directions coming from the centre(government).

If, in the beginning, more effort went into the evolution and interaction of school councils, community, staff and board all of the decisions of where the money goes needs to be local.

Elected representatives, be they trustees and school council reps.(in place now for over 10 yrs.) need to give the gov't and communities to get some of that central control back.

There also needs to be a discussion in this province re: and area that gets lots of lip-service but little attention.

What is it we expect of education, and how do we get it?

If it's "quality" then how can we agree on a way to define it so that there will be no question?

I fear that as a society we're asking way too much from our system.

We're also way too big a province for central governance to be beneficial.

My choice is always to strengthen the local community and train it if we have to in those things that will help them make more educated and effective decisions on what matters to those kids.

It's not always about money, there's a philosophical shift that has to happen at some point.

When I read about what Charles Pascal wants to do and about how we seem to want to transform schools into something else, things like that chip away at how we start to look at schools and education.

I recall attending a conference hosted by the then EIC called "shifting the balance". The ball started rolling then to move to more local control and decision making in our schools but the government changed and it seems the grip on my local schools and my board are stronger than ever.

Anonymous said...

"Local control" at a time of globalization seems a little too "Ozark" for me. Be careful what you wish for because the math doesn't hold up. Give every community the same "grant" per child (ok, we'll take Toronto out of the mix) and see just how much money you have to meet both the capital and operating costs it takes. Good education these days is about money, tax money - 25% of which comes from municipal taxation. Local control has been passed to private schools, many of them faith based. They're already voting with their wallets and paying more for the privilege.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand your point Anon. 18:26

Who do you want running our system?
The United Nations? I mean they're doing such a bang-up job elsewhere?

People choosing private schools because they can, has nothing at all to do with a change in governence or philosophy. Those who can afford it also can afford to choose between the public schools of their choice in some boards.

Here's a novel idea. Support a variety of systems and offer parents and students a selection of different types of schools, including a no frills back-to-basics choice.

That should satisfy everyone, right?