Thursday, July 16, 2009

More on the CSA

My colleague Deb Van Brenk at the LFP had this published Thursday regarding the launch of the Community Schools Alliance and its initial goals. The Freeps has given some coverage to this concept as it was discussed before its official creation, but was several days behind other media (particularly in the Niagara Region) in writing and publishing the launch of the CSA.
It does provide some clarification to the term 'smart' moratorium however.
The Community Schools Alliance, (CSA) begun in Middlesex County, now has an executive that includes high-powered officials from across Ontario in a full-court press to get the province to change how rural and small urban schools are assessed for closing.
A "smart moratorium" would halt rural school closings, only where there's local lingering debate, until there can be broader municipal input into school boards' community consultations.
Note the use of 'small urban' as well, which means, technically, per the province's own definitions, communities such as Chatham (the settlement area, not the one-tier municipality), Sarnia, Owen Sound, Orillia, Woodstock, Brockville, Belleville, etc. etc. etc.) Roughly, anything under 100K population, give or take. Or perhaps that's too generous-- anything under 50K? Yet the moratorium would only halt rural-school closings where there is 'lingering debate?' So, if we keep disagreeing with the decision, it never actually gets implemented? This seems irrealistic to expect.
Media working the way it does, this article in the LFP -- seen as the 'paper of record' for a swatch of southwestern Ontario between the K-W / Brant border and Essex County -- carries a lot more weight than anything I would ever publish on the subject in the pages of my own newspaper. Not a critique, just accepting reality.
Glad to see the CSA website is running a little better-- some of the initial kinks have been worked out, and the alliance has also setup a Facebook page for those who prefer to surf within that world. Current membership as of writing this post was at 15, but that number's likely to grow, hopefully substantially. The news items are links and items that I've already been exposed to through a first round of accommodation reviews, but they're good reading regardless of where you sit on the bigger picture. I do wish all member municipalities were listed somewhere on the site, instead of just the executive members-- although it appears all rural and small-urban municipalities are about to receive a request to join the alliance in time for their August meetings.
These rural and remote communities (a term I think more accurately reflects the alliance's existing and desired membership) are rightfully piqued to say they feel their input hasn't been considered. I take the comments I continue to receive from those who believe I am 'against' their cause to heart-- I make every effort to be fair and consider and report on all viewpoints and as many perspectives as possible when appropriate. I am accountable for what I write and will respond, explain, defend and/or admit error where appropriate.
Which is why I write in a more critical tone about some of the alliance's statemants. I haven't witnessed every vote in this province, but I know if you count time as a factor of consideration, each of the 'rural' reviews in the board I cover -- the ones that led to the creation of this alliance -- received a long and thorough vetting by trustees. A trustee chaired each ARC and presented the recommendations, and some of the debates were quite fierce. Almost every single decision (eight of 10, if memory serves) for a school closure (including all three in London, that big, bad urban monstrosity) was a majority split decision with the dissenting trustees doing so quite loudly. One very urban trustee was practically in tears as she lobbied to keep a small school in an impoverished area of west-London from closing. She didn't have a gallery full of pissed off parents and municipal leaders to play to either-- she had only a few parents and one very upset teenager in tears at the impact the closure will have on her younger sister, a girl with restricted mobility. So I do get a little, er, flustered at the suggestion rural and remote schools have a monopoly on community and on the devastating impacts of losing a school.
Often, those who disagree with the decision continue to feel as though their input wasn't considered just because their own opinion didn't carry the day. My sh*t detector is telling me this may be the case for some of the alliance's members.
Maybe I'm wrong-- post a comment or e-mail me and explain why. I welcome it.


Anonymous said...

I do believe that the discussion re: the perceived imbalance of school closure needs to happen. Rural, small town schools can't be managed or even governed like large ones.

The effects of closure may be the same in all cases but the ability to cushion and re-organize is potentially much easier in larger urban centres if only because there is more choice for parents to move their kids to other schools without having to move themselves.

I don't believe that this call by the Community Alliance group is any different than the noise made by the folks in larger centres who generally have more numbers and more voices to work with than to advocates of small towns or rural schools.

I also think that with a municipal election in the near future we'll hear more, not less of the what your sh*t detector suspects.

If local communities are charged with determining their own fates then it's seriously time to move education from central command, perhaps split and bleed the ministry dry of bureaucrats and move to a model similar to our healtcare's LHINS? I believe we're headed that way.

I don't believe we should be giving up schools easily in smaller communities when we're reading daily about how behind both the Toronto boards are(as an example).

Again, why are small communities closing schools in stead of being supported by their communities, their boards and the province to enhance their marketing and economic development plans to work to attract families to their areas?

That to me is a much better long-term investment in small school communities than closing.

That all said. Some schools do need closing in all parts of the province....but let's give the small communities a break perhaps until there's balance in closure and as much work done by those larger boards.

Perhaps the new alliance group can share numbers that illustrate the imbalance?

I need more information before I decide the they're full of it ER.

Education Reporter said...

Note-- never said anyone was full of anything. I question some of their statements and claims.
The sh*t detector can go off for one sentence and not the ones immediately preceding or following.
These statements I question are the very ones that may lead to the work groups like the CSA are doing being discredited.
If that removes a voice from the conversation, that's unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

trying to get folks to speak up in my small community is tough, if not impossible sometimes.

I hear what you're saying though.

Schools have been closing for a long time in the province, even when the so-called moratorium was in place.
I seem to remember that the Chatham area being in the news alot re: closures etc.

Wouldn't it be great if communities were as passionate every day about the education of children rather than only when closure threatens...or strikes?