Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Alliance exec to meet with Simcoe County board

The Barrie Examiner had this Wednesday on a pending meeting between Simcoe County Warden Tony Guergis, Springwater Township mayor (home to Elmvale DSS) and Community Schools Alliance executive member, and the Simcoe County District School Board.
The SCDSB was unable, after several lengthy meetings in June, to reach a decision on the fate of five high schools in northwest Simcoe County that had been part of an almost two-year review. The communities in Midland, Penetanguishene, Elmvale, Stayner and Collingwood await the vote on the fate of secondary school education in a huge swath of the county, hopefully at the end of this month.
In the meantime, Guergis will meet with the board of trustees. From the article:
"With the board of trustees, this will be our first actual discussion about this," said Diane Firman, chairwoman of the Simcoe County District School Board. "This alliance is new to us, (but) our goal is to find the best strategy to help every kid and our municipalities, as well. I think we're on the right path."
Trustees approved a motion in June, accepting Guergis' offer to join forces to meet with Wynne to discuss funding levels for the local school board, which are among the lowest per capita in the province.
Guergis called the funding levels "ridiculous," particularly in a rapidly growing area such as Simcoe County, which covers an area the size of Prince Edward Island.
"This is a fast-growing region with lots of issues," he said. "But our taxes are subsidizing other jurisdictions. Are we getting bang for our buck?"
Firman said board funding levels are below average, but the figures aren't that far out of whack.
"Those numbers are certainly something our staff has been looking into," Firman said. "The difference is not huge, not gazillions of dollars."
Both Guergis and Firman say the public school board and local municipalities have a good working relationship, but the warden wants to see it strengthened.
"There are lots of places they're seeing school boards won't even talk to (municipalities), so we have a good rapport," he said.
Firman said she believes the public school board has a positive relationship with local towns and townships, and the two cities.
"We want to continue that," Firman said, adding the Simcoe County school board's relationship with local municipalities is "absolutely different" than some of the others in the province, which are decidedly strained. 
This is the second such meeting I'm aware of, with an August meeting of Middlesex County attended by Thames Valley District School Board director of education Bill Tucker. So here's what I'm curious about-- what did Simcoe County, or its lower-tier municipalities of Midland, Penetanguishene, Springwater Township, Collingwood and Clearview Township bring to the review other than their participation and criticism? Did they offer to partner with the board, cough up some capital dollars for renovations or leases, etc.? Or did they sit at the table and join the chorus of boos without adding anything to the discussion or the options?
If Guergis' meeting is going to be productive, he should be coming to the table not only with the Alliance's list of desired outcomes, but with something tangible to offer trustees that his municipalities are prepared to do in partnership. Otherwise, all we get is hot air that does nothing to change the realities that led to the northwest Simcoe review in the first place.