Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Municipal councils and school boards

In this post-Community Schools Alliance age, there've been a few stories popping up in hotly contested school closure country where reports are near finalized or reviews well underway. Municipalities are now asking for a stronger voice at the table (er, that would be the review tables many are already present at) and asking boards to stop or slow down to wait for them to get their act together and contribute.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is one example, where town councillors continue their efforts to reverse a District School Board of Niagara decision to close Niagara District Secondary School if it doesn't find another 100 students before the end of October. The coverage has been consistent in the Niagara Region newspapers between the Advance, the Standard and the Review.
Simcoe County is another-- Warden Tony Guergis' recent meeting with Simcoe County District School Board trustees along with the recent decision to postpone any high school closures. With only one review underway -- an elementary one -- Clearview Township council is now getting hot under the collar and writing letters to fire off to various points, as reported in this Stayner Sun piece.
Council passed a motion Monday night, moved by Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage and seconded by Ward 7 councillor Shawn Davidson, asking the board to disband the committee.
Savage, who sits on the committee, known as ARC E, put forward the motion after growing frustrated with the board for its handling of the ARC and related issues, such as the board’s capital planning process.
The motion, which will be forwarded to board officials and Ontario Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne, received the unanimous support of council.
The township, in its motion, states that ARC E should be disbanded and that accommodation issues should not be dealt with until the board’s capital plan has been updated, which will determine what schools are to be improved.
Having looked at the agenda for the review committee's Sept. 22 meeting (minutes aren't up), I can also see why council is confused over whether the new provincial guidelines apply. What I would hope the committee learned is that they don't. Even if the board had revised its accommodation review policies to be compliant, the ministry already stated the new rules don't apply to any review struck before today (Sept. 30). This ARC "E" had its first meeting in June.
The request vis-a-vis the capital plan is one I can't speak to as I've not taken the time to read whatever capital plan the SCDSB has, though previous coverage and posts here suggest it wasn't a strong one given dollars haven't flowed as board staff members predicted and trustees expected.
If the committee isn't disbanded -- and given recent decisions, who knows whether it will be -- council is perhaps still taking a better approach. It realizes what's at stake (as I'm sure it always did), but should now realize its role and step up. Don't complain, as it appears to here, of being left out of the loop-- work to make sure you're in the loop and start sharpening your pencils. Come to review committee meetings with feasible solutions that work for the municipalities, the school board and students.
Writing letters shouldn't be the start of building a file full of excuses for feeling left out and unable to contribute to the process.


Anonymous said...

Well said! I agree with the points you make here ER.

Municipalities have always had a place reserved for them at school council tables...if they wish to bet there. Sure it's boring fare sometimes, and in my experience the community members end up quitting because they're never asked their opinion or to take part in school-based things.

I don't blame the municipalities entirely...some boards and schools still have no idea how to recruit and keep volunteers with any effectiveness.