Monday, February 8, 2010

Busy days in NOTL

I've been getting e-mails about this all weekend. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is considering its 101-page brief to Minister of Education Leona Dombrowsky at a Feb. 8 council meeting. The document is subject of this special meeting, called before the weekend. Council is being asked to endorse the brief and permit its presentation to Dombrowsky.
Those with their ears to the ground in the area have been hopping all weekend (hence the e-mails I received) over the 'brief' and the proposal it contains for a 'Centre of excellence' model. Essentially, the document is a pitch for a rebuilt school campus on the Niagara District Secondary School site that would be a K-12 facility encompassing all high school-aged children within the municipality, regardless of whether they currently attend NDSS, Eden or the local Catholic school.
The document is fairly repetitive. The centre model is mentioned about half a dozen times, and a sleep after reading it in full, the following percolate to the top:
  • District School Board of Niagara? Bad. Very bad.
  • Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake? Good, very good.
  • Families who chose to attend school elsewhere? Forced at gunpoint by the choices made by DSBN in its messianic mission to close NDSS.
  • Eden? Unholy and very, very bad. Should never have existed. Those kids should be integrated in our Centre of Excellence.
  • Our proposal? Awesome. Especially since the chamber did a survey (with really loaded questions) that shows 76% support! We're so good, we didn't leave any time for potential delegates to sign up and tell us what they think because no one hates this proposal, do they?
Pardon my facetiousness. I had some difficulty with this report, beyond the repetitiveness of its content. As a small example, a newspaper opinion piece is cited as factual support for a point the authors make in the brief.
It also provides only the briefest peek at why the DSBN staff members provided some of the advice / direction they did. This report continually smacks the DSBN for not allowing the community to openly promote itself to students attending other schools. While the authors argue the board has been covertly and overtly doing so for about 10 years, a board letter in the appendices provides more insight. It suggests that if the doors were thrown open on NDSS competing for students in other schools, the board would let other high schools overtly do the same to NDSS' population. Who would lose the most students then?
It also selectively quotes the minutes from the rats' nest of motions in June 2008 that led to the 350-student threshold, despite earlier hints this is where the council committee was going to concentrate its opposition. This centre of excellence model should have been presented (was it?) was presented during the ARC, but not supported and not recommended as an option. Its own report indicated a rebuilt NDSS and the consolidation of the elementary schools that the board is trying to proceed with.
I'm sure someone at DSBN is preparing a response to this brief.


Dose of Reality said...

Hi ER -

Interesting editorial commentary from you.

One small point to be clear though, this report has been on the Council radar for a couple of months, and the Town has provided a week's notice of its introduction. There will undoubtedly be delegations in support and in opposition to this tonight. Anyone complaining about access just hasn't been monitoring this closely enough.

I may not agree with everything the NOTL Town Council does, but the suggestion they are stifling the democratic process by not allowing delegations is hardly accurate. Furthermore, this meeting was identified last Monday and promoted by two local papers.

I'm not a big fan of either educational advocacy group in town - Friends of NDSS or Save Our Schools. SOS in particular is always crying foul, so while I can appreciate they're passing you information, I would take it with two rather large dashes of salt. They certainly don't represent a broad public opinion in town.

A Mega Campus Dose of Reality said...

Yes everyone knew that there was a report on the way, but the public had no idea of its contents. It is the report contents and conclusion that people are up in arms over.

Dose of Reality said...

Which is exactly why anyone is welcome to provide feedback - there's no grand conspiracy. People are more than welcome to agree or disagree with the report - that's democracy. No conspiracy and for what it's worth I think the NOTL Town Council has done an admirable job even ATTEMPTING to navigate this quagmire created by the DSBN and MOE.

A Mega Campus Dose of Reality said...

Right, there is no conspiracy grand or otherwise. It would be giving too much credit.

Thankfully this is a democracy and it will be reflected in the turnout against this abomination of a "Report".

Town Council will reject the "Report" tonight.

For what it's worth the DSBN has done an admirable job ATTEMPTING to navigate the quagmire created by the Town of NOTL.

Anonymous said...

NOTL NDSS Strategy Member #1: "We need to save the high school."
NOTL NDSS Strategy Member #2: "Yes, but we need kids to go there."
NOTL NDSS Strategy Member #1: "Let’s make a school where they can all attend and concentrate on their education"
NOTL NDSS Strategy Member #2: "Great and if everyone goes there, the high school will survive!"
NOTL NDSS Strategy Member #1: "Yes! We can call it the NDSS Concentration Campus!"

The holocaust is not funny and neither is what the Niagara-on-the-Lake NDSS Strategy Committee Report is recommending. The 101 page brief (since when was 101 pages brief?) is going to make the Town seem like a joke.

Force every child of school age, Jk. to 12 to attend NDSS? Forced relocation never worked before. Canada unfortunately experimented with forcing native children to attend government run residential schools. Gee, I wonder how that worked out?

Who is going to want to live in NOTL if your child is forced to attend the NDSS Campus. It would be impossible for the Ministry of Education and the District School Board of Niagara to pull this off let alone the Town of NOTL.

Hey, the NDSS Strategy Committee supports a local community high school, but doesn’t want a local Catholic elementary school, doesn’t want the local high school students attending Holy Cross or Eden high school. Oh and they don’t want any more community elementary schools, unless you live in St. Davids.

The residents in St. Davids must be really special to NOTL because they are better served by the local school because it is closer. I’ll quote from the report, "It is understood that for practical reasons, students from St. David and Queenston will continue to attend the newly expanded, and much closer, St. Davids-Laura Secord Public School in St. Davids"! What gall!

Is it not practical for the people in Virgil to attend a local elementary school? There is one there!
Is it not practical for the people in Old Town to attend a local elementary school? There is one there!
Is it not practical for the Catholic students to attend a Catholic elementary school? They have one of those too!

Oh, but it gets better. Let’s create a report that impacts kids attending Catholic schools, Eden and public elementary schools and not invite representative to participate on the Committee. Then release the report on a Friday and only give people until 10am the following Monday to give notice to speak at Council about the report. That’s fair right? No one could complain about that. How could they? The Town and Committee have banked on this small window to prevent any mass disturbance. They think they are at the top of the food chain, that they can dictate to the masses and command them to do their bidding. Guess again.

Creating a campus school of ANY configuration will not save the high school. How come they fail to understand this? Moving the yet-to-be-built Virgil/Col John Butler elementary school to NDSS will not help one bit! The only thing that could have saved NDSS was having 350 students attending on October 31, 2009. If you are going to make any pitch to keep the high school alive it needs to have willing HIGH SCHOOL KIDS attending! Got it? Elementary students count for NOTHING towards a high school.

This report would be received completely differently if the same conclusions were achieved by the Strategy Committee including all affected parties. The Committee was not inclusive in the least. The NDSS Strategy Committee is not fooling anyone. However if by some twisted deranged hand of fate, the report gets passed and goes to the Ministry of Education, not The Ministry of Silly Walks, the Ministry is going to be scratching their heads in wonder and laughing their butts off.

Disgusted said...

So, Dose of Reality, are you saying that the broad base of public opinion is in favour of a mega campus? That's laughable.

The idiots at the town have done SOS a favour...this latest 'strategy' has only served to enrage the Catholics now, along with everyone there are far more people voicing their disgust at the town's ineptitude. My bet is that the town of NOTL will have a new mayor and almost all new councillors after the next election. They run their town more like a circus than a democratic forum. It's an embarrassment!

Oh, and Councillor about making a written assurance to the taxpayers that you agree never to profit from the sale of any of the DSBN properties in NOTL???? When pigs fly, right?

Dose of Mega Reality said...

Mega Campus and Anonymous - you should share your opinions with Council then and I hope you've signed up - if not in person then in print.

Aggresively tapping away in the feedback column of this blog is hardly going to convey your opinion.

Whether or not the Council will pass this is a good question, however I can hardly fault them for exploring options. I think efforts to maintain local secondary education are worth exploring. I've been following this for a while and it's pretty clear the Town's been isolated by the Board. I have elementary kids in Town and I have to say that the high school concepts incorporating a campus idea with separate elementary facilities resonates with me. I see the merit in some respects.

Also - Anonymous - equating this argument with the residential schools issue is not only laughable, it's insulting to those affected by that serious issue. That's an unfortunate illustration of your point of view that I can only hope is unintended.

I won't debate you here on the merits of the campus idea - it's a waste of effort since you've made up your mind but you should make an effort to be tolerant of other opinions and the democratic process for expressing them.

Again - no conspiracy in NOTL. Over and out.


Anonymous said...

The very best opportunity to do something about both the council and school board exists this coming October.

Can we see any of you on the slate of candidates?

Sound's to me that a neutral and very much independent venue needs to happen to hear and understand both sides proven by the discussion on ER's forum.

Seriously, if this fight is going on and has ramped up into the community perhaps the Catholic alternative is the best bet for parents and the kids who are at the centre of all of this?

Anonymous said...

The best line I have ever heard on conspiracy theories - who needs them when stupidity explains so much...

Anonymous said...

The sad thing about all of this is that the report and it's recommendations are not based upon educational best practices. If council endorses this report it is clear that they put realtor agendas and political agendas above the best educational interests of this communities' children (elementary and highschool).
(As an aside and as a tax paying member of the community it is also frustrating that an appointed councillor (not elected) is presenting the report on behalf of our community)......

Education Reporter said...

Fascinating. Record number of comments in record time.

Dose of mega reality has a point when it comes to civic engagement. Don't throw rocks from the sidelines (or this comment page) if you're not prepared to get some dirt under your fingernails to step up, put a face behind your concerns and use the political process that exists to make your voice heard.

As to the very first comment-- I'm sorry but despite how far in advance those with their ears to the grown may have known to expect this report (developed behind closed doors, illegally, I would argue) the exact timing of it wasn't known. Media coverage the week before the date of the meeting in question was announced is one thing, but as others above have said, it's poor political and common-sense practice to post something Friday when it was available before then.

To those who would say there wasn't enough time, the ones with their ears to the ground put boots to the ground (electronically and otherwise) and I'm sure the meeting Monday night was packed. I'm sure council got an earful from a wide range of delegates, even with the tight time line.

Those who haven't heard about it over the weekend and made some arrangement to participate or ensure their views were represented probably didn't give a rat's patootie anyway.

ps: Made one amendment to the original post, look for the strikeout and bolded text.


Sandy said...

Well Hugo, the latest Niagara Advance just landed on my doorstep. On the front page: "NDSS report causes stir." It is about what you describe here. One large HS with Catholic students, NDSS and Eden.

Except it is more pie in the sky rhetoric. I'd give you a link but its not up yet. It's by Matt Day.

Reason it is pie in the sky: if Catholic students were removed from St. Catharines high schools, one of them would have to close.

If Eden was removed from the Lakeport High School location in St. Catharines, that facility would close -- plus only 130 or so students attend Eden from NOTL. The rest of the 750 students come from as far away as Beamsville and Grimsby.

So, tunnel vision for sure. A last attempt at an idea that I am sure the DSBN has already considered.

Democracy in action? No, not really. Politicians in action in anticipation of this years municipal elections? Definitely!

By the way, I linked my latest post on the full day JK/SK ELP to you.

Anonymous said...


Please don't forget the brief not only describes the 'campus of excellence' as having ALL of NOTL's high school students, but ALL elementary students as well...including St Michael Catholic elementary. This would be over 1500 students on one property in rural NOTL. Sensible option, huh? Zalepa tried to backpedal at the meeting, by saying the St Michael addition was an 'error', but that plan is clearly indicated throughout the brief. He was trying to smooth ruffled feathers but looked like a fool instead.

I'm not sure the buffoons at the town are very politically savvy, either. They've managed to offend and alienate the vast majority of residents. The only votes they'll get will be from the Friends of NDSS - a tiny percentage of our town.

Can't wait to see some fresh faces on council. Let's hope they come equipped with good old fashioned common sense!

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