Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time for Barrie to step up

This Barrie Examiner article was posted a couple of days ago, highlighting a series of Simcoe County District School Board votes to establish a school-closure review within the city. The vote to establish the review was preceded by an interesting one whose intent will hopefully produce some unique options for the next term of trustees to consider when they vote on the result of the review.
If an ARC is struck, it's pretty difficult to sell a business partnership plan if your side of the partnership is potentially slated for closure," (Janet Kinsey) said, after trustees made their decision.
(Janet's son) Ben was happy Wilson's motion passed.
"They listened to what we said. They're at least trying to attempt partnerships," he said, adding he wasn't surprised the motion to strike the ARC passed, with only Wilson opposing it.
Kinsey and other students aren't giving up, however.
"We are definitely open to doing more and are willing to keep going. We're not going to just go away," he said. "When the ARC comes to pass, we'll definitely be looking into things to do and becoming involved with the process."
The school board's number one priority in its 2008 budget was rebuilding the high school but funding from the Ministry of Education was not forthcoming.
"They let us down," Wilson said. "Last year, it was our vision to seek funding to rebuild Barrie Central. The ministry said, 'You need to look at your problem differently'. They are telling us where it is acceptable to build a new school."
When the first application to rebuild Barrie Central was made, there were partnerships that weren't investigated, she added.
She is fearful the newly struck ARC will not address potential partnerships quickly enough.
"At what stage of the ARC will it start talking about partnerships?" she asked, adding that with the ARC process, it could be eight or nine months before partnerships are explored. "We owe it to the community to open up discussions now."
Kinsey is 100% right.
Start the discussions NOW. Don't wait for the review committee's organizational meeting. School supporters' next stop should be at the next available Barrie city council meeting, where a possible message to council could be that the school needs council's participation and support on the review committee. Not a London-style "we want no part of this" response, or a "please stop the process" request a la Community Schools Alliance and Huron County.
The school's supporters need to have the intestinal fortitude to work on presenting options that don't have a 100% chance of being accepted when the day for a trustee vote comes along. If they can't find that sort of willing support among Barrie's political and business community, then the 'battle,' as it were, is already lost.
I will note, in closing, this was the same board that has postponed a decision on a five-school review in northwest Simcoe County because it felt it wouldn't be fair to burden the next term's trustees with the outcome. Given review time lines, this Barrie review won't conclude before December, but it's another huge decision for the new crop of trustees.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the discussions needn't begin at the invitation of an ARC or indeed a school board.

Media plays a huge role in keeping the issue alive and interesting enough to coax more active participation.

I'm asking again where the Community Schools Alliance is in all of this because is appears to me as if they've gone silent as community after community finally kick in and get in on the action.

Am interested in how a story like this one jives with what you've just experienced at AgendaCamp ER.

I caught some of it on TVO a few nights ago, but came away with no feeling in particular about anything that was raised.

I did get a sense that what used to be good old Anglo-Saxon London Ontario's changing face rather dramatically.


Anonymous said...

I would like to meet the boards in Ontario which, before accommodation guidelines were in place that didn't consult with their communities on school reviews or closures.

At some point the hand-holding of boards by the province should stop to allow for more local flexibility and so trustees can get their groove back.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 5 Feb. 08:36
I'm sure many opponents of school closures throughout the years have and will continue to claim their board didn't do any or adequate public consultations before making a decision (or rubber-stamping it, to view it from that perspective).

On your hand-holding comment-- I don't see the province that heavily involved in this. In fact, the ministry and ministers have been extraordinarily clear they have no intention of taking away this responsibility from trustees. The province issues guidelines to ensure some consistency in process, but it's not overtly sitting at Bay Street telling trustees where their schools should be.

Mind you, with the current capital project funding process, the ministry is there rubber-stamping and approving every trustee decision on capital improvements. Which, given the province provides every dollar used for those very projects, isn't that offensive to me.

I'm reminded of something I said at the end of October regarding NDSS/NOTL/DSBN advising communities essentially that if their population is under 400 (high school) they need to start looking for options, programs, etc. at that point. Not when it dips to under 300 and a formal review actually begins.


Anonymous said...

Hi ER,

I can't speak for anon. but perhaps school boards at the local level aren't making it clear enough for communities that the province isn't hand-holding or presenting prescriptive directives that allow for little flexibility?

I've felt that some boards(by that I mean trustees) need to do a much better job of showing their communities that they're not bound and gagged by the province or their board admin.?

I've met many in my community who have said over and over and over again that they'd like to hear more from their trustee on issues, not a central or board spokesperson who spends little time in the community.

The illusion, rightly or wrongly is that trustees have little impact on things when it comes down to it. When trustees step down because they're frustrated that they just can't make as much of a difference for kids as they thought something's missing in translation perhaps.

Just saying....

Anonymous said...

I believe that a good director will let trustees grow their impact and encourage them to do the talking to their communities rather than a designated spokesperson all the time.

also CC (not sure what happened but I wasn't done, now I am)

Anonymous said...

The 10-Step Capital Planning Process, spelled out by the Ministry years ago, indicates that the BOARD must seek out partnerships...

'Start the discussions NOW'. Just this fall, there seemed to be an emphasis by our board, in seeking partnerships and fostering dialogue - a whole 15 (completed) ARCs into their plan! Could it be that groups like the Community Schools Alliance prompted the Ministry to remind school boards of this crucial step? In my area, municipal representatives appeared to be finding out about our board's scheduled reviews when the general public was finding out - just before the ARCs were being struck! Far too late.

Anonymous said...

Anon. - if your municipality wasn't being kept abreast of accomm. reviews and Capital Plans then that's the fault of your school board on a couple of fronts.

Firstly, each school council should have a community rep. on board. For the very reason that they keep the community updated. This could be a municipal rep., or other community leader.

Also, some boards host annual meetings with their municipal leaders to keep them informed and updated.

There should be no excuse for a school board these days to outreach their municipalities.

Likewise if municipalities want a role to play they need to step up to the plate early in the process.

In the case of the ARC process in my town the Mayor was an ARC member who had a back-up town councilor. They were equals in being able to ask questions etc. but were not very forthcoming as to offering ideas or helping to stop a closure.

Before the merger of school boards our local school and school council, complete with community representative actively outreached the municipal government to help save OUR school from closure. If it hadn't been for our municipal council's help our board would have made a mistake in closing the school then, that is now the one they elected to keep open.

The council at that time appointed an education liaison who was responsible for coordinating meetings in council chambers between the school council and principals of all schools. They really assumed the lead in that coordination.

That was BEFORE the new guidelines kicked in too.

It was essentially a type of ARC process that we used to help change the minds of our board on a school closure.

Anon's right about the fact that those Capital Plans offer the first opportunity to get the community involved, but the board shouldn't have to hold the hands of principals and councils to make sure it gets done either.

If boards aren't educating their school councils on recruiting for community involvement in order to forge partnerships they should, and not because the gov't asks either.