Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Second thoughts in Peterborough

This hit the desk today from the Peterborough Examiner, regarding a recent high school school-closure review in the city. One of the participants in the committee, the city's appointed representative, is now stating the process was confusing and that committee members felt forced into making a decision to close a school.
Beside the obvious error in logic (yet another report where the writer explains the committee's role as making the decision when it's not), I'm left wondering whether Coun. Keith Riel would have said the same thing had the current recommendation on the floor for Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB trustees been to close a school other than Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School.
"This view is one shared by hundreds of people with whom I have spoken over the past few weeks," the letter (written by Riel) states. "In my view, there has been insufficient attention paid to the many alternatives available to the board to reorganize its services in a way that will maintain all four schools as valuable educational resources for current and future generations."
NOTE: Coun. Keith Riel is also a member of Put Students First — a new group, made up mostly of TASSS supporters — that has prepared its own plan of how to keep TASSS open by creating new and enhanced arts, science and technology programming. The group won't reveal details of the plan until presenting them to trustees Aug. 25. Riel said he's in the group as a private citizen. 
I would have bumped up this note at the end of the article a little higher. Mostly because Riel, as an elected city councillor, no longer really participates in anything within the city as a 'private citizen.' He doesn't stop being a member of city council when he does Put Students First business.
Despite how the article makes it seem that municipal involvement in this process is an unusual thing, there are good examples across the province where school boards and municipalities do get along (or at least when they find it of benefit). So is Peterborough going to go the London route, where they just crap on everything the school board does because they don't like the options? Or will the city choose to bring viable options to the table that trustees can actually act on in good conscience?
Declining enrolment is a reality city council needs to deal with, just as the KPRDSB does. Status quo is not an option and care needs to be taken with specialty programming-- while it might lead to enrolment increases in a few schools, the pool of students to draw from is fixed and as time passes, decreasing.


Anonymous said...

I would not be so fast to critique the reporter from PB and Riel.

A decision is made by an ARC. It is that decision that is a recommendation to the the school board.

I don't doubt there was confusion as to motions and process at the meeting. This is the one area of school closure guidelines that are not covered in detail.

Kangaroo ARC's have existed and well as Kangaroo Board ARC decisions.

"The 34 committee members were stressed and confused, he says, after a 5½-hour meeting during which members said they couldn't hear each other and expressed confusion about the process while audience members shouted out spontaneously in anger. "


Education Reporter said...

Anon 10 Aug. 9:52:
I'd say you're splitting hairs on the decision/recommendation verbage.

It's cleaner and takes fewer words to simply state the fact the committees make recommendations. In terms of the overall process, It's far more accurate and to the point. Yes, of course, decisions are involved in arriving at recommendations, but that could easily be implied without having to state it as such.

Until my peers in the industry stop staying ARCs make decisions (which misleads the reader as to the actual process), I will continue to be critical. This process is already impacted by passion and high emotions-- being accurate with terminology helps us all understand the process.

As to confusion in implementing the guidelines and process within school boards and then within the committees, I agree. Confusion abounds, but some times that confusion isn't because of the guidelines / policies / etc., but because of the people running and participating in the process.

If you run the meeting in a way that allows it to become a gong show, then no one should be surprised at the outcome.


Banderblogger said...

To be fair, TASSS falls within Keith's riding so he does have a duty to represent his many unhappy constituents who don't want to see the only high school east of the Otonabee River closed. If you take a look at a map of Peterborough, a good chunk of the city is east of the river. Unfortunately there is little growth there.

As much as I would like to see Peterborough keep all five of its high schools, numbers have dropped so low that aside from the question of efficiencies, maintenance and repairs, it has become near to impossible to properly time table schools.

With such low numbers at all the schools, some courses just never get enough enrollment at any one school to run properly. College-level science courses are a good example. And the proposed solutions such has having students travel between schools or split classes only serve as a deterrent for students interested in such courses.

Any one of the five schools could be destroyed by meteor tomorrow and by the first of September, that school's students could be redistributed among the remaining four and there would still an embarrassing amount of extra room. It will be a long, long, long time before Peterborough needs another high school . . . and when that day comes, the building required may very well be very different than the ones standing today.

The elephant in the room is Holy Cross Secondary School which was built not too long ago in Peterborough. But I'll leave that can of worms unopened for the time being.

Education Reporter said...


Well, if geographic distribution is a concern, then perhaps TASSS shouldn't have been the school that ended up with a bulls eye over itself. But then again, the opportunity for that could have come up during the committee meetings as it developed its recommendations-- which, I realize, is the point of the complaint if one of the committee members felt the process was rushed.

Your points on enrolment and program are bang on. There are some measures that can be put into place to deal with some of this stuff-- if the schools operate on an identical schedule, morning, noon-hour and end-of-day buses can be setup to access these senior-level courses. A system like this exists between the three public high schools in Woodstock and it works quite well. Granted Peterborough is more than twice as large as Woodstock, but if the distances and schedules can be synched, within an urban boundary this sort of co-operation works to the benefit of students.

As to the elephant in the room, I wouldn't shy away from bringing it up. Holy Cross got its expansions/upgrades (not sure which to be honest), but Catholic students in the city likely had to live with far inferior facilities prior to that change. Though my preference for a single system is well-stated, if you're going to fund two systems you can't slag one of them for catching up after decades of surviving on far less funding.