Monday, September 21, 2009

The Administrative Review re: School Closing

Most of us are very casual when it comes to voting for municipal and school board representatives - deciding for whom one should vote, or whether to vote at all. Tonight I was reminded that our collective decisions really matter and that terrible things can happen when we fail to make good choices.

Case in point: Choice of school board representatives.

I attended the meeting of the petitioners objecting to the procedures followed by the Avon Maitland District School Board in deciding to close Blyth Public School. The only persons allowed to speak were those who signed the petition, which was a reasonable limitation. There were a few contribitions from the public gallery, but fortunately these were minimal. Those who spoke were very well spoken and much more polite than I would have been had I had the right to speak.

There were excellent presentations among those that I could hear, but to me, sitting in the public gallery, many of them were completely inaudible. The facilitator, Ms. Margaret Wilson I am sure received a very complete, clear, and reasoned set of objections to the AMDSB handling of the accommodation review.

It was somewhat disconcerting that she argued against some of the points raised, and provided explanations for some of the things that were done or not done - explanations that could be interpreted as "supporting the bad guys". For example, with respect to the opposition towards sending grade 7 and 8 children to a high school, she pointed out that this is normal practice in many Canadian provinces and many countries around the world. Does that mean that we should do the same?

But the most disconcerting information that I received at this meeting, leads me to doubt the chance of blocking this terrible decision for Blyth.

Let me put it this way:

Suppose Ms. Wilson agrees completely with all of the petitioners objections, and
Suppose she reports to the Minister that the board did not follow its own policy, and
Suppose she reports that their procedures also failed to follow the guidelines set out by the Minister of Education, and
Suppose she recommends that the Board be forced to reconsider and change its decision, and
Suppose the Minister accepts the recommendation of the facilitator.


The Board has full and sole power to close any school it chooses to close.

Now you see what I meant at the opening of this article. All those who voted for the members of this board have a great deal to answer for.

There were numerous examples given tonight about the lack of responsiveness of our local board representative, about indifference, about lack of communication. One person questioned why no one from the board has spoken to our community to explain why they decided to close Blyth Public School. Indeed why did our representative not do this. (Silly question, I know.)

Even the facilitator mentioned that it would be normal for the board to give the community some sort of explanation for changes like this.

So here we are stuck with the people we elected. With the higher population density in this municipality in the north, we are in clear danger of remaining unrepresented following future elections, unless we encourage worthy and responsible candidates to come forward.

Small rural communities like ours face many difficulties these days. We cannot afford to continue with representatives who represent no one but themselves.

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