Putting Students First? Anything but!
March 28, 2013
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Sitting at the back of a room has its advantages. You can listen to the voices and watch body language.
At the recent and final public meeting on the issue of the proposed closing of a rural school (Derby), it was obvious that the audience was made up of parents, grandparents and other family members, as the emotion was palpable.
The decision for the proposed school closing will be based on the recommendations of the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC). The Committee members appeared to be attentive, listening to each speaker who presented his/her arguments for keeping the school open. They asked interesting questions of the speakers and the speakers were well prepared.
Seated in the front row were the school Trustees. For the most part they too listened but some talked often and on many occasions, between themselves during a speaker's presentation or while he or she was answering a question.
Would this be tolerated in a classroom? I think not.
It was also obvious that the speakers had done their homework. They knew their numbers, their dollar amounts, the numbers of students and what a school closing would cost, which for the most part was in complete and considerable disagreement with figures presented by the school board.
It also became clear that this proposed rural school closure was symptomatic of issues that run much deeper. Time and again, it came up that the 'urban-based' government does not understand or care about rural communities, whether it's education, economic development tourism or agriculture.
It also came up that rural parents, in particular, perceive that the Ministry of Education and the Provincial Government in general do not care about students or their provincial motto of "putting students first" ... but only about money. It is about funding ... and, according to the funding formula, it's "bums in the seats' that pay.
The province has a funding formula but everyone knows one formula may not be suitable for all and in reality probably is not. In the instance of education however, it appears as though it is ... at least in the eyes of the Ministry of Education and Boards of Education.
Have a school that is somewhat short of students? Close the school and move the remaining students to fill the seats in other locations in order to help those schools access more funds. Is expanded bussing involved? No matter. Are the students and traveling time considered? Probably not. Does age matter when it comes to bussing. No. Four or five years old? Too bad.
Rural schools have a value not only to education of the students but also to an entire community. They are a central place where community activities take place, where parents, teachers and students learn together through socializing.
Education is more than 'bums in seats'.
According to sources, the 'now' Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, as the provincial Minister of Education at one time, in fact criticized the funding formula and the accommodation review process. As Premier, how does she feel now?
If a rural school like Derby, where excellence in academics and athletics has been proven, where a parent council is one of the largest and most proactive within the existing school board and where enrolment is actually expected to increase over the next couple of years, is on the chopping block, then what rural school is next?
The recent 'Sunshine List for Ontario' was recently made public and, when it comes to education, as with most ministries of the government, the higher up the ladder of learning in 'administration' the higher the salary.
In Bluewater School Board District, there are more than 40 Principals, Vice-Principals, Teachers, Administrators and School Board staff who are earning well over $100,00 per year. Many, in fact, are closer to $150,000.
It is not just Bluewater that has a problem however. It is the entire education system.
PUTTING STUDENTS FIRST? I'm afraid not! Not in this day and age of education versus money!
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Thursday, March 28, 2013