I am calling in my marker, says retired teacher

To the Editor;

This report addresses the Grades 7 and 8 crisis — exiling them to Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS). This report will address my credentials, my interest in this crisis, my concerns re this crisis and a definite remedy for this crisis.

My name is Susan McGrath, a 30-year retired teacher with the Bluewater Board of Education having worked in the secondary panel as a special education LRT.  My students had a wide range of difficulties: behaviour, reading disabilities, social disabilities, anxiety, ADHD, to name a few.

I liasoned with the Board of Education, the secondary management team, parents and students as well as the transition team of the elementary panel–trying to ensure that elementary students had a smooth transition from Grade 8 to Grade 9.  It is a huge step from Grade 8 to 9, moving from a safe, nurturing environment to one that has expectations of more maturity; preparing them to exit to post-secondary education or world of work.

That being said, when I mentioned “crisis”, this move by the Board to move the Grades 7 and 8 classes to Saugeen has CRISIS written all over it!

These children are not ready to move into that environment and, is the environment receptive to them?

Let’s examine some data. The elementary schools are crowded; portables are needed. The secondary school is not crowded; their portables arenʼt being used anymore (saved money there!) Given time, the space will be used at the secondary level. It’s like investments — if thereʼs a disruption, a blip, you let it ride and it should resolve itself. Donʼt jump into a rash
decision! What greater investment do we have than our young people and their welfare! Nada. What could be more rash than moving them?

In the past, Saugeen Central has had 12 or more portables. The students survived.  Academically, musically, team sports, etc. , so what is the issue? Put in a few more portables!!!!

What the Board of Ed wants to do is remove the students from their core schools, their scholastic community and family, take away their rite of passage to graduate from their school, remove the opportunity to become leaders within their core schools, work with the
younger students in their core schools, and develop safely — emotionally and physically –before they move on to a less nurturing environment where they will have to hold their own.

Stuffing them into the secondary school, disrupting that school as well. Itʼs not like a new K -12 school where space has been carefully designed to incorporate these young students and great thought given to all the age groups.

Trust me.  The younger kids are going to be challenged by the older kids. Itʼs going to
happen! We are a very affluent town, our tax dollars are paying for this decision, and this is NOT the correct decision. With all the money spent on anti-bullying, the Board hasnʼt got the message — I sense bullying.

TELLING parents, elementary and secondary administration and teachers that this is going to happen. Make it work!!! What about the other viable option?

This leads me to discuss my interest in this crisis. My antennae went up immediately as a secondary liaison. This is wrong and scary!

If the Board is telling you that these students will be in a safe environment — define safe.
Will the Board be accountable for the young students emotional and physical safety? Nope. It will be … staff–make it work.

These children are not ready for this environment. They are guinea pigs, plain and simple–all for the sake of saving money for the cost of a few portables. Really? Also, it is a
disruption to the secondary staff, being moved out of music rooms, etc. and the young students will perhaps be caught up in a haze of resentment.

The main and personal interest on my part is that my grandson is one of these guinea pigs and I am very afraid for him. I want the best for him, and I know how important and fragile the education process can be. So many students can be turned off and become a retention statistic by a bad experience. He is not a statistic!

People ʻat the topʼ looking at the space situation —”Oh, this could work”–they need to humanize the statistics. There is no emotion for them; it is strictly a business decision and donʼt be fooled—Northport, Saugeen Central and Saugeenʼs administration have probably been told — this is going to happen — make it work.

It was ironic that on the day this whole situation came to my attention I had just read that in the Toronto area, the schoolʼs administrators had been polled and their major frustration was that they had to do things in their jobs that were not benefiting the students but they had to implement what they were directed to do. The schoolʼs principals and vice-principals are politically removed from the teacher-caring element. They are part of the board of
Education and it is very hard for them because they are still in the trenches, so to speak, with the students, but are on the fence. Hard! Remedy?? Leave the kids alone!!! Leave them where they are!!! If the system ainʼt broke, donʼ fix it!!!!

Bring in the portables and let the students fulfill their rite of passage. Alana Murray: you are a strong woman. Have enough confidence in your leadership to admit that this is NOT the right stream for these students to navigate.

I was told once by a member of the Board: “Sue, you work over and above your day to day routine. If there is ever anything we can do for you ……..?”

I am calling in my marker.

Susan McGrath (retired teacher)