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SRSB Fails to Save Community Schools

posted Sep 15, 2010, 12:38 PM by Concerned Parents   [ updated Sep 16, 2010, 11:59 AM ]
It is with a heavy heart that Concerned Parents with Save Community Schools have learned the SRSB Members failed to take the opportunity today (September 15, 2010) to Save Community Schools in Canso, Heatherton, and Maryvale.

Motions to continue the review of Canso Academy, and Rev. H.J. MacDonald school in Heatherton were supported by all members except Community School supporters, Ms. Kim Horton (West Guysborough), Mr. Frank Machnik (Antigonish East), and Ms. Richelle MacLaughlin (Antigonish West).

The motion to continue the review H.M. MacDonald school in Maryvale received a slightly smaller majority, with board members Ms. Kim Horton (Guysborough), Mr. Frank Machnik (Antigonish East), Ms. Richelle MacLaughlin (Antigonish West), Mr. Brian Murry (Antigonish Town), Ms. Anne Peters (North Inverness) voting against the motion.

Please note, six board members on the SRSB would have had to vote AGAINST the motions to have the review process stopped.  In all three cases Community Schools fell short.

It is unfortunate that the remaining Board Members Ms. Mary Jess MacDonald (South Inverness), Mr. George Kehoe (West Richmond), Mr. Jason Bernard (First Nation Representative), Mr. Clarence Reddick (African Nova Scotia Representative), Mr. Gerald MacDonald (Central Inverness), Ms. Rosalee Parker (East Guysborough), and Ms. Francine Boudreau (East Richmond) voted in favour of continuing the reviews for all three schools.

On the positive side Board Member Ms. Rosalee Parker (East Guysborough) indicated that her vote to support these motions should not be seen as a vote to close the schools, but rather to see the review process through to completion.  Let us hope that Ms. Parker is willing to see the value of Community Schools and vote against closing these three schools, in March 2011 when the motions are put forward to actually close the schools.

For the reference of Concerned Parents, Community Members, Politicians, and others interested in what experts in education policy have to say about the impacts of school closures please see the attached document below.  The information in this document was made available to the Board Members of the SRSB, by Save Community Schools, prior to today's vote, yet at no point did the evidence as to the negative impacts to student behaviour and academic performance, resulting from school closures, enter into the discussion.

As you may know Concerned Parents and Community Members from across the SRSB have been working together under the Save Community Schools banner to provide factual and relevant information to the SRSB Members, so they can appreciate the importance and value of community schools.  To date we have provided ample factual data to demonstrate the value of Community Schools to SRSB Members, yet they continue to fail us at every turn, continuing to pursue an agenda of school closures, with no rational justification.

Ask yourselves this - why is the SRSB currently the only district in NS conducting school reviews for closure, although all other boards are subjected to the same budgetary constraints and declining enrollment trends as the SRSB.  In fact, you are encouraged to review the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board's Superintendent's Report to the CBVRSB's Board dated April 2010 (http://www.cbv.ns.ca/welcome/modules/smartsection/print.php?itemid=361).  At the time CBVRSB was considering the review of 8 schools, yet the Superintendent, citing many of the same issues as the Superintendent of the SRSB has cited to our Board Members, came to a very different conclusion, specifically that "In the present state of the global downturn in economics, it is not the time to further attack small communities by closing their schools while in the midst of decreasing population, lack of labor opportunities and the vagaries of living in a depressed economic area."

During the working committee meeting of the SRSB, which preceeded the Special Board Meeting where the motions were voted on, the SRSB's Director of Finance presented a very bleak financial picture for the next fiscal year.  It is reported that the Director of Finance noted an anticipated need to cut an estimated $1.5 million from SRSB expenses for 2011-2012, in order to continue offering the all the services currently being delivered by the board.  Based on this information we have discovered a very disturbing trend and forecast a devistating 2011-2012 for community schools.

2009-2010 - 1 school (St. Mary's Education Centre) is reviewed and motion to close (amalgamate) is passed.
2010-2011 - 3 schools (Canso Academy, Rev. H.J. MacDonald, and H.M. MacDonald) are under review for closure to save an estimated $400,000 of the desired $1.5 million in expenses.
2011-2012 - 6-9 schools [Insert Your School's Name Here] will have to be reviewed for closure to save the remaining $1.1 million in expenses.

For those interested this trend was determined using the SRSB's information presented as part of the ongoing review process - an estimated $400,000 savings has been proposed for closing all three schools currently under review, that is an average of $133,333 per school.  To save $1.1 million at $133,333 per school the SRSB will have to prepare to close another 8.25 schools in 2011-2012, in order to continue to provide all the services currently offered.

Our efforts to convince members of the SRSB have not been successful to date, yet all is not lost.  The next step in the School Review Process is for the Community Response to the Impact Assessments, which will have to be crafted between now and February 2011, by a Review Committee made up of parents and community members.  If you reside in a community impacted by the current reviews, you are encouraged to contact the SRSB, your local Home & School, or School Advisory Committee to find out how you can become involved. 

If you reside anywhere in the SRSB District you are encouraged to write your Board Representative to express your displeasure with the direction the board is taking, with respect to Community Schools - remember the trend we have forecasted, based on the financial estimates presented by the Director of Finance, is to expect 6-9 schools put forward for review and closure in 2011-2012, with St. Mary's Education Centre, Canso Academy, Rev. H.J. MacDonald, and H.M. MacDonald schools already being prepared for closure, there is a very good chance YOUR SCHOOL IS NEXT!

In addition to contributing to the Review Committee and writing members of the SRSB, you are also encouraged to write letters to the media and provincial politicians, noting what your Community School means to you and your community, and how you can relate to the situation facing residents of Sherbrooke, Canso, Heatherton, and Maryvale.  With the support of Concerned Parents and Community Members from Across the SRSB we can demonstrate to the politicians making the decisions, that Community Schools are important and vital to our communities and most importantly to our children's education - perhaps then you can rest a little easier knowing that your school will not have to go through this review process Canso Academy, Rev. H.J. MacDonald, and H.M. MacDonald are currently experiencing.

Remember, working together Concerned Parents and Community Members Save Community Schools!


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Media Coverage of this vote:
The Casket: Board approves three impact assessments (Heather MacAdam)
101.5 The Hawk: School review process moving forward
98.9 X-FM: Schools remain under review

The Chronicle Herald: Strait review process goes to vote (Pat Lee)
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Concerned Parents,
Sep 15, 2010, 7:00 PM
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