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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Tensions running high

There was a noticeable shift in the mood around town today. People are upset about the schools. I've said that before, but I was using the word "upset" to mean agitated and dismayed. Today, people are sad and distressed.

Clearly, there is some selection bias in what I'm hearing. I'm a mouthy parent, and people know my son's at YK #1. Parents who have strong opposing opinions don't usually come up to me to state their cases. Actually, that might be for the best. A friend called today and said that she was unexpectedly on the receiving end of another parent's emotional pitch for one of our schools. I might get testy if that happened to me.

Today Name of Paper Withheld had a lot of coverage about this. I'll dispense with my usual snarky grammar critiques, because I have some serious concerns about the information that's being put out there.

I am speaking only for myself, not for the YK #1 board or any group of parents (formal or otherwise).

The first story is called Education at What Price? and makes the following notable observations (my comments are in bold text):

  • Charles Dent will make one more attempt this Thursday to convince parents that shutting down one of Name of Town Withheld Education District No. 1's school is in the best interest of the students. Yeah, good luck with this. It's just not going to happen. Charles Dent is the minister of education.

  • As both schools engage in what Dent classified a "turf war," {name of paper withheld} made some calculations on what costs could be saved and redirected back into the classroom. I don't know that it really is a turf war, but I'll let the reference go. I'm more concerned about how the reporters might have calculated the savings ($400,000). Call me suspicious, but they are not exactly accountants over there.

  • J.H. Sissons students will have to be relocated in two years for those renovations regardless of whether Yk 1 chooses to shut it down this year. This was news to everyone involved. They usually don't shut down an entire school to do renovations. They relocate some students and work around the others.

  • "We were full to the rafters and with no solution," said Kern Von Hagen, superintendent of YCS, at a budget information session last Thursday. "Everyone was looked after but us." Normally, when there isn't room for more students in a school, administrators stop accepting new students. Don't they??? But I don't like this comment about everyone else being looked after. There are TWO English school boards in town. There is no "everyone else".

  • While Von Hagen said they appreciate the space, renting scattered classrooms has been a logistical nightmare and not a permanent solution. The classrooms are not scattered. They're at Michael's school. They're even all in the same wing with a separate entrance.
The second is called Parents Cry Out Against Shared Space and makes the following notable observations:
  • Von Hagen expanded on the administrative nightmare managing two spaces has been. While he said staff did their best, sharing space has ultimately taken resources and time out of the classroom with staff travelling between two schools. Wow. If it's so much work to manage a few extra classrooms, how much of a headache will it be to manage an entire extra school?

  • Von Hagen also put further pressure on Yk 1. "They would rather see half empty schools and not see that money put into programming," Von Hagen told the approximately 150 parents who came. This made me really mad. We do NOT want to see half-empty schools. We want to share our schools!

  • Gullberg mentioned two levers Dent could pull to encourage Yk 1 to hand over a school: give YCS Sir John Franklin, the only school still owned by ECE and not Yk 1, or not follow through with J.H. Sissons' planned retrofit. Nice. Shannon Gullberg is the chair of the YCS board, by the way.
  • Gullberg also reacted to Yk 1's political agenda of looking to amalgamate the two school boards; a recommendation that can be found on the Yk 1 Web Site.

    "How do you negotiate with someone who has as their goal your ultimate destruction?" said Gullberg. "We will not negotiate in a way that will result in the same way as last year." This is just silly. If YK #1 wants to destroy YCS, they want to destroy themselves as well: the recommendation to have one school board is one that I personally support in the name of efficiency. This whole dispute shows exactly why it's stupid to have two boards.

I do feel bad for YCS in some ways. They've rejected all offers and now they have no options. Their backs are against the wall and they don't want to give an inch because they're afraid of losing their position. They missed the date to renew the lease agreement, but their only Plan B was "bully YK #1 into giving up a school".

I missed the education minister's first public meeting a few weeks ago because I was trapped in an airport, but I'll be at tomorrow's meeting.