“ A friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend that cares” This quote by Henri Nouwen has played itself over and over in my head since the tragedy that unfolded in Connecticut this past Friday.
We are all searching for answers. We all want to be assured that this type of event will not play itself out ever again. We want to be told that there are plans to make everything better and no child, no family, and no community will ever have to go through the kind of situation that has sent our hearts reeling from the shock and horror that befell a small town not even a day’s drive from our own neighbourhoods. We want to be told that we can amend some laws, get better locks and doors, provide some training, etc., etc., and this type of event will never again unfold. The cruel truth is there are no easy fixes, simple political or legal changes, or other methods that will protect our children and ourselves from someone bent on creating havoc, death, and destruction on us.
This does not mean that we can’t learn from the events of December 14th. There are lessons to be learned for sure. But those lessons are not going to come from watching CNN and waiting for the next breaking news piece that reports a lobby group or politician announcing their position on gun control, a parent being pressured into revealing their personal devastation to the world, and so on.
The slow answers are going to come from a whole array of sources. They are going to take time. They are going to take study. The United States has a gun problem for sure. Despite having a population about 10 times that of Canada, the rate of homicides involving firearms is not tens times that of Canada, but a hundred times more. And yet we know that the firearms used in this event were registered to someone other than the perpetrator.
Mental health issues have been cited as a possible cause, but we don’t know the details of the state of mind of this individual as this point and can only speculate. And while America surely has its fair share of mental health challenges, it also has a wide array of mental health professionals and organizations that can address a variety of issues. Are these individuals accessible? Available? Affordable? There’s likely work to be done here as well.
The school in question had both a physical barrier and protocol to control access. It apparently was overcome. No matter the barrier, a determined individual can breach the barricades. And to what degree do we really want to turn elementary schools into armed fortresses? There may be adjustemnts to be made to security, but there are no easy fixes here either.
What we can do is learn from this tragedy. We can agree that we need to take a look at a cacophony of causes and contributing factors that resulted in a tragedy that should never be visited upon anyone, anywhere, especially a place that should be regarded by all as a place filled with laughter, learning, and celebrating life. What we can do, is reach out to those in need – not just in a time of tragedy, but long before that tragedy unfurls. Reach out to those struggling with social and mental health challenges and let them know that they are not alone – that we will offer what help we can.
And as for the students, staff, families and community of Sandy Hook Elementary – all we can do is what Nouwen suggests – be there in heart and mind with them, letting them know that although we cannot heal or cure, and we cannot know the grief in their hearts, we are there for them nevertheless.
I want you to think back to the last time that you watched a decent movie. It really doesn’t matter if it was an action flick, a romantic comedy, or a documentary. It doesn’t matter if it had a star studded cast, or actors that no one had ever heard of before. What did you do at the very end of the film? If you’re like most people, as the credits rolled, you got up and lined up to get out of the theatre, or proceeded to the fridge if you were at home. We see the big names that are in the film. We might take note of the director and producer. But when was the last time that you thought ‘Wow. Did Joey Winthrop ever do a great job on key grip. And the re-recording mixer? Christine Jones really outdid herself on this one’. The answer of course, is never. And yet, without them, everything grinds to a halt. There is no light, no sound, no finance, no props… nothing.
We often treat the journey of public education the same way. The teacher is obviously the most recognizable player in the story. The vice principal and principal are frequently thought about. But beyond that who are the other players?
Do we take the time to think about the administrative assistant, buried in paperwork and trying to deal with students in the office, parents on the phone, and a tracking down that bus that is now fifteen minutes behind schedule?
When was the last time we thought about the EA trying to plow through documentation and getting to know the new exceptional student that just moved in and needs significant support to make their time at school safe and productive, while still serving their other students and collaborating with the teacher?
How about the attendance counselor who is dealing with a student who has the bad luck of a family with a myriad of social issues that leave them needing to work two part time jobs and getting next to nothing in the way of support outside of school?
Let’s not forget about the computer guy or gal who gets to come out and explain and support yet another software ‘solution’. If you have trouble with Word or PowerPoint, try supporting over 100 software titles – many of which do not play nice with other applications
Like the movies, the list of support people goes on and on.
And I suppose we could continue to watch only the stars of the show and just count on all the support people to fulfill their roles. We could assume that they’ll always be there and be willing to go the extra mile to make sure that the whole system runs as best it can. As each day finishes, we can forget about watching the credits and just go on with our days.
But with June 4 to 8 being Educational Support Staff appreciation week, maybe we can take a moment and try to think of the hundreds of staff members who help our students and staff learn and work in an environment that helps us all reach our goals. With well over 100 facilities, serving almost fifty thousand students each and every day, you can imagine how long the credits would roll if it was all a movie.
The next time you get to the end of a school day, thank one of our great support staff for the role they play in public education.
Lights, camera, awesome.
Thanks Team Simcoe!
May 30, 2012
Dear Mr. Jackson:
I received your letter dated May 23, 2012, regarding the use of foam pads by the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB). You have spent a great deal of time relaying your opinions on this topic to the media and other groups but have yet to call me or the Director of Education, or any other senior official with the board to discuss the matter and find out the facts, despite personal invitations by telephone and mail to do so. I am taking this opportunity to share some information with you regarding the provision of programming and services to students with very complex educational needs. It is not possible for me to provide all of the details and context of the issues that impact the provision of programming and services to students with complex learning needs, and for this reason I extend an invitation to you again to meet with me, or senior administration to discuss the issues you have raised. I wish to also emphasize that you have responsibility in your relatively new role to respond to our invitation to find out about, and become familiar with, the public education system which serves the community you have been elected to represent.
The SCDSB is extremely proud of the special education programming our staff deliver to help all students reach their goals. Our professional and well-trained teams of educators and support staff recognize and plan for all students’ unique learning styles and needs.
As you know, during the past months, there has been a growing amount of attention focused on the inclusion of foam pads as part of the equipment available for use by staff providing programming and services to a small number of students with highly complex needs.
As a result of a Board decision on March 28, 2012, SCDSB staff are currently consulting with individuals and organization representatives to prepare a report to our Program Standing Committee in June 2012. Those being consulted include members of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), Parent Involvement Committee (PIC), parents, students, staff, our Joint Health and Safety Committee, and community partners. I know that, like me, you will be very interested in learning the results of that consultation through that upcoming report.
Concerns regarding the use of foam pads were first expressed in March when a photograph of staff carrying the foam pads while accompanying students on a regular community excursion was taken anonymously and shared with a media member and posted to Twitter, and then shortly afterwards shown during a SEAC meeting. The board fully understands and respects the rights of individuals and organizations to express concerns when they do not agree with educational programming. The board, however, does not agree with the taking and sharing of unauthorized photographs of staff and students and is dismayed by the significant misinformation that is being circulated regarding the use of foam pads. Terms and descriptions such as ‘riot gear’ and ‘herding like cattle’ have been applied and are disgraceful when used in reference to the use of foam pads by educational staff to facilitate educational programming. I take exception to these inflammatory and misleading descriptions.
SCDSB staff use a variety of equipment and strategies to facilitate a safe and supportive educational experience for students with complex needs and for the staff members who work with these students. Proactive strategies are designed and used to promote program opportunities and to reduce the potential of unsafe behaviour being exhibited by students. Students receive individualized programming and staff utilize strategies that include, but are not limited to, planned and appropriate preparations for transitions and changes, and designing spaces for students that minimize the sensory impact of the learning environment (i.e. reduction of sound, quiet/calming spaces). As well, some students require and receive 2-to-1 staff support for most of the day for program and safety reasons.
All staff who work with students with complex needs receive training regarding behaviour management – this includes the development of strategies relating to the prevention and management of potentially injurious behaviour.
In some cases, the variety of proactive measures utilized by staff cannot prevent or de-escalate potentially injurious behaviours. At times, students with complex needs may demonstrate behaviours which threaten the safety of themselves and others around them. When the behaviour of a student with complex needs is highly escalated and presents a risk to the safety of the students and others, staff have limited options for addressing these needs.
In support of student and staff safety, staff also use a variety of protective equipment. This equipment may include gloves, sleeves and sweaters made from a high-strength material called Kevlar, shin pads and, in some cases, foam blocker pads. Foam pads can be used to prevent injurious behaviour directed at oneself and others. For example, some students with complex needs may hit their heads on the wall or floor and the pads are sometimes used to cushion the impact; or, other students with complex needs may act in a manner that is injurious to others by hitting, kicking and/or biting.
Although many measures are taken to protect students and staff from the risk of injury, staff working with students with complex educational needs have been treated for concussions and other injuries.
SCDSB staff have used different forms of foam pads currently subject to Board review. The foam pads are required to support situations from time to time involving a very small number of students in a small number of schools. In order to protect individual student privacy, the board has not considered it appropriate to identify these schools publicly in the media.
The board’s priorities are to provide safe learning environments for these students while offering individualized educational programs through the most inclusive dignified and respectful experience. These priorities go hand in hand. An inclusive, dignified and respectful experience must be safe for the students and staff – and that requires specialized equipment. SCDSB staff continue to work with manufacturers of protective equipment to ensure that the equipment meets the needs of the educational setting.
In your letter, you have mentioned organizations that ‘have yet to hear from us’. We are already in discussions with some organizations that have contacted us and once these discussions are complete, we will comment, as appropriate. In closing, I once again urge you to contact either myself or Director of Education Kathryn Wallace so that we can provide you with an accurate overview of Simcoe County’s public education services and facilitate a visit to some of our schools to see our wonderful educational programming in action.
Chairperson of the Board
Thanksgiving Day 2011. I wrote a post last year on the subject, and to be honest, not much has changed. Despite a number of challenges over the past year, I still consider myself to be very blessed. Here’s some of the reasons why…
I’m thankful for my two beautiful children. I’m doing my best to raise them right. For the most part, I think I’m succeeding. I’ve tried to instill values that I think will serve them well through their lives. I’ve also told them to always question authority, to ask hard question, and to evaluate their positions on things often. Sometimes this leads to me not agreeing with them at one time or another. It doesn’t matter. They’re incredibly smart, and they could likely take on a number of adults that I know in a debate. I know in my heart that they will leave this world in better shape than they found it.
I’m thankful for my wife, Shelly. She works as a personal support worker in our community, and despite having her contract consistently ‘reinterpreted’, she sticks with it because she knows that she’s helping her clients.
She’s currently in the final stages of her nursing courses so that she can do more good each and every day. She’s put up with listening to my speeches, motions, positions, emails, letters, and so on for seven years now. And she’s agreed to put up with another four years. While working pretty much full time as a PSW and going to school, she still finds time to be a peer tutor and mentor, a good friend, a caring mother, and a loving and tolerant wife!
I’m thankful for my friends. To be honest, I don’t have many close friends, but the ones I do have are the ones who would take a bullet for me, and I for them. We stick together through thick and thin. Being able to fall back on friends is what has often kept us sane through crazy times with spouses, kids, jobs, and the constant barrage of challenges that life throws at you. You can have a big family and lots of colleagues, but I find friends are the ones I often turn to when I need to deal with an inner demon, or something with deep personal meaning.
I’m thankful to the firm where I’m now working. To be able to work 5 blocks from where I live has enabled me to be closer to my family. Being able to work with technology and marketing is something I’m truly enjoying. I, like most people, have some challenging days at work, but in the big scheme of things, I can’t complain. I’m also thankful that I’ve been given the leeway to continue in my school board duties, which occasionally fall within the working day.
I’m thankful for living in the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
One with a robust democracy that has allowed me to participate by voting, by campaigning for others, by being a candidate, and, thanks to my community, to be able to serve the students and families of Simcoe County. And of course, I am thankful to those in uniform that have allowed any of the above to be possible in the first place.
A Canada with a strong social infrastructure that treats the weakest among us with dignity, protects the infirm and elderly, and support individuals and families that sometimes find themselves temporarily unable to support themselves. It is not a perfect system, and it costs a great deal of money to support, but key public services like health and education are things that we should collectively be very proud of.
A country of unparalleled beauty. At this time of year, I can take a ten minute trip, and see every colour in God’s pallet. From sea to sea to sea, there is nowhere else on the globe that has the range of scenery that we do. We need to celebrate it. We need to protect it.
A citizenry that despite all of our shortcomings, can rise to the occasion and help each other and those beyond our borders. I remember vividly starting a fundraising effort in Oakville in the 90s to help the Red Cross deal with floods in Manitoba. Within 48 hours, I had two thousand dollars to turn in. Few nations on earth can lay a claim to willingness to help as Canada.
In closing, tomorrow may be the day that we set aside and call ‘Thanksgiving’, but we should all be cognizant of the many blessings that we’ve been given each and every day.
Statistically, I likely have fewer days ahead, than I have behind. That used to trouble me, but as I get further down that line, it bothers me less. I have it pretty good.
Thanks for reading.
On Wednesday, a motion was placed before our table to rescind the original board motion to conduct an ARC up in Oro-Medonte that would affect three schools. An ARC is an opportunity for communities to have their say about challenges faced in their areas. It often involves either the closure of, or consolidation of a number of schools. They are emotional rollercoasters. They are also crucial to ensure that every attempt has been made to hear a community, and seek out ideas that may differ from what the school boards administrators have proposed. I am all in favor of having additional input, before we make an decisions that have ramifications that will last decades into the future.
Some folks however, thought that the best way to ‘save’ their school, was to ignore the problems. They planned to do this by introducing the above noted motion. The problem is (was), that this motion requires that the person introducing the motion must have been on the prevailing side of the original motion. This prevents people from simply bringing up motions on which they lost, as a matter of political opportunism. For example, if a number of members who won the motion are not at a meeting, someone on the losing side simply reintroduces the issue, knowing that on that particular day, they might be able to pull a rabbit out of a hat.
Motions that reverse previously reached decisions by a board should be difficult. There is, and I believe, should continue to be, rules that ensure that there is a ladder to climb if an government wants to reverse a decision. That’s why our by-laws stipulate that the mover must be on the prevailing side.
I am constantly amazed by comments from people that should know better, that claim that this means that a decision by a previous board can never be revisited. Any decision can be introduced by any member, a year after the original motion was passed (with a few exceptions). I’m also bewildered by the claim that what transpired on Wednesday was undemocratic. Good grief – we voted on it! It doesn’t get more democratic than that!
And finally, let’s get to this silly claim that the board can’t undo anything a predecessor board did. Here’s how you do it, in case you haven’t read your by-laws…
1. If the matter is not absolutely urgent, you introduce a motion to change the by-laws. The motion will come to the table on the next board meeting, and assuming you have support, the by-law is changed to allow the item to come forward.
2. If timing is critical, you introduce a motion to ‘suspend the rule’, citing the rule that you would like suspended – in this case, appendix B, rule 26. You need a two thirds majority to do this. It’s a little more difficult to do this. It was designed that way.
If you can’t find someone to move the motion to rescind that was on the prevailing side, can’t get support to change the by-law to allow the motion, or can’t get two thirds of the board to by-pass the rule, chances are – you aren’t going to win the issue anyway. And that is, much as you may not like the outcome… democracy.
I received word yesterday that my name had come up a few times on a website that has been created primarily for the purpose of championing a school in Moonstone. For those of you who are not familiar with the area, Moonstone is a hamlet located a few clicks off the 400, in Oro-Medonte. If you are not familiar with the school, it is a typical structure for its age. It has three regular classrooms, a kindergarten classroom, a library, a gym, and so on. Due to it’s small size, it also make use of a number of portables.
I seem to have been singled out on this group’s website for opposing a motion that is coming to our table this coming Wednesday. Apparently the Orillia Packet and Times has also been alerted to the fact that I oppose this motion. I’m unsure as to why I’ve been picked off as the boogeyman, but that’s the cards I’ve been dealt. I wanted to take an opportunity to get a couple of things straight.
First off, I am not ‘trying to block the motion’. The motion is simply not in order, and not allowed under our by-laws. I am certainly not the only member that understands that the motion is out of order. If I was the only one, I might question my understanding or interpretation of the our by-laws. I’m not, and I don’t. It is pretty clear. To rescind a previously adopted motion, the only member that can make the motion to rescind is a member who voted on the prevailing side. Neither Peter nor Michele were members voting on the prevailing side.
Secondly, there is a reference in the groups recent press release suggesting that the ARC process is ‘one of the most destructive processes the MOE has ever undertaken..’ I completely disagree with this premise. ARCs are designed to give the community an opportunity to look at the challenges of a school or group of schools, and make a recommendation as to how to proceed. It is supposed to be a chance to come up with suggestions for a long-term solution to a problem involving some combination of enrollment, capacity, building conditions, etc. Sometimes it results in closure or consolidation of a school or schools. Sometimes is results in a push for partnerships. It should always end however, in what is best for the students not today, but 5, 10, and 20 years down the road. I would go so far as to say that not doing an ARC is likely the most destructive thing a board could do to its students. We have some serious issues in the Moonstone/ Coldwater/ Warminister area. Pretending that there is not a problem doesn’t fix the problem, it compounds it.
Thirdly, there is a suggestion that by filling the meeting room on Wednesday, that votes will be changed. I can tell you as someone who has been involved with this board for about 11 years now, it usually doesn’t sway people. What sways votes is new information about an issue, a novel idea about how to tackle a challenge, or something similar. Pressure frequently locks people into their positions.
Lastly, there is a suggestion that there will be reasons given to provide capital investment in Moonstone. I would suggest that in fact that issue isn’t even up for discussion. It doesn’t appear anywhere in my board package, and I’m assuming it doesn’t appear in anyone else’s. If there is a request for capital funds, people should know that the board has not only questioned investing money in facilities that were subjects of current ARCS, but even ones that have been effectively ‘put on hold’, such as Penetanguishene. This has gone as far as stopping monies from flowing to these schools. Some of the trustees that may be championing halting ARCs know this. They should be telling their communities this.
Millions of dollars to address the space issues and septic issues at Moonstone are not going to come out of our maintenance budget. The funds are going to have to come from the Ministry. And the Ministry does not dole out significant funds without first looking at how the board has proposed to address various needs, and consulted with their communities… in large part, through an ARC.
Early Saturday afternoon, I received word, through the son of one of our family’s best friends, that two local brothers had died. Zack and Gavin Marengeur, 20 and 18 respectively, had been pulled from the waters up on the Bruce Peninsula. To lose one child would be crushing; to lose two – unbearable.
Through the power of social media, I soon had background information and pictures of the two. My heart absolutely sank upon realizing that Gavin would have been one of the many students graduating last year along with my eldest daughter. I spoke at that graduation. I would have watched him walk across the stage. I would have watched as he started the next phase of his life. Any tragedy that takes a young person hits you, but this really made me stop and think of the frailty of life. It’s here, and then it’s gone. Sometimes it whispers it’s approaching end and sometimes it doesn’t.
I know that throughout the weekend, the family was surrounded by friends of Gavin and Zachary. It’s an obvious testament to the number of lives they touched.
Too many times over the last few years, the Banting Memorial family has been touched by loss. Too many times we miss the opportunities to tell those closest to us how much we care about them. Too many times we miss the opportunity to spend time with the people we love, for silly reasons.
With my two being teens, I realize that I’m often not cool enough to hang around with. I’m ok with that – I’ve been a teen (much to their surprise). Regardless of my ‘uncoolness’, I’m going to hug them a little longer at the very next opportunity.
The news story, including funeral arrangements can be found by clicking here.
Just to be clear – everything on this site is my personal opinion – not that of the SCDSB or any other entity.
Most of you who know me are aware of where I am on the political spectrum, so some readers will chalk up the next few paragraphs to politics and dismiss the contents of this post. Meh. Fine. And just for the record, I don’t always agree with everything that a certain political stripe says, even the ones that I usually support… just ask Mr. Wilson.
That said, in some ways, I’m glad that Elizabeth May is now an MP. Not because I think we should all be wearing berkenstocks, corduroy snugglies and snacking on organic eggplant, but because I think the environment and various other issues sometimes get glossed over. That and the fact that I do not have to hear any more whining about being included in a federal debate are worth having her in Ottawa. And just when I think that the Greens may be ok to like – just a little bit, the wacky monster comes back.
‘It is very disturbing how quickly WiFi has moved into schools as it is children who are the most vulnerable.”, was one tweet from the Green Party leader. Shortly thereafter, she also referred to the disappearance of bees and other pollinators as possibly being the victims of the evil that is wireless. One can only assume that she did this from a hard-wired environment. And I’m sure that she is aware that all electricity, even the electricity that runs the hard wired desktop, throws off electromagnetic waves.
This is pure, unadulterated junk science. Any studies that folks use as some sort of structure to hang this nonsense on only make passing reference to cell studies, are far too small to draw any conclusions, or have been shown to come far short of the standard that we should be using to make decisions. The suggestion that WiFi is dangerous in schools because children are vulnerable is just plain silly. Where the heck does May think the kids spend the other 86% of their lives? If WiFi is dangerous, it is going to be linked to homes long before it is linked to schools.
The colony collapse disorder is most likely linked to a number of factors including use of certain pesticides along with more plausible (but less newsworthy) inputs like species specific pathogens.
And can someone, anyone, please explain to the conspiracy theorists the whole inverse square thing? It’s a fairly important piece of the puzzle to understand before we start blaming every ill that becomes us on corporations, wifi, and anything coloured blue.
I’m just about ready to throw Electromagnetic May in the bin with the Q – Ray bracelets. Hate mail can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
A few weeks ago I was shown a video clip that focused on what seemed to be, in retrospect, some very silly comments about a number of famous people. One of those people was Thomas Edison. One of his early teachers was quoted as saying that he (Edison) had best find an occupation that utilized his charm, rather than his smarts. The point of the quote was not to make fun of Edison’s teacher, but to demonstrate that despite something that may have marked him for life, Edison persevered and did great things.
Edison’s life however is partially a study in something else – The power of failure.
The power of failure? A strange concept – I know. How many of us get up in the morning, knowing that we have to do a presentation at work, or play a game of sports that evening, or deal with just about anything that has consequences, and think – failing would be good; failing would be interesting. But maybe, after all, we should consider it. Let’s jump back to Thomas Edison for a moment.
Edison succeeded not only because of his perseverance, but because he was fearless when it came to failure. Edison is widely credited with the invention of the light bulb. Technically, Edison did not invent the light bulb, but perfected the mass production of a commercially viable bulb. Now, Edison was brilliant – there is really no doubt about it. But the final incandescent bulb prototype – the one that until recently, was the mainstay of every electrical lighting application, did not come about after knocking around Edison’s head for many evenings. Many of us have this romanticized idea of Edison sitting at an old desk, candle burning into the wee hours of the morning, sketching his concept over and over and pondering the pros and cons of each idea. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Edison in fact, produced literally hundreds of different light bulbs at a fairly rapid clip. The majority of them lit up like firecrackers, the moment current was applied to them. Others would heat up and blow apart for seemingly no reason at all. Some worked well enough it seemed, until you did the calculations and realized that you could buy a shipload of candles for the same price as one of the new ‘electric’ models. What set Edison apart from other inventors is that he did not look upon these setbacks as negatives, but simply as an opportunity to learn. In 1879, Edison applied for and was granted a patent for his electric light bulb and changed the course of history.
Too often, we fear failure. It starts early. How many of us sat in a classroom at some point in our lives, and didn’t quite grasp a concept, but were terrified to put up our hand to ask for clarification. We didn’t, because we believe others would see that as a failure. Our kids could benefit from fearing failure less. When we take chances, we encourage creativity.
The pattern of fear of failure continues throughout our life. How many of us decide not to apply for that job posting, or to ask that person to go for coffee, or to have a difficult conversation with a friend, because we fear failure. And what have we missed out on in life because of it?
Now I’m not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and do whatever your heart tells you. I wouldn’t suggest that your first foray into failure be moving the entire college fund into some weird derivatives on the Greek stock exchange. I wouldn’t suggest you try skydiving if you have a heart condition. I wouldn’t suggest that you ask that cute girl from the office out on a date this weekend – you know – the girl with the 6 foot five linebacker boyfriend. There’s failure and there’s well – just plain old stupid. Failure is something that is best enjoyed in small bites.
Fail gently. Minimize the downside of the possible failure, and prepare a soft landing spot. If you’re a graphic artist, let your client know you’re working on something that is out of the ordinary but that you also have something more traditional as a back up.
Fail gracefully. If you are trying something new, let people know about your adventure. Let your spouse know that you are going to try a new recipe and you hear that others have said it’s fantastic. Have the pizza coupon in hand, but give the braised lamb chops a try.
Fail often. No one ever discovered a new frontier by occasionally looking over the nearest hill. You don’t have to set sail on the Santa Maria, but you should get out of your comfort zone from time to time.
Fail smart. Learn from your mistakes. Apply the lessons you learned, and let your life shine a little brighter each time.
Well here we are, the last week of school for students across our County. Life’s all about change, and last Wednesday, our Director, Kathi Wallace, reminded us of the amount of change that we have gone through in our board in the last year.
Sadly, about a year ago, we lost our Superintendent of Human Resources to cancer. Ruth Braganca was a shining light, who approached every situation in a manner that balanced her professionalism with her warmth and sense of humour. She was delightful to work with.
We gained a couple of new Superintendents towards the end of last year. I don’t get to work closely with Anita Simpson and Paula, because they don’t directly service the areas that I represent, but they always seem to have good answers and suggestions as they bring reports to the table.
In the fall, we all went through elections and the combination of the democratic process and the decision by a few to not run again resulted in almost half of our board being new members as that October day wrapped up. I’ll be honest, I approached the new board with a great deal of scepticism, but I’m starting to see a number of signs of good things to come.
In the late fall, we learned that our Associate Director, Carol McAuley had been selected as the next Vice President of Laurentian. Carol was a bright shining light in our board, and someone who didn’t seem to have an upper limit as far as getting things done goes. Laurentian has hired themselves an absolute leader. Although I lament here leaving us, I can be thankful that she’s still serving the students of Ontario, albeit in a different role.
The good news to counter the bad news in the previous paragraph is that Glen Cunningham, who retired as our Manager of Budget last year, graciously accepted a temporary position as CFO to help us through the transition phase in the finance department. Glen is an honest as they come, and approaches every monetary challenge with the question ‘how does it affect the students’. Our budget this year is a testament to creative, well thought out plans that has preserved as much as humanly possible, despite declining enrolments that challenge the way we do business.
In late spring, there were happy moments and sad moments. We were allocated a significant amount of funding from the Ministry for a replacement school for Alliston Union, and a new elementary school in the south end of Barrie. Sadly, the decision to close our smallest Duntroon was made at almost the same time. I’m sure the people in Clearview will hold that decision against me for quite some time, but I believe; as did seven other trustees that it was the right thing to do.
Also in the spring, we threw Barrie Central a lifeline and allowed a business plan for a new south end Barrie high school to go ahead. We were told ad nauseum about how easy it was going to be to find partners to help offset the cost in building a small secondary school. Well giddy up folks, come to table with your ideas. I received literally hundreds of emails the day or so before the ARC decision saying simply ‘We are Central’. It’s time to turn that passion into action. Encourage any and all organizations that you know to consider that partnership. The phoenix needs your help.
Essa secondary received both a name, and a mascot/ team name. Nottawasaga Pines Secondary School with have black, red, and white as its colours, and Timberwolves as its mascot. All kinds of awesome!
Angus Morrison construction is wrapping up in time for September and Full Day kindergarten, joining recently renovated Baxter.
A year of change is now behind us. Stay tuned… I hear in September we’re going to have an encore.