Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"North Huron Parents Still Uneasy With School Plan"

North Huron Parents Still Uneasy With School Plan
September 23, 2009 5:50 am
The ministry-appointed facilitator in the appeal
of the closure of the Blyth Public School met with ARC committee members
from the other four schools in the accommodation review last night in Blyth.Robert Hunkings of Hullet Central Public
School says they were disappointed that capacity at F.E. Madill Secondary School in Wingham was such a
critical factor in the final decision since the high school was never included
in the accommodation review.
(Click arrow for audio or right click to
Hunkings acknowledged that since the changes would
not affect more than 50 per cent of the student population of the high school
the board was not required to include them on the review.But he felt it would
have helped the process if they had known that was going to be a
factor.Facilitator Margaret Wilson says she will meet with board officials this
morning then head back to Toronto to start writing a report.That will take 2 to
3 months.

I am glad that Blyth Public is fighting this. Although I have removed my daughter from the school (due to bullying reasons), there seems to be a positive morale due to the arrival of the new principal. As I have said before, this is not merely a school issue, it is a community one. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to the Seaforth meeting. I am not sure how many people turned out for the meeting, but I do know that many signed the petition that was brought house to house during the summer.

I have mentioned that this is not solely a school closing issue, it is basic economics. If they have the ability to use money for a JK-6 school, which most likely (this is opinion) would be situated in Wingham, then they could also push for more funding for a JK to 8 school. Wingham has been using Blyth tax dollars and moneys earned from the Bluewater Dog Show, Threshers, and moneys earned from the Community Centre (if I am not mistaken). We are subsidizing Wingham. My question is why? It seems like the Sauble Beach/Wiarton conundrum. Small town subsidizing a larger town, yet the small town does not benefit. We are central from Clinton to Wingham which draws from surrounding areas. We are operating at a good capacity in the school.

I guess my intent, as it has always been, is for the Board to look at the entire picture, especially a small town scenario. Maybe the shades of grey are not written into their mandates passed down from the government? Maybe this should be investigated. It is not just a black and white issue based on numbers, bricks and mortar, and what is the easiest choice to make. There are shades of grey, and as each rural school closes, without a suitable, or even a "better option", people will take their children elsewhere, or move away. This is a simplistic view of the situation at hand.

Something smells funny here, and it's not just manure festering on the fields.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Still Hope for Blyth School"

Still Hope for Blyth School by Jon Meyer

Although it's slim, there's still hope for Blyth Public School.
Avon Maitland Trustees voted in favour of the School Board's recommendation last year to close the towns only school, and that decision will be reviewed by facilitator Margret Wilson.
Wilson will compile a report to see if the school board did in fact follow all of their policy's and procedures.

Superintendent Mike Ash is confident that her report will not show any wrong doing by the school board. The appeal to the Ministry came from Blyth Parents.
While Wilson's report can make recommendations, she does not have any legislative authority to overturn the boards decision. The report will be handed to the Ministers office later this fall.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Although, I have withdrawn my daughter from the public school system, due to intense bullying and harassment, it is my hope that parents and community members keep up the momentum and the fight for our rural schools.

Regarding the article in the London Free Press, on Saturday, I asked Ms. Pedro to contact key players in the ARC group, as I felt they were more apt to be up on the appeal situation. Unfortunately, they were either unavailable, or it was too late when messages were recieved. (They most likely would have been better quoted, as I was having a hard day with Fibromyalgia, and Chronic Fatigue, and with that, sometimes, I get a bit of a slur).

I am sure Ms. Pedro would love to hear from concerned parents and community members. So if media attention is what is needed, The London Free Press is an excellent venue, and there is interest, so those of you who are in the ARC, use that source, or just write a letter to the editor at the London Free Press, and keep writing. Face Book, is a good venue, but more often than not (Bullying Awareness group), you are only targetting a select group of people. It is time for those concerned with Blyth Public and other rural schools to branch out.

An in town school has a direct influence on economics. We need our school, as it has a ripple effect, it keeps parents using the cafes, Scrimgeour's Food Market, The General Store. It also, keeps parents who want to be part of the community life in touch. It is a community hub, where people get to know people, and interact, through fundraising, Christmas Concerts and volunteering.

On snow days, many of the children are able to walk home. In North Huron, it is part of the Snowbelt, we had (please don't quote me on this) ten snow days two years ago. Although a portion of the children attending Blyth P.S. are bused, they are not far from home, and can either be picked up by a parent, or in a worst case scenario, stay at a friend's house for the duration of the storm. Many children can walk the distance home.

This topic must be revisited and transparency, on the side of the board must be followed. If a decision was already made prior to the ARC forming, and preconceived notions prevailed, then it is a flawed system. A flawed system that drew parents out into terrible winter driving conditions, a system that made many rely (and pay) for babysitters, a system that wasted the time of many, a system that cemented those that believed "there was nothing that would change" from the beginning.

I hope the AMDSB, proves that they "can look outside the box", just as they told ARC members to do in the beginning, which formed workable idea of The North Maitland Educational Centre for Excellence. I truly hope that "change" will take place, and they not only admit to their mistakes, but act on what is truly good for children, and communities, not just what solution may be easiest, but one that will benefit future generations.

London Free Press Story.

Blyth school closing gets second lookBy KELLY PEDRO

A small elementary school in Blyth slated to close may have a second chance.
Following an appeal from parents, the Ministry of Education has appointed a facilitator to examine if the Avon Maitland District school board followed its rules in making the decision to close Blyth public school.

"I think it's a good thing. Maybe it'll add some transparency to the process," said Lisa Bieman, a parent whose child attended the school last year.

"It just seemed that the board had already made its decision early in the year. A lot of the morale of the school dropped."

An accommodation review committee recommended earlier this year that four elementary schools -- Blyth, Turnberry Central, East Wawanosh and Wingham -- close and a new school be built.
Instead, trustees voted to close the four schools by July 2011, move Grade 7 and 8 pupils to F. E. Madill high school in Wingham and house kindergarten to Grade 6 pupils from Wingham, Turnberry, East Wawanosh and some from Blyth in a new $8.8 million school to be built on one of the existing sites.

The rest of the Blyth pupils would go to Hullett Central public school in Londesborough.
The decision prompted an appeal from parents and community members who said the board didn't follow its policies. A ministry spokesperson said a facilitator will be appointed soon and an administrative review will occur this fall. The facilitator will meet with the board, the people who signed the petition and members of the review committee and look at the board's policy.
The facilitator may make recommendations, but has no legislative authority to overturn the board's decision, the spokesperson said.

Bieman said she hopes the board revisits its decision.
"The rural community is a different type of community. We need our in-town school."
Rural schools bring people in the community together and create spinoff jobs, such as corner cafes where some older pupils will go for lunch, Bieman said. "Within smaller communities these schools are so important. When these schools close, it's devastating for the community."

Blyth is a community of about 1,000 about 80 kilometres north of London. Southwest Middlesex Mayor Doug Reycraft, who is also chairperson of the Community Schools Alliance, said the appointment of a facilitator may not change anything. Two communities appealed a Thames Valley District school board decision to close Caradoc South public school in Melbourne and Metcalfe Central public school in Adelaide-Metcalfe, but the facilitator ruled the board followed its policy and the appeals were dismissed. "In the case here and in most cases that I'm aware of, the facilitator has ruled that the board has followed its policy and the appeals have been dismissed," Reycraft said. The alliance was created out of a frustration that the accommodation review committee process is just a formality because boards have already decided the outcomes.
"Our challenge is to convince the Ministry of Education and the premier that there is a great need for change," Reycraft said. Kelly Pedro is The Free Press education reporter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Come On People!

Just a quick note, after reviewing the stats on this page, via the counter, it baffles me as to WHY people are not posting opposing views, or any views. Much traffic comes from the AMDSB, and people are able to post anonymously. I have taken feedburner down, to allow some dialogue. Yet it seems this blog is yet, just another meeting where the same people talk, (well different people on this blog).

This is a venue for the public, if you are concerned about schools in the area post something, a comment, something angry, something in favour of what the board is doing, anything at all. Obviously the board IS watching, but again public apathy will be the downfall of rural schools. Even if the decision was made prior to forming the ARC, there is always the chance something could change, some comment could turn out to be the tipping point in favour of NMECE or saving Blyth Public School.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Invest in Huron County Or Wither

My view on the current state of declining enrollment at F.E. Madill is simple. What Huron County needs is a training facility, be it trades, be it university courses offered, be it C.O.P.E. programmes implemented into the school that utilizes the space. Instead of RENTING downtown storefronts, for C.O.P.E programmes.

The school board thinks that the easy way out is to put twelve and thirteen year old children into the high school system. It's been done, but again it is an easy way out of declining enrollment at F.E. Madill. Blyth Public School is running at capacity, it has low operating costs, yet the board is intent on closing it to feed F.E. Madill. ARC was told to "think outside the box", although the die was already cast, why the board cannot "think outside the box" defies reason. It is shortsighted, and will be an obtuse choice if they do not come up with something more proactive and inventive.

Huron County needs to keep our youngsters and our adults in the county. As soon as a child is put through the system, they leave to post secondary education elsewhere. Why not give opportunity here? There is relatively nothing for adults, nor those who have just graduated. Why not offer university courses, that actually lead to something? Why not give local businesses the opportunity to retrain their employees and continue education HERE?

I have written about this on Facebook. In my high school years, I started off at Oakridge S.S., then transferred to Beal. Beal was akin to the television show "Fame". There was dance, there was automotive, cosmetology, and there was the Vocational Art Diploma.

In my classes (art), I do remember having adults in the course, not only did they give to the programme, but it was an opportunity for them to use the school.

My point is why not invest not only in our youngsters, but in Huron County itself? Give Huron County a draw, a pull, that brings new people into the educational system? Why just have what we have? Yes, Goderich does offer some courses, but North Huron could do the same.

Blyth has a bustling theatre, why not offer Theatre Tech courses through F.E. Madill? It is my understanding that some of these courses have been cut from Fanshawe College. In essence, my point is, make Huron County a place where people want to be, not a place that they have to leave once they become of age, or need a new vocation. Give opportunity, do not deny opportunity.

Young people move out of the county looking for more, and we could give some of them "something more" at a post secondary level. People who have lost jobs in the county have moved away or now travel an hour and a half to better themselves, why not better ourselves in our own county?

Here's what I wrote on Facebook in response to Michele McDonald's question:Post #1
Michele Manjin McDonald wroteon May 27, 2009 at 9:48am

The declining enrollement at FE has left them with space to fill. The board's solution is to put grade 7 & 8's in there, thus, creating space in the elementary schools and having them close. Then, moving our little kids around to the few that remain open. In some cases requiring portables to suport the excess capacity. Instead of putting our 11 and 12 year olds in the highschool, which is greatly opposed by the public, how can they appropriately fill the space? Let's brainstorm some ideas. Who knows, maybe we can have a delegation at the next meeting to present any ideas that could be viable

You wrote on May 27, 2009 at 2:56pm

In my humble opinion, the idea of separating Adult Education from the high school is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money. These spots could be filled with learning trades, adult classes in art, or other continuing education programmes which Huron County is in dire need of. Trades of all kinds are needed. There is nothing in Huron County for Post Secondary Education. Goderich occasionally offers courses at a university level. Could this not be offered in Wingham? There is nothing for our children here beyond the secondary level, and maybe, we should steer our focus to not only keeping our young children out of the high school culture, but giving some culture back to the adults that live in the community? Welding, Electrical, Carpentry, Automotive, Computer Tech, Steel Workers, Sheet Metal Mechanics, the list is endless. . .Even the odd Philosophy Course would be a bonus. What about even upgrading skills~~companies love that stuff. Better their employees, better morale. It can be done. Actually, one of the high schools I went to offered these courses to adults, Beal S.S. in London, where you could get your Vocational Art Diploma as well as the regular and advanced courses. We had adults in our classes, it was a norm, not an anomaly.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Funding~~ Not for NMECE

North Huron has been approved for a little funding,

but it's not earmarked for NMECE,

as the board would like some parents to assume. It is for a JK-6 school. Still our 7 and 8's will be put into highschool, schools would still be closed (including Blyth). Why not make it a middle school instead?
Province Provides Money for New School in North Huron Area
Wednesday, June 10, 2009 5:50 am
The Avon Maitland District School Board is going to get the funding it needed to build a new school in the North Huron area.Five schools in the area are currently involved in an accommodation review.Building a new school for students from Blyth, Turnberry and East Wawanosh was a conditional recommendation from staff, providing funding was available.Huron-Bruce M-P-P Carol Mitchell told board members yesterday they would receive 8.8 million dollars for school construction.Superintendent, Mike Ash, says the board will now have decide how to use the funding.(Click arrow for audio or right click to download)Ash and board chair, Jenny Versteeg, stressed that no decision has been made on the North Huron accommodation review but the funding does give the board more options.