Amalgamation in Education - another fiasco?


School Bus in Chesley

It used to be that teachers taught for a reason and it definitely was not because of the salaries they earned. Instead it was because ... they loved to teach but, times have changed and, like many other fields, it has become an issue revolving around today's values.

Here, in Bruce and Grey counties, education is not exempt from the overwhelming desire to amalgamate so, here we go again ... another case of amalgamation only, this time, it's school boards.

On January 1, 1993 the Bruce County Board of Education and the Grey County Board of Education amalgamated to form the new Bluewater District School Board.  The new Board oversees 48 elementary schools, 11 secondary and the outdoor education facility (OEC).

Since amalgamation, programs have been cut and students are the ones who suffer.

On June 22, 2007, Jan Johnstone, a trustee with the Bluewater District School Board presented a report at Queen's Park wherein he stated that he was "representing the needs of students and their public education needs."

Johnstone said at that time that, "Recently, our school board had to make - again - difficult cuts to administration, plant operation, secondary and elementary staffing, and to French immersion in our budget.  Children with special education needs have been hit really hard with the cuts in elementary resource teacher staffing. The cut back in provincial funding for special education and declining enrolment grants have pushed the board to cut back on many valuable programs. With a deficit of 3.2 million dollars, we are cutting back by over 5 million dollars.  In a small rural board, this is unbelievable!"

Unbelievable is right but, not so unbelievable when looking at the recently released salaries for Board administrators, some of whom, including the Executive Director, Mary Ann Alton, are making well over $100,000 per year.

Johnstone, in his report, went on to say that, "Our Catholic school partners are also in declining enrolment. Yet they are not in a deficit nor are they cutting back programs or closing schools. In fact, they are going  to be building new additions on a couple of schools."

(next column)


Big New Administration Building in Chesley

What then, is the difference between the 'public' school system and the Catholic?  Could it possibly be education?  Could it possibly be fiscal responsibility?

There is recent talk in Bruce County, and in particular Walkerton, of schools closing because of a supposed decline in enrolment.  There has been talk of bussing students from proposed closed Walkerton schools to ... where?

Apparently, there has also been discussion about combining Brant Central School and Walkerton Public into one building at Walkerton District Secondary School. Ask parents how they feel and they are quick to point out the disadvantages.  Elementary school students, grade K to 8, would be going to a school located on a highway, they would lose playground spaces and there would be young elementary school students mixing with high school students.

Once again, the public is faced with a situation where economics are overtaking values.  Only this time the values are children.

Looking at the salaries of those in the administration of education, one has to question where the money that is to go toward education is really going.

Mayor Hazel McCallion of Mississauga, who has been in office for decades, has said that, "Amalgamation is the worst thing ever to have happened to municipalities."

Perhaps, it's also the worst thing to be happening to education.

The committee will make its recommendations to the board on the future of the three schools at a public meeting on April 24 at WDSS at 7 p.m.   Board officials will get the recommendations by May 20 and the trustees will make a final choice at a special meeting on Sept. 30
- likely at the Chesley community hall.

This isn't just about Walkerton schools ... this is about education everywhere in Ontario.  Sit up and take notice parents and grandparents ... this is the future.