Monday, 31 October 2011

Our Democratically Neglected Trustees

Peterborough is a relatively well-educated town. With Trent, Fleming, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the hospital the biggest institutions in the city, you know that there are a fair number of people out there with post-secondary credentials and degrees. This means that there are a lot of parents out there who can be trusted to make good educational choices for their children.

With enrolment declining and Trent’s Bachelor of Education program established, the quality of teachers in Peterborough has never been better. It’s a competitive market, parents have high expectations, and you’ve got to be good and hard-working to be successful. In fact, the quality of teachers at KPR has quickly outpaced the quality of administrators. Ask any Peterborough teacher about the poorly-conceived decisions at Fisher Drive and you won’t get a word in edgewise for the next hour.

So why do KPR administrators think they can tell us what’s best for our kids and our neighbourhoods? 

Rusty Hick takes $200,000 of our tax dollars home to Port Perry every year. He's among the best-paid Directors of Education in all of Ontario. He makes more money than many Peterborough doctors, lawyers, business executives, and professors. He doesn't have an MBA or a PhD or an MD. The least he could is listen.

Let’s return to the School Board / City Council analogy I made in a previous post.

KPR municipalities are something like our city wards. The main difference in governance is that with the School Board, there’s no “mayor” elected separately. The “mayor” is the Chair of the Board, who is simply one of the Trustees elected to the position by the others. These “councillors” are responsible for hiring a “Chief Administrative Officer” to run the business of the “city” as a corporation. At KPR, that “CAO” is called “Director of Education.” That “CAO” is Rusty Hick.

Imagine the following scenario. The City’s actual CAO gets it in his head that people aren’t driving as much as they used to. Some of the city’s roads just don’t have the traffic they once did. Why pay to keep these roads all clean and lit and paved? He goes to City Council and says he wants to hold some public meetings to see what the public thinks about which roads should be closed. City council, indulging him, goes along with it. Some of the councillors attend the public meetings, and start to question why the CAO wants to close roads, because nobody who speaks at the meetings wants to have their roads closed. Actually, they’re kind of glad that traffic isn’t so heavy on them anymore. The CAO, however, isn’t listening. He’s got his mind made up. At the end of the meetings, the committee on road-closures reports that, if the CAO is so fired up to close a road, he can close one, but only as a last resort.

The CAO comes back to Council at the next meeting, and says, “I’m closing Armour Road. We’re going to turn it into a parking lot for city staff. We’re going to see how much that would cost.” A couple of months later, three days before the next council meeting, he says, “no, that’s too expensive, painting all those yellow lines on the road. We’re just going to close George Street instead.” Privately, some councillors suspect the CAO is losing his mind and needs some time off. When they try to argue for postponing a decision, the CAO goes into overdrive, telling them they can’t possibly delay the decision, the decision has to made now! If we don’t make it now, we’ll be stuck with under-used pavement for the next five years! Orders of the Ministry of Transportation!

The councillors turn to the Mayor. Mayor, they say, is this true? The Mayor’s not sure what’s going on. The CAO demands a vote. Councillors vote. The ones who have heard their own constituents say at the public meetings that they don’t want their road closed vote against the CAO’s proposal. The ones who haven’t had that experience, and don’t know what’s really going on because they never come to that part of town, go along with the plan, knowing little more than that if George Street closes, there will be more money to repave the roads in their own neighbourhoods.

What would you expect the Mayor to do in this situation? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to step in and take charge? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to know the policy? Wouldn’t you expect the Mayor to realize the CAO’s schemes were bound to cause a public furor?

If Brian Horton, Peterborough’s CAO, tried to close down George Street over the objections of Town Ward councillors Dean Pappas and Bill Juby and all their constituents, would you expect Daryl Bennett to stand up and put his arm around Horton and say, “Horton’s my man, right or wrong. We’re going ahead with the plan! Get over it! And for God’s sake don’t anyone speak to the public about this! Issue a gag order to all the Public Works staff! Tell the City Clerk to quit responding to public inquiries and send out some propaganda to smooth things over with the drivers. Tell them we’re doing it to improve the quality of the roads. Maybe they’ll fall for it!”

I would expect the Mayor for whom I voted to recognize that something had gone drastically wrong, and call the proceedings to a halt to figure out just what it was. I would expect the Mayor for whom I voted to realize that the city needed a new CAO.

But wait a minute – who voted for Diane Lloyd, anyway? The other Trustees elected her Chair, but who voted for her in the first place?

Answer: nobody.

Nobody voted for Diane Lloyd because nobody ran against her in last year’s election.

There are probably hundreds of people in the area who are as well if not better qualified to oversee the education of your children than is Diane Lloyd. However, not one of them saw fit to challenge Lloyd for the position of Trustee last year. You can see the election results for yourself. If you read this Examiner news article, you’ll notice what a hotbed of political activism is Peterborough County, as evident by the staggering number of acclaimed positions.

You may remember Diane Lloyd as a former Liberal candidate for federal Parliament. You may remember that current Monaghan Ward councillor Henry Clarke, front-office man with Pepsi-Quaker, had sought the nomination for 2006 to replace Peter Adams as the Peterborough Liberal candidate for MP. Lloyd, who had been the Liberal riding association president, wanted a crack at the MP job, which she may have hoped she’d be a good bet to get, given the residual popularity of Adams and the Liberal brand in Peterborough. Since she needed a job after Westclox closed down, it may have seemed like a good opportunity.

Henry Clarke might have been our MP

Lloyd took the aggressive, signing up members to back her bid for the nomination. One of these picked up on Lloyd’s aggression and created a fuss when he or she sent an email to the media claiming that Lloyd was the only candidate who had passed the security checks and was worth supporting. You can read that tidbit of news here. Lloyd came from behind and beat out Clarke by a few handfuls of votes. The old Liberal campaign page featuring her is here.

Diane Lloyd, beneficiary of democratic neglect

Voters didn't appear to find the candidate especially inspiring. In contrast to Lloyd's claims about building the Liberal party in Peterborough, the popularity of the federal Liberals in Peterborough plummeted over the course of the campaign and has yet to recover. Rookie Conservative Dean Del Mastro was elected as MP.

Lloyd wanted another shot at it in 2008, but finished third, with Betsy McGregor getting the nod instead. When last seen hovering around the margins of federal electoral politics, she was publicly supporting her old rival.

I don’t mean Henry Clarke. I mean Dean Del Mastro. You can read about it in Ann Douglas’s blog.

There are already plans being laid for an “Anybody But Lloyd” campaign for the next Trustee election in 2014.

Anybody out there interested in being that “anybody?”

If not, we could be in for another seven years of dysfunctionality at Fisher Drive.


Sunday, 30 October 2011

The KPR Gong Show Continues

Last Thursday evening, Oct. 27, Rusty Hick asked Trustees to approve his latest proposal – to relocate the grade seven and eight students currently at Kenner back to their feeder schools Keith Wightman, Roger Neilson and Otonabee Valley.

This idea emerged from the results of the contentious secondary schools accommodation review which Hick used to justify his desire to shut down PCVS. Along with the four secondary schools, the intermediate wings of Kenner and Adam Scott had been part of the review. The final ARC recommendation (which was highly simplistic in relation to reports made at other Boards - compare with this 34-page Ottawa-Carleton ARC report) was that “a closure of a school should be the last resort.”

Nothing was said in the ARC report regarding the intermediate students.

Just how much thought went into considering the intermediate wings during the ARC meetings? How clear and well-organized was the review process? How in touch are the Trustees with what’s really going on at Fisher Drive?

Clarington Trustee Cathy Abraham was reported in this Examiner article to have said, in response to Hick’s recommendation to shut down Kenner’s intermediate wing, that despite having been a member of the ARC, she had “no clue” that the intermediate schools were part of the review. Even Diane Lloyd was forced to admit that “the intermediate schools got lost in the process.”

Really gives you confidence in KPR’s decision-making abilities.

Clarington Trustee Cathy Abraham voted to close PCVS, but didn't realize that intermediate schools had even been part of the review

Hick came up with the idea to move grades seven and eight out of Kenner and back to their feeder schools as part of his recommendation to shut down TASSS, which he made without committee consultation last June, just one month after the ARC report.

What, one must wonder, do the words “last resort” mean in Hick's world?

Given that KPR hoped that Kenner’s student population would be bolstered by students from Keene who would formerly have attended TASSS, Hick’s proposal to relocate the intermediate students made some sense on the surface. When he changed the target to PCVS in September, the plan was then to direct Westmount and Prince of Wales students to Kenner.

Earth to Fisher Drive: almost no Westmount parents are going to send their kids all the way across the city to Kenner. Town Ward councillor Dean Pappas, himself a Westmount parent, reports that most of the other parents he’s spoken to are planning on sending their teenage children to St. Peter’s, which is located only a few blocks from Westmount.

My own personal preference is for JK-8 schools, because I think young adolescents behave better when they’re in a leadership role with respect to younger children. But there are also arguments in favour of the 7-12 model currently in place at Kenner and Adam Scott, which some Trustees brought up at Thursday’s meeting when Hick presented his scheme. Whichever you prefer, the important thing is that Trustees questioned the wisdom of creating further disruption in Peterborough school communities. This suggests that they are slowly beginning to realize how much of a mess they’ve already made in backing Hick’s autocratic and misguided decision to order PCVS to close.

Didn’t KPR just take great pains to set up the intermediate wing at Kenner less than ten years ago, altering the school’s student and staff makeup significantly? Wasn’t that part of the grand south-end plan which also involved building Roger Neilson? Why would KPR be proposing to phase out a program they just recently finished phasing in? Were there community complaints? Were students unhappy? Did teachers feel that the system just wasn’t working?

None of the above.

According to the report presented by Hick, the rationale for the proposal was to save a little on custodial costs (much less than the wages of a single custodian) and to fill a few empty classrooms in the feeder schools. Here's the Examiner article on the subject.

Bear these two facts in mind when looking for an answer to why KPR’s decision-making priorities are upside down.

Rusty Hick was Superintendent of Operations immediately prior to being hired as Director of Education.

Diane Lloyd is a Lakefield real estate agent.

Is it any wonder that KPR decisions on school closings have been based entirely on the actual properties and the buildings on them, rather than on the way they serve their communities or produce educational results?

Peterborough-area Superintendent Peter Mangold, apparently under same spell as Hick, tried to claim that the proposal wasn’t about money or programming, but was a way to maintain the “viability” of the feeder schools. Oh-oh – there’s that bogeyman again!

Veteran Peterborough Trustee Roy Wilfong saw through the double-talk of Hick and Mangold, and astutely pointed out that pulling the intermediate students out of Kenner would significantly weaken the school and leave it vulnerable to being shut down at KPR’s next opportunity.

Wilfong's double-talk detector is still working
Trustees decided unanimously to simply accept Hick’s report for information, rather than to act on its recommendations.

If only they’d done the same back in the spring, they could have spared everyone a massive headache – including themselves.

Lloyd and Hick must be starting to feel some pressure. The Mayor’s against the PCVS decision. The councillors are against it. The business community is against it. PCVS parents are against it. PCVS students are against it. PCVS teachers are against it. Teachers at the other high schools are starting to wake up and recognize that if Hick’s plan goes through, they're going to lose their positions to former PCVS teachers with more seniority, disrupting staff continuity which had been built up over many years. Parents at Westmount, many of whom are already fed up with KPR’s incompetent management during Lloyd’s term as Chair, are considering switching to the Catholic system.

This past Friday, Hick and Lloyd sent a letter home to many KPR students, reiterating their same old lines about how the decision to close PCVS was unavoidable for the well-being of Peterborough students. If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably know what a lot of nonsense that is.

When considering KPR’s authority to shut down Peterborough schools, bear in mind that KPR as an organization is only fourteen years old. KPR did not build any of the secondary schools in Peterborough. In fact, all of them were built prior to the formation even of the combined city and county school board in 1969. All of them were built and paid for by the citizens of Peterborough.

If we built them, we still want them, and we’re still the ones paying to operate them, why can’t we keep them?

Another letter needs to go out to all school councils around the city informing them of what’s really going on, the threat their own neighborhood schools are under from current KPR administrators, and, most importantly, that the battle for control of our schools is far from over. It’s just beginning.

But I can almost hear the gong now, ringing an end to Lloyd and Hick's tiresome dog-and-pony act.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Does KPR Actually Care About the Mental Health of its Students?

The recent suicide of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley, the son of an Ottawa city councillor who was mercilessly bullied for his sexual orientation and his interest in figure skating, has rightly drawn a massive amount of attention from the press and from citizens across the country. Political satirist Rick Mercer’s “rant” on the subject brought even more attention to the problem of the lack of acceptance of difference, specifically sexual difference and gender identity, in Canada’s secondary schools.

This CBC news article from last week on the subject features commentary by education professors at the University of Regina and the University of Ottawa. “We have anti-bullying programs across this country, but very few of them point out that most bullying occurs around perceptions of people, or name-calling related to, someone being gay or lesbian,” University of Regina Dean of Education James McNinch told CBC Radio's All in a Day. University of Ottawa professor Joel Westheimer pointed out that the way to prevent such bullying is to create more deeply integrated communities within the schools. “Right now in schools, teachers are not given the freedom to create the closer communities that prevent this kind of bullying where students know each other in deeper relationships and teachers get to know students,” Westheimer said on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

New Ontario Minister of Education Laurel Broten is said to be looking into the matter, to see what could have been done differently at the school policy level to have helped prevent Hubley’s situation from deteriorating to such a state that he felt that life simply wasn’t worth living.

Broten need look no further than PCVS.

Let's invite Laurel Broten - formerly Minister of Child and Youth Services and Women's Issues - to PCVS and show her how it's done
I imagine that many PCVS teachers and students would have plenty to say on the subject. PCVS has earned a reputation for accepting differences of all kinds. Students from low-income, single-parent families mingle with the children of doctors and Governor-General’s award-winning writers. Students from the urban core work collaboratively with kids from Millbrook. And students who are beginning to identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual hang out with students who identify themselves as “straight.”

Several years ago, a PCVS Drama class wrote and performed a play called “Coming Out Proud” which focused on the exact issues which faced Jamie Hubley and which face any teenagers as they come to grips with their sexuality for the first time in a social environment. The play was insightful and cleverly used humour and satire to challenge our preconceptions about homosexuality and indeed about sexuality in general. The production toured schools at KPR, was invited to other venues outside the Board, and its value as an educational tool in itself was formally recognized, even by the Ontario Provincial Police, who asked that it be performed for them.

The progressive environment at PCVS didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s the result of decades of work on the part of both students and teachers in thinking outside the box, of tailoring the educational experience to suit the individual, of creating a culture of mutual respect by first showing respect. A close-knit community such as that at PCVS takes ages to cultivate – in sharp contrast to the haste with the suits at KPR are trying to tear it all down.

Mental health is a massive problem in Canada today. The problem has been so thoroughly medicalized that we immediately think about Prozac, Ritalin, anti-anxiety drugs, “chemical imbalances” and so forth. Virtually no attention has been given to the obvious sources of severe anxiety and depression in the formation of identity during the teenage years. Show me a young adult with a mental health problem and more often than not I will show you someone who has never been allowed to be fully comfortable with himself or herself, someone who has always felt obliged to put on a front in order to be accepted by their peers, their teachers, and their families. A huge proportion of anxiety and depression is the direct result of repression of sexual instincts, sexual desires and sexual curiosities. A culture of conformity is sure to produce mental health problems, violence and bullying wherever it exists. Bullying behaviour itself is usually the expression of a lack of sense of self-worth on the part of the bully. In other words, what comes around, goes around. Disrespect and intolerance leads to more disrespect and intolerance.

Fortunately, the “vicious circle” can be turned into a positive circle. Respect breeds respect. Students who feel good about themselves not only won’t bully others, they’ll actually encourage others to express their own individual qualities.

With Rusty Hick and Diane Lloyd at the top of the KPR pyramid, KPR has shown a renewed commitment to conformity. Every elementary school was forced into the “balanced day,” you may recall, whether their school communities wanted it or not. Parents rightly complained that busing schedules and administrative interests were determining educational policy. Too bad for you, said KPR. At Fisher Drive, “equitable” appears to mean “forced conformity” rather than “equal opportunity for everyone according to his or her needs.”

PCVS is reported to have been singled out years ago by Hick and the bean-counters for closure. Why? Because it is “different” from the other suburban KPR secondary schools? Hick’s authoritarian tactics have been turned on the very school which is an exemplary model of anti-bullying culture. If Hick is blind to this plain fact, he should tender his resignation immediately. I have no doubt that most Peterborough citizens would be prepared to accept it.

Call Laurel Broten at the at the Ministry of Education. Tell her that if she wants to see how to avoid further suicides and mental health problems in Ontario secondary school students, she should come pay a visit to PCVS. It’s up to you to make that call, remember –  KPR’s own teachers can’t. Why not? They’ve been forcibly silenced, told by Fisher Drive in no uncertain terms that they are not permitted to say anything which could be remotely considered to be critical of KPR and its foolish proposal to close PCVS.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Take Back Our Schools, part two: Uniting Against a Hostile Takeover

While there may be benefits to the economy of scale a large organization such as KPR can provide, responsiveness to the community is not one of them.

When Queen’s Park siezed control of the education system, they attempted to portray their actions as enhancing educational quality and providing equitable standards across the province. In fact, Bill 160 was called the “Education Quality Improvement Act.” Teachers, knowing better, went on the offensive, staging what is known as the longest teachers’ strike in North American history, but the public was divided on the issue, and many business interests supported the Harris government. Eventually Harris won the battle.

Like other Harris initiatives, this one’s shine wore off quickly as it became apparent that the rhetoric regarding equal funding and standards across all Ontario boards was largely an excuse to legitimate a massive $1 billion drop in education funding. The “funding formula” began here. The first version of the funding formula was too absurd even for the neo-conservatives who wrote it, and it had to be revised. You can read all about it in this critical analysis. Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal governments have reported that they have “fixed” and “strengthened” the funding formula and that overall they have put money back into the system, which is true for the most part. However, they haven’t changed the nature of the formulas in any significant way, nor have they addressed the democratic deficit at the level of School Board governance.
McGuinty has been able to style himself as “the education Premier” for two important and very simple reasons: 1) no one could be worse than Harris, and 2) no premier before Harris ever had so much control over the education system. Because schools are the utmost priority day-to-day for anyone who is a parent or a child, and remain of interest to grandparents, no other social service is of as immediate interest to as many people, including health care and policing.
We often assume that our schools are being paid for out of the general Ontario tax pool, while our property taxes go to fund our municipal services. But wait – what’s that line on our property tax bill? What’s this “education rate” at  .23%?

If you own property worth $200,000, you’re paying about $2600 for municipal services – and almost $500 more for education. Queens Park collects this from the city of Peterborough and other municipalities across the province. According to the Ontario government’s financial statements, the total amount of taxes collected for education based on property value amounts to about 6% of the province’s  revenue, which in total is just over $100 billion. Health care eats up almost half that $100 billion, and education takes the next biggest bite, about $22 billion. This means that more than $6 billion, or almost one-third, of Ontario’s education budget is paid for by property taxes. Each taxpayer is allowed to choose what board of education to support with their taxes, but the rates are all the same. This means that one-third of KPR's budget is paid for directly by local property taxes.

If you don’t earn much money, you won’t pay much income tax or sales tax. But everyone pays a significant amount of property tax, even those who rent their premises, as the rent is simply passed on through the system to pay the landlord’s property tax bill.

Imagine how much money is collected via property tax from the 14,000 residents of Town Ward every year by the province for distribution to KPR (and the Catholic school board). Because commercial properties pay a much higher rate of tax, up to seven times as much as residential, let’s imagine that much again. And because sales, corporate, and income taxes are also generated at a much higher concentration in a central urban area and contribute substantially to education expenses, imagine how much again the area constituting Town Ward pays into the school system.

Town Ward is home to about 5% of the total population covered by KPR’s jurisdiction. All things being equal, the area might be contributing one-third of 5% of KPR’s nearly $350 million tax-revenue– about $6 million. But this number is likely much higher due to the commercial and institutional density of central Peterborough, leading us to the unavoidable conclusion that -
Town Ward contributes significantly more than its fair share to KPR every year.

And what do Town Ward residents and business-owners get for their money?

PCVS is the only school of any kind left in Town Ward

If Rusty Hick has his way, central Peterborough will be provided absolutely no educational services in return for the many millions of dollars it kicks into the system - some of which pays for his own six-figure salary.

Is it any wonder Town Ward councillor Dean Pappas and Mayor Daryl Bennett are up in arms about the current state of affairs?

Beyond anti-urban bias, obsession with building-capacity, and professional jealousy, one can may also surmise that one of the reasons why the Board’s employees and out-of-town Trustees are in such haste to close Peterborough schools is that they would like to take our millions and spend them elsewhere, leaving our community to stagnate and eventually disintegrate without a school to anchor it.

In the business world, this is known as a hostile takeover.

Both the Lloyds and Curve Lake Trustee Wes Marsden voted to close PCVS, in effect thumbing their noses at the city of Peterborough, and biting the very hand that provides services for their own constituents. The schools their rural students attend, Crestwood, TASSS and Adam Scott, are allowed to remain open, while the central city school is sacrificed. "Go jump in Little Lake, Peterborough," is the message they have sent.

Vice-chair Angela Lloyd, of Millbrook

Chair Diane Lloyd, of Lakefield

Wes Marsden, of Curve Lake
It’s beyond time for new leadership at the Board. The hiring of Rusty Hick is just one symptom of the absence of vision, creativity and competence at the top in KPR. Unless Peterborough residents see through KPR administration's divide-and-conquer tactics and unite to reverse the decision to close PCVS and take pro-active political measures, the clique of bean-counters will remain on their myopic path and will soon float proposals to close more schools in Peterborough. Gung-ho Clarington Trustee Steven Cooke (who chaired the committee that wrote KPR’s atrocious accommodation review policy) is said to have already expressed a wish to close yet another Peterborough secondary school in the near future. Prince of Wales and Queen Mary elementary schools may be next on the block.

None of the potential closures has anything whatsoever to do with “programming,” or educational quality, or declining enrolment, despite the rhetoric that issues from the desks of Hick and Diane Lloyd. They appear to have much more to do with diverting money and power away from Peterborough. As the KPR budget, linked above, indicates, KPR tax revenues have increased every year for the past ten years at roughly the same rate as enrolment has declined. In other words, in spite of KPR’s deliberately pessimistic rhetoric about declining enrolment, which is repeated in the budget "highlights" each year, there has been actually more money available to spend per student every year! So what are they doing with all that money, if they’re not spending it on keeping Peterborough schools open?

MPP Jeff Leal in eager anticipation of hearing from you, his constituents
 Jeff Leal is our local Member of Provincial Parliament at Queen’s Park. He is a lifetime Peterborough resident and sat on city council for ages prior to being elected MPP. He wants and needs to hear from you in this regard. Call and write his office expressing your concern that KPR’s governance structure gives Peterborough a raw deal. Tell him you want more Trustees for Peterborough. Tell him you want neighbourhood schools. Tell him you want real changes to the funding formula. Tell him you want Minister of Education Laurel Broten to take steps to prevent KPR from mismanaging our property taxes and shortchanging Peterborough.

And tell your friends around the city to do the same.

Once the cornerstone goes, just think how much easier it will be for KPR to ignorantly dismantle the rest of our city school system. 


Take Back Our Schools!

In Wednesday’s post, I drew attention to a point made by Oshawa Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Malcolmson in response to a decision made by the Durham School Board which he felt to be detrimental to the community well-being of the city of Oshawa.

Malcolmson said that the “one area of the property tax base that has flown under the radar screen and is currently lacking accountability and transparency to the taxpayers is the education portion of the property taxes and education development charges.”

The fact is that one-third of the total Ontario education budget, or $6 billion a year, derives not from the general pool of income, sales and corporate tax revenues collected by Queen’s Park but from educational levies attached to your property tax and to fees collected via the city from developers of new properties.

It is easy to forget that your tax dollars pay Rusty Hick’s six-figure salary. The schools are being operated for you, and paid for by you. The provincial government is only a middleman governed by the Legislature, which is comprised of the local representatives we empower to make decisions in the public interest. KPR is not an independent, private corporation contracted by the province to operate our schools over whose decisions we have no control. KPR is just another public middleman, a body with a budget about the same size as the total municipal budgets over the area they share with KPR. It is a body whose sole function is to act in the public interestnot the interests of its accountants and managers, who are our employees.

This middleman is supposedly governed in a manner analogous to a municipal council. Like Peterborough’s council, the KPR Board of Trustees has 11 members. We elect them at municipal election time for a term of the same length, on the same ballot, and these representatives are remunerated at about the same rate as our city councillors.

So why is the City of Peterborough represented by only two Trustees? Why do our city councillors represent about 15,000 citizens each, while our Trustees represent 37,000 citizens each? Why is their constituency so large that most people have no idea who their Trustees are, or what they do? Why is there so little competition for the positions? Why can Trustees from Clarington and Northumberland and Millbrook simply out-vote our city Trustees on key issues regarding our community preferences for neighbourhood schools?

And why is a man like Gordon Gilchrist, from the hamlet of Baltimore, Ontario, whose primary claim to fame is having provoked formal complaints and public uproar by voicing at length in a public newspaper his fear and resentment of foreigners and immigrants, particularly those whose skin tone and religious background differ from his own, granted the ability to authorize the shuttering of what is likely the Board’s most inclusive, progressive and most urban secondary school? Read about Gilchrist's Archie Bunker-like views, the complaints they provoked, and Diane Lloyd's pathetic attempt to smooth things over here. Don't forget to read Gilchrist's original letter, especially if you want to eliminate the last shreds of any benefit of the doubt you may have been unconsciously giving the KPR Board.

Gordon Gilchrist, verbose Cobourg-area Trustee and promoter of xenophobia

Some of us may not remember Bill 160 back in 1997 during the Mike Harris-John Snobelen years because we were too young. Others may not remember because we’ve blocked it out as a traumatic experience. This short article from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education on that moment in educational history reminds us how Bill 160 made “a severe departure from Ontario's educational tradition by transferring control of the most important aspects of education from elected school boards to the government and its representatives.”

Control over schools was wrested from local communities forcibly by a neo-conservative government run amok. The former Peterborough City and County Board of Education was amalgamated with the Northumberland Board to form the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board. What had been a manageably-sized board whose operations were overseen by 14 Trustees, 7 each from city and county, became a behemoth stretching from Apsley to Bowmanville governed only by 11 Trustees, each except the First Nations member representing between 20,000 and 37,000 citizens. Have a look at the map here.

Here’s a chart to show who represents who at the KPR Board. I’ve rounded the 2006 census numbers up a bit to account for population growth.


City of Peterborough

Rose Kitney

Roy Wilfong
North Kawartha (Apsley)

Galway-Cavendish-Harvey (Buckhorn)


Diane Lloyd
Cavan-Monaghan (Millbrook)

Douro-Dummer (Warsaw)

Otonabee-South Monaghan (Keene)

Angela Lloyd



Trent Hills (Campbellford)

Shirley Patterson






Port Hope


Jaine Klassen-Jeninga

Gordon Gilchrist




Murray Ward (Quinte W.)

Cyndi Dickson
Clarington (Bowmanville, Newcastle, Courtice)
Cathy Abraham

Steven Cooke
Curve Lake (First Nations)
Wes Marsden


You may notice that Peterborough is by far the largest urban area in the Board – in fact, the only area of the Board that could be considered “urban” by contemporary standards. The population of Clarington is a fraction higher than Peterborough’s, but only because it’s really three small towns – Bowmanville, Newcastle and Courtice – which were amalgamated at the same time by Harris. In fact, Peterborough is three times the size of Bowmanville, the next largest population center.

It is readily apparent that the Harris bias against urban centers was in play when the Board of Trustees for KPR was formed. At minimum, Peterborough should have had three Trustees to be consistent with the representation ratios used for the other municipalities. To be comparable with municipal governments in terms of managing tax dollars, we should have about ten Trustees, at a table of forty. That configuration is probably too big to be manageable – but what if we cut it in half? Such a scheme dovetails with a suggestion that MPP Jeff Leal has reportedly made that he would like to see five Trustees from Peterborough – one for each of the city’s wards.

Consider this: Peterborough’s annual operating budget, comprised almost entirely of property taxes, is about $100 million. KPR’s annual budget consumes more than $350 million of our tax dollars in total, and $120 million of that comes straight from our property taxes. In Peterborough, each councillor, then, on average, is responsible for overseeing the spending of about $10 million per year of our money. Roy Wilfong and Rose Kitney each ostensibly have supervision over $35 million, more than $10 million of which comes from property taxes. It’s true – on average, Wilfong and Kitney are responsible for more of your tax dollars than your local councillor.

Consider further that the City of Peterborough maintains the urban spaces in which schools reside, including those used by rural residents. It plows, cleans and maintains the roads. It provides policing and lighting. It provides the urban density required for businesses and institutions to establish themselves. Many rural residents earn their living in Peterborough. Many shop in Peterborough. Many send their kids to school in Peterborough. Businesses in Peterborough pay up to seven times the residential tax rate for education. There is no question that the city of Peterborough contributes much more revenue to KPR’s operations than any other municipality, both on a per-capita and a total basis.

So why are we allowing ourselves to be railroaded into decisions that are bad for our community by people who don’t live here? The anti-city bias of Harris, lingering in the makeup of KPR, has finally reached its ultimate expression in the latest misguided attempt to close PCVS, the cornerstone of our city.

Peterborough needs PCVS, all right.

What Peterborough doesn't need is KPR as it is presently constituted.