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.

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