Monday, 7 November 2011

How the Farce Unfolded

On March 10, 2010, just two months following the Trustees’ approval of the new Accommodation Review policy, Town Ward councillor Dean Pappas, along with PCVS Foundation president Jay Amer, made a presentation to the KPR Resource Committee regarding the future of central Peterborough. Strangely, the minutes for this meeting are no longer on record on the KPR website. However, the minutes of the presentation of the Resource Committee’s report to the regular Board meeting on March 31, 2010, are available. You can read them here.

Dean Pappas approached KPR a year prior to the ARC

Pappas, knowing that Ministry guidelines and KPR’s own policies emphasize the importance of co-operative decision-making between municipalities and school boards, took the initiative to speak to the Resource Committee about the future of downtown Peterborough. The minutes state that his purpose was “to share information regarding how city planners see downtown Peterborough developing, and to express the importance of downtown schools as part of the community social network.” Pappas noted that “Peterborough has been mandated by the provincial government to increase the downtown density over the next 25 years.” Pappas put up a map showing clearly that PCVS was the only school within central Peterborough. He then expressed his desire that the city and the Board “work together in any way possible” and that any future accommodation review be “a very public process.”

Committee Chair Steven Cooke recommended that Pappas’s “request to consider PCVS as an integral part of the downtown Peterborough social community” be raised once the review process was established. When the report was made to the Board two weeks later, Cooke, seconded by fellow Clarington Trustee Cathy Abraham, moved that this recommendation be ratified by the Board, to which all assented.

Following this item of business, the Trustees then voted to slightly re-organize the distribution of seats on the Board for the upcoming election scheduled for November of 2010. At that election all but three Trustees were re-elected. Jaine Klassen-Jeninga replaced Brad Mills representing the Cobourg-Port Hope-Hamilton area, and Shirley Patterson replaced Verna Shackleton representing the Norwood-Trent Hills area. First Nations Trustee Brian Cowie had reached the end of his term, and sought re-election in Peterborough unsuccessfully, as Rose Kitney and Roy Wilfong were re-elected. In Cowie’s place, Wes Marsden was appointed as the First Nations member.

 Perhaps not merely coincidentally, new Trustees Klassen-Jeninga and Patterson both refused to support the closing of PCVS.

At the inaugural meeting of the newly-elected Board on December 2, 2010, Kitney and Wilfong moved to nominate Diane Lloyd as Chair, and also moved to support Angela Lloyd’s name as the only candidate for Vice-Chair.

Having safely kept the idea from the public eye during the election, at the first full and active meeting of the Board two weeks later on December 16, 2010 Hick launched his proposal for the Peterborough secondary accommodation review, based on the flawed policy adopted by the Board just ten months prior.

On February 2 of 2011, the first ARC meeting was held at TASSS. The minutes of the meeting are here. An overview and introduction to the process was made to the massive committee and the members of the public who attended. KPR planner Norm Breitner made a presentation on declining enrolment, focusing heavily on capacity and utilization percentages, and giving essentially the same information Hick had given to the Trustees in December.

Don Blair, a Board Superintendent who had already been appointed as Chair, answered questions about the process. The minutes of the meeting show that KPR staff were still operating under the old policy, as repeated references were made to the “school valuation template” and “school valuation report.” James Burrett, a parent representing Adam Scott, sensed the inadequacy of the framework and questioned Blair as to the meaning of “value to the community/local economy.” Blair, displaying his familiarity with neither the intent of Ministry guidelines nor the analysis in the Planning and Possibilities report by the Working Group on Declining Enrolment, replied that it could mean whatever they wanted it to mean. Thus the process immediately got off on the wrong foot.

The minutes note that “there were no suggested changes to the School Information Profile in its generic form.” This is the inevitable result of the minimal time devoted to discussion and the failure to present either the Ministry guidelines regarding the SIPs or examples from other Boards. At the conclusion of the working portion of the first meeting, virtually nothing had been achieved.

Several uannounced presentations were then made by concerned citizens who could already tell that the process was not going down the right road. Cheryl Clark, a Westmount/PCVS parent, brought up the issue of the popularity of west-end families sending their children to St. Peter’s if PCVS were to be closed. Catherine Gibbon, a former PCVS teacher, questioned the validity of Breitner’s demographic studies based on the exclusion of statistics from Peterborough county, where many students of city schools reside. Queen Mary parent Di Farquar emphasized the revitalization plans for downtown Peterborough, questioning the very need to close a school. Jayne Mark, another PCVS parent, echoed Farquar’s concerns, and suggested flatly that she could sense that a decision had already been made by the Board’s managers.

As the minutes show, Blair had no response to any of these important points.

In the next post, we'll recount the rest of the bizarre process.

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