Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Talk to the Hand

The bizarre and self-destructive behaviour of trustees and administrators at the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board continues to defy exaggeration.

In the past few posts, we’ve seen how misguided school board proposals to close central, historic high schools in other Ontario cities were met with community resistance. In Kitchener-Waterloo in 2003 the school board reversed its decision and kept KCI open. In Brantford in 2007, the school board reversed its decision to move Brantford Collegiate to a suburban location. In Barrie in 2011, the school board postponed the proposed closure of Barrie Central Collegiate while opportunities for partnerships with other educational institutions were pursued.

In the town of Chesley (in Bruce county) in 2011, an unpopular plan to close Chesley High was reversed after the mayor, MPP, and MP spoke out and a community member came up with a novel idea to save it. Just last week in Port Dover (on Lake Erie), the ARC appointed by the Grand Erie school board recommended against the administration’s proposal to close Port Dover Composite School, due to community concerns.

What do we get in Peterborough?

Talk to the hand.

Not satisfied with having provoked ordinary citizens into launching legal action – not satisfied with refusing to include municipal officials in planning discussions – not satisfied with ignoring the city’s official plan and the province’s Places to Grow Act – not satisfied with attempting to deprive their own staff and students of the rights to free speech – this past Monday night KPR trustees showed themselves eager to tarnish their images still further, while stoking the fires of citizens calling for their resignations

The Board meeting got off on the wrong foot as trustees attempted to prevent members of the public from even entering the publicly-funded board room at Fisher Drive to attend the supposedly public meeting. They posted a last-minute notice indicating their refusal to hear any delegations on the subject of PCVS, supposedly because of the legal action currently seeking a court injunction to halt the school’s closure. Anybody could guess that trustees have been instructed not to speak about PCVS while the case is before the courts – but what does this have to do with members of the public who want to address the board? It’s not like trustees have ever seen fit to verbally respond to delegations on the subject in the past anyway.  

When well-spoken student leader Kirsten Bruce attempted to express her well-founded concerns over the disregard KPR officials have shown for the safety of PCVS students who had been previously bullied at other schools or have been recently threatened or taunted, she was interrupted by Board Chair Diane Lloyd, and told to speak to her principal about the problem. Like many of Lloyd’s comments, this one made little sense, and was delivered in the condescending tone parents, students and members of the public have come to expect from her.

The ensuing train wreck of the meeting makes for entertaining viewing, captured here on video for posterity by PCVS student Zan Bilz. The Examiner report on the evening is here.

Not intimidated by Lloyd’s attempts to shut her down, Bruce insisted “I have a right to be heard. It’s not related to the closure, it’s related to my own safety.” Lloyd responded by telling Bruce she had mentioned the word “PCVS” three times already in her speech – as if these venerable initials were now “beyond the pale,” like certain other four-letter words. “We want you to sit down,” Lloyd told Bruce, as if they were in a primary school classroom. She then announced the name of the next speaker on the list – who happened to be Bruce’s mother.

Undaunted, Kirsten continued her presentation, pointing out to trustees the ramifications of KPR’s “divide and conquer” strategy which has fanned the flames of adolescent rivalries between high schools. Before she could finish, trustees ordered Bruce’s microphone to be turned off. Still, she persevered. When Bilz brought her camera to the board room door, the security guard forcibly attempted to prevent her from filming, covering the lens with his hand and telling her that “no video-cameras are allowed” in the board room –  in spite of the obvious fact that video-cameras from CHEX-TV have been routinely permitted.

As Bruce insisted that student safety is fact their responsibility, trustees suddenly adjourned the meeting. “The safety of my friends and my peers is my priority and it should be yours as well,” Bruce told the trustees, who showed their respect for this idea by getting up and slinking out the back door.

The conversion of the KPR board room into a primary classroom was complete, but with the adult-child relationship reversed, when PCVS student leader Collin Chepeka attempted to address Brighton-area trustee Cyndi Dickson and was reportedly met by a hand held up in his face and the comment “this means I’m not listening.”

Strangely, when Dickson ran for the position of trustee in 2010, she pledged that she would “always listen to any question, suggestion, concern or problem, or input that will have an impact on our schools.” 

The chanting of students in the Fisher Drive foyer so disturbed the remaining KPR officials that they threatened to call the police, as you can hear in the video. Educational Decree #49 – no chanting will be allowed on school board (aka “public”) property.
Students found the trustees’ behaviour so inappropriate that it actually made them laugh, as expressed in the video by senior student Wes Collette-Taylor. Indeed, as Plato observed, there is a surprisingly fine line between tragedy and comedy – and it seems that KPR has just crossed it

Former Monaghan Ward city council candidate Rennie Marshall wasn’t as amused by the trustees’ utter lack of diplomatic skills and inability to carry on a public meeting. Marshall had planned a presentation on KPR’s cavalier attitude toward asbestos in their schools. Unimpressed by the farce that the KPR boardroom has become, Marshall proposed meeting with MPP Jeff Leal to demand that the province appoint a supervisor and remove the trustees. “My father did not fight in World War II for this kind of democracy,” said Marshall.

When asked by the Examiner last week to comment on the legal action seeking a court injunction to halt the closure of PCVS, Diane Lloyd continued to maintain that the Peterborough community should simply roll over and accept having our city be steamrolled by people who don’t live here and don’t represent us. 

Worse, Lloyd continues to take a “blame the victim” stance, claiming that the joint student-parent-community resistancenot the forcible disemboweling of their school community by the school board – is what is making life “very difficult for the students.”


Echoing the courageous women who vocally challenged the public acceptability of men forcing themselves on females in the 1980s and 90s, we must ask Ms. Lloyd and her KPR cronies “what part of NO don’t you understand?”

1 comment:

  1. Your link to Zan Bilz's video seems to be broken, although the video is still posted on YouTube.