Engagement in city government growing – but not so for the OCDSB

Posted: August 3, 2010 in Zone 6
Tags: ,

There has been much talk in the local media about how approximately 100 candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for this fall’s City Council and Mayoral elections. As a student of local government, I find this exhilarating! In Ontario, the political decisions that most affect individuals and households within a community are made by Municipal Councils. Waste management, snow clearing, emergency services, community centres, and many other services that are taken for granted have their direction plotted by our local governments.

Important decisions are also taken by our School Boards. While, in Ontario, many of their powers have been assumed by Queen’s Park, school boards still make decisions of consequence for their communities. Schools Boards can, and have, opened and closed schools, started and ended programmes, determined transportation policies and, decide on the strategic direction of the Board’s schools. These are all vital functions in our communities and need top-notch people at the helm.

And that is why I’m a little disappointed to see that while the City elections are being hotly contested, it appears that 5 of the 12 zones in the OCDSB are currently uncontested.

School Boards have nowhere near the profile enjoyed (or hated by… depending on your viewpoint) by City Council and Mayoral candidates, so those people who may choose to give back to their communities by running for public office may choose the municipal race instead of the School Board contests.

This is unfortunate, in my view.  The OCDSB has many important decisions to make over the next 4 years – the length of the Trustees’ terms. And the more hotly contested the contests, the greater the possibility that the best possible individuals will assume seats on the Board this December. And the best people available will be making the decisions vital to Zone 6 and the City as a whole.

For example, what about the future of Rideau HS?

According to the discussion paper that was released a few months back, “21st Century Learner: Schools for the Future”, bigger schools are the way of the future and that leaves smaller schools, like Rideau, in an unenviable position. I support smaller, community-base schools. But this must be balanced with budgetary realities… yet, the closing of any school must be only as a last resort. Communities must be consulted, ideas amassed and options seriously considered before a closure option is pout on the table.

Rideau HS is just one of the Zone 6 and Board-wide issues that I want to talk about in the coming months. Read the discussion document I cited above and tell me what you think. Does it jive with your way of thinking or not. What options exists for smaller schools like Rideau?

  1. Shannon says:

    I don’t know very much about these issues, but one would think we could start to be creative. How about a type of partnership with the private sector where under-used schoools could be used for training trades rather than academics? Could we open them up to daycare operators? Can we work with the other three boards? Perhaps they need administration space? Perhaps there are arts/musical groups that would pay to have space and then they could aslo be a destination for field trips?

    These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many obstacles to implementing these kinds of ideas, but our kids will be left behind if all our board does is figure out ways to cut more and more.

  2. John says:

    Yes, I agree whole-heartedly. I refuse to believe that the only solution to lower funding profiles is to cut programs and close schools. We have to be more innovative than that!

    I think public-private partnerships in a number of areas may be an idea worth exploring. In addition to the point you make above, why not work with the private sector in developing an enhanced co-op education program in the high schools?

    But where do the best solutions lie? In the community of parents and educators in each and every school. By listening to them, I think we will find some excellent and practical solutions.

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