Excerpt from the Diary of a Mad Trustee dated December 1st 2010/ The Last Cut…the Last Closure

Obedience indeed is only the pitiful and cowardly egotism of him who thinks he can do something better than reason. -Percy Bysshe Shelley

The last meeting of the calendar year and our senior staff decided to bravely go where all administration has intrepidly gone before – the million dollar question was solemnly asked of trustees – “Do you have an appetite to consider any of the following: School closure, grade reconfiguration or school consolidation to help preserve programming while building the 2011/2012 budget?”

Come on folks – did you or did you not enjoy the pageantry of this memorandum as it was loftily called?

Well I did enjoy it – I love a little theatre with my dinner even if it is only Tic Tacs.

An appetite indeed… well we more or less said we had no appetite mainly because even if we did have an appetite for such activities it would be a poor excuse for trampling on whatever is left of our obligation to consult with community or at least pretend to regarding closing schools. After all– we chimed hopefully – if we designate school closure as a driver for budget development and our communities tell us school closure is out of the question then how will our budget plans unfold?

However, it is so much more than that – school closures -back in the day -were proposed as rational undertakings to improve the education environment for kids – not budget drivers. We are now openly presenting closure as another cut along with the rest rather than a planning decision. I suppose it is a step in the right direction we are being so frank.

Closing small schools, chopping maintenance and ending ‘frill’ programmes (such as fine arts) has always suggested an end to cutbacks will be found by making the ‘right’ cuts. This might be more convincing if there had not been a continuous stream of cuts made to the public system over the last generation—and with no end in sight!

The reality of endless cuts and closures demonstrates the intention from Victoria is to follow the barefaced example set in the US of reducing public institutions to inferior ghettos. The strategy they are using to achieve this aim is to set people attached to specific school needs against each other, to convince everyone their expectations can only be maintained by doing away with others. In these circumstances, small schools and ‘non-essential’ programmes and services are being picked off in succession.

Does closing schools supply net savings to redirect to other schools and programs as suggested?

We have been told closing schools will permit a redirection of resources to programs and services for the schools which are left. Has the closure of many schools in this district plumped up our budgets?

We are frequently reminded 80 – 90 % of the operating budget for this district indeed all districts is wages, salaries and benefits. If a school is closed and the children from that school are moved to another in the district then generally the positions move with them and the costs of educating them is ongoing –but at another location. We still have to maintain class sizes according to the School Act and Bill 33.Even a closed school needs to be heated and cared for inside and out and in our new property policy this is now required.

And – as is often the case – when a school closes and for one reason or another some of the children leave the public system or the district (private schools, home schooling etc) we lose that funding. There is little to redirect when schools close. If anything, we find ourselves paring back and losing assets and continuing to find the provincial policies for underfunding fail our kids.

Closing our schools is part of the process of cutting not a solution to it – as evidenced by the fact all the previous cutting and closing which by the way have gone hand in hand has not slaked the appetite ( there is that word again)to continue to diminish our school programs.

But hey – we said no – I suppose now the senior staff will have to punish us by insisting on further horrific cuts to our programs and our services like those supplied by the maintenance, custodial and bussing departments – and it will be all our fault. Yes, that’s right- all our fault for not seeing the wisdom of turfing our communities’ schools in the interests of solving our budget problems. I imagine it will not be long before trustees are served up for our refusal to be sensible and the smart ones will soon see the error of their ways.

It is almost as if we noticed cuts and closures do not prevent cuts and closures and have actually behaved with some accumulated wisdom– what kind of a weird mindset even comes up with this stuff. I want someone… anyone to tell us when the last closure, the last cut is scheduled so we can just hurry up and travel to that sainted time instead of doing this in drips and drabs. Surely, we are heading for a perfect balanced place with all of this – if that is so tell us and we will arrive sooner. Anything else is just plain cruel and mischievous.

 

 

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