Criticisms about the DSBN “Poor” Academy well founded.

Well, the DSBN went ahead and voted to continue funding and readying the new school for “poor” kids in Welland. Called the DSBN Academy (District School Board of Niagara), there are a growing number of voices that are angry about this decision. And, they are angry for a variety of well-founded reasons. Here, for example, are some links to letters to the editor in local Niagara papers.  

  • Parent Blair Cowan asks why the same types of programs to be offered at the DSBN Academy are not offered in every Niagara school.
  • Don MacDougall on why Niagara taxpayers and voters did not know about this school before and during the October 2010 municipal election.
  • Barbara and Ed McCarthy on why all the incumbent DSBN trustees who were re-elected should resign for misleading the electorate.
  • C. R. Dunton writes that, in spite of the DSBN now claiming that the school was public knowledge,  it was not known by most of those running in the Welland municipal election campaign last October — even though the school is to be located in that community.
  • A former local trustee candidate, Paulo Miele (but not elected) expressed outrage that the DSBN assumes anyone who doesn’t have a college or university degree “is a loser” — the rationale the board gave for changing the emphasis from “poor” children to children “where no one in the family graduated from college or university.”
  • Pat Cusack, of Port Colborne on whether or not anyone thought to ask the children where they might prefer to go to school.

Perhaps, however,  the most important letter to the editor is in this week’s Niagara Advance (February 24, 2011, page 7). Not yet available online, it is by Linda Crouch, a DSBN trustee candidate who I got to know during the municipal campaign via e-mail and our blogs. The irony is that had she won (and she came very close), she would not have been able to be so open given Premier Dalton McGuinty’s new rules that trustees cannot speak out against any motion school boards make, once a motion is passed by the board. She writes:

To quote the June 22, 2010 DSBN Minutes: Trustee [Dalton] Clark reminded the Board that $2.6 million was transferred from the general operating reserves to balance the 2010-2011 budget…and the Board will only be able to transfer funds out of the general operating reserves for another one or one-half years.”

Further, she reminds us what was in a DSBN press release at budget time:

‘Although Trustees were able to use funds from our reserves to largely offset the costs of the funding shortfall, this practice is not sustainable. Unless a more permanent solution can be found, the Board’s reserves will soon be depleted and Trustees will have to consider even more significant cuts,’ says Finance Committee Chair Dalton Clark.”

So, why on earth is this Ontario school board going to open an alternative school when” (1) they clearly can’t afford it as they are already using general operating reserve funds; and (2) the building where they are going to put it was previously scheduled to be shut down — with current cost estimates for upgrades just under $700,000?

Suggesting , to me at least, that it is long past time that the McGuinty government step in and, if nothing else, put the DSBN Academy decision on hold for a year.

6 thoughts on “Criticisms about the DSBN “Poor” Academy well founded.

  1. This is an example of pure insanity!

    McGuinty has to be smoked out on this one.

    Let’s go after Tim Hudak to make this more public as an example of extreme waste for a very bad idea to segregate poor children from the society they’ll be expected to be part of when they graduate.


  2. Would this be considered a good or bad example of parent choice? If enough parents want to enroll their children in this school than wouldn’t it be considered a success in terms of parent choice? Toronto is full of examples of alternative schools that are tailored to specific parents and groups (and also help to keep schools open). The one reality with parent choice is that it is going to be more expensive than the current system.


  3. Matt — I have no doubt at all that some see this as “parent choice.” However, before I would go there, and I do see the value in a KIPP style school in the right context, the DSBN has to be able to afford it. And, since it will be publicly funded, it needs to have had plenty of public consultation.

    I think people also need to know the Niagara area. Putting the school in Welland is, in my opinion, wrong. It is a very economically depressed area of the region and of Welland itself. A more central location would have been Thorold or Pelham or the south end of St. Catharines. Plus, Empire School is an old two-story building — with a newer addition at the back. Does that mean money for an elevator for wheel chair accessiblity?

    My point is that the board is just moving ahead, damn the torpedoes. And, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where a high school was shut down last June with 250 students. that is a major problem. Now, the DSBN are going to start this one with 75, working up to 120 in the next year or so. As a result, there is lots of public and parent anger to go around.

    (Revised after publishing by blog administrator.)


  4. This school is far from a done deal. The examples of letters to the editor I posted here are just the tip of the iceberg. Public consultation is not defined as just involving the stakeholder agencies, particularly since the incumbent trustees who ran again, and were re-elected, told no one (outside the select group) about the Academy.

    I am not “choice” at all costs. I am “choice” when the choice makes sense economically and geographically. Having an alternative school in Empire School does not make sense at all — no matter what kind of alternative it may be.

    Just saying “oh well, all the boards do it” is not my cup of tea. Re boards gaining tax powers, that won’t be the end of it. Ontario will be hit with a carbon tax is McGuinty wins again. Just because the Ontario Liberals are claiming they have no plans to do that means nothing, they have said that before many times and our taxes are higher than ever.

    My point here is to try to summarize the criticisms of this decision — which are well-founded — particularly given the pro side has had a lot more media space dedicated to their views.

    In the U.S., the KIPP college prep schools do well because they are in a neighbourhood that is usually somewhat homogeneous. Bussing kids over the entire Niagara Region is not that kind of “neighbourhood” and thus why many of us worry about labels that will stick with the students for life.


  5. Something else for Tim Hudak to hit at McGuinty on is his idea of allowing cell phones in the classrooms.

    Why do kids need their own phones in the classroom? If a parent needs to contact their kid in school that’s where calling the Principal’s office staff comes in to relay the message if it’s urgent.

    Is McGuinty billing this as a “smart” move like the “smart” meters which will result in catastrophic hydro bills, especially for those on fixed incomes?

    The insanity has to be stopped, we can’t wait until October.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.