Motions put forward
Jan. 30, 2013 - RealRenewal representatives took five motions forward to the Regina Public Annual Meeting of Electors on Jan. 29. It was the first time in recent memory that members of the public have presented motions, and it took some stops and starts for the board to grapple with basic parliamentary procedure. Although the motions were all defeated - due to there being more board administrators than regular members of the public in attendance - we succeeded in raising some important issues on behalf of our members.
Also, it was good to see some direct democracy in action. In recent years our normal democratic structures have been taken over by highly managed, board-controlled public consultations that give no actual decision-making power to the people.
The motions included a call for recognition of the legislated rights of SCCs, and immediate action on First Nations concerns. They are posted here.
Regina Public data released
Regina Public has released its Audited financial statements and Continuous Improvement Plan Report. Volunteer assistance analysing these documents would be greatly appreciated. One concern is that the achievement gap for First Nations and Metis students continues to widen. This is occuring in the context of neighbourhood school closures and reductions in the number of community coordinators and educational assistants. The AGM is Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Arcola Community School.
Vote on Oct. 24
RealRenewal's campaign to encourage more people to run for school board has contributed to a large field of candidates running for trustee. People have been asking us who to vote for, and our response is vote for the person you think best represents your issues. Having said that, if you are interested in supporting the ideas of RealRenewal, during the course of the campaign we’ve met candidates who most clearly share our passion for an education system that responds to community needs. They include:
Joel Sandor – Subdivision 1 (east Regina)
April Bourgeois – Subdivision 2 (south – university, Douglas Park, etc)
Heather Lau – Subdivision 3 (southwest – Lakeview, River Heights, Harbour Landing, etc)
Cindy Anderson – Subdivision 4 (northeast – Uplands, etc)
Carla Beck – Subdivision 5 (acclaimed) (central – North Central, Cathedral, etc)
Lauren Numrich – Subdivision 6 (north – Walsh Acres, Regent Park, etc.)
Dr Kathleen O’Reilly – Subdivision 7 (northwest – Dieppe, Sherwood-McCarthy, etc.)
Jackie Christianson - Catholic School Board (city wide)
You are welcome to share this list with your friends and family.
School board elections
Sept. 17, 2012
Potential school trustees will be vying for votes across Saskatchawn on municipal election day, October 24. In Regina, it's expected incumbants will be challenged in nearly every public school sub-division, following three years of continued school closures and the implementation of cuts to educational assistants. There are also likely to be some new faces throwing their hats in for separate school board. Candidate biographies are starting to appear on the Regina city election website at http://www.regina.ca/residents/elections/candidate-profiles/ Check throughout the week to find out who is seeking the vote in your division.
Forum seeks opinions on schools
April 30, 2012
Regina – Parents and community members will gather at City Hall on Tuesday evening to talk about how their children and communities are faring in the K-12 school system.
“There’s been a series of significant changes made with little or no public input,” said Trish Elliott, spokesperson for RealRenewal, the group organizing the forum. “We want to find out what’s happening on the ground.”
Community school designated funding to end
Earmarked funding for community schools will no longer be provided under the province’s new education funding model. Instead, community school funds will be folded into the general envelope of ‘supports for learning,’ and distributed to school divisions to spend as they choose, said Deputy Minister Cheryl Senecal at a meeting of the Saskatchewan Community Schools Association (SCSA) on Tuesday.
In the past, designated community schools – recognized as schools serving disadvantaged populations – received earmarked provincial funds for things like nutrition programs and community coordinators. The schools’ School Community Councils also received extra funds, to ease pressure on parents to fundraise for classroom supplies and student activities.
In 2008-2009, specific directions to school boards on how to spend the money were removed, although the budget item and school designations remained in place. Now community schools will be removed altogether as a line item, and schools serving high percentages of at-risk students will no longer receive special consideration from the province. Senecal said overall spending level will not be reduced, it will just be spent in other ways.
The move is being spun by the Ministry as equitable education for all students, and increased autonomy for local school boards. As one Facebook observer put it: “Interesting how the Ministry wants to control some decision-making, such as school start times, but not others.” The change will be reflected in this spring’s 2012-2013 provincial budget, Senecal said. It follows the abolition of the First Nations, Métis and Community Education Branch, and the decision to increase funding for private religious schools.
A full report on the SCSA meeting will be provided at the next RealRenewal meeting, time and location TBA.
RealRenewal hopeful schools will be spared
With elementary enrolment projections up 48 per cent, education advocates are hopeful two Regina public schools will be spared Tuesday evening.
“There’s never been stronger arguments to keep schools open than there are for Haultain and Dieppe,” said RealRenewal spokesperson Trish Elliott.
RealRenewal is participating in Design Regina, including hosting a display table at the Ideas Fair on Tuesday, Oct. 25, from 6 to 9 p.m. Please drop by, and check out the 24 other displays. Below is a newsletter summary of our submission to Design Regina, as well as the full submission.
Biennial Review - RealRenewal Presentation
Sept. 19, 2011 - Every two years, Regina Public revisits its 10 Year Plan, a document released in late 2007 that laid out a series of school closures and mergers over a 10 year period. Because RealRenewal was originally formed in response to the Plan, we take this opportunity to make recommendations.
- The trend to fewer, larger schools is dramatic. In the first year of the plan, five elementary schools had more than 400 students. Now 13 schools are projected to exceed this mark.
- In particular, several community schools serving vulnerable populations are projected to exceed recommended enrolment thresholds.
- There have been persistent complaints that the public consultation process is not genuine. RealRenewal advocates arms-length committees of review, similar to community-based review committees established during rural school closure discussions.
- Greater transparency and accountability is required throughout the school review process. RealRenewal is asking for background documents such as enrolment data to be made publicly available, and for there to be a public record of comments received from community members and stakeholder groups.
- Our response raises concerns about a culture of fear in the workplace that prevents teachers and staff from freely providing input on classroom issues.
- We are calling on the board to make every effort to ensure the Dieppe, Haultain and Athabasca communities do not lose their neighbourhood schools.
In total, RealRenewal has developed 19 recommendations, outlined in a presenation to the school board's Sept. 20, 2011 meeting.
Save Athabasca School Committee presents alternatives
SASC - For Immediate Release
Sept. 18, 2011
The Save Athabasca School Committee (SASC) will be making a presentation to the Regina Public School Board at their meeting on September 20th in which they will be asking the Board to vote in favour of a motion to delay the disposal of Athabasca School and surrounding property for a period of at least one year.
The Committee has presented the Board with a report titled “Schools as Community Hubs” investigating the “hub model” as an alternative to the disposal of Athabasca School.
“There has been keen interest expressed from the community in regard to exploring the possibilities that such a project may provide for our area and we need an extended period of time to determine the needs and desires of our residents and to ascertain if the hub model is viable in this instance. Therefore, it is vitally important that the Athabasca building and site be kept in tact while this process takes place,” said Bob Hughes, SASC member. “We hope that the Regina Public School Board will be interested in being a partner in this opportunity.”
The “Schools as Community Hubs” report was produced for us by researcher Dianna Graves with funding and support from the University of Regina Research Unit
“Our Committee will also be presenting our petition concerning school closures that includes a request for an immediate moratorium on future school closures, as has been done in other jurisdictions in Canada,” Hughes said.
Fewer, bigger schools
Under the 10 Year Plan, the trend is toward fewer, bigger schools. There are now 13 elementary schools projected to exceed 400 students by the end of the 10 Year Plan, compared to 5 schools over 400 in the Plan's first year.
Actual - 2008
MacKenzie - 412
Janzen - 442
Buck - 409
Massey - 439 (133 English; 306 French)
Braun - 533
Projected - 2018
Braun - 509
Buck - 493
Janzen - 515
Douglas Park - 522
Hawrylak - 923 (412 English; 511 French)
Massey - 549
MacNeill - 418
Ready - 474
Lee - 709
McLurg - 498
Milliken - 410
Perry - 410
Mironuck - 545 (289 English; 256 French)
Biennial Review tabled
Sept. 6, 2011 - The board received the Biennial Review plan tonight. Copies were not made available to members of the public during the presentation, which made it difficult to follow the discussion. However, RealRenewal obtained a copy afterwards, which we have now posted on our website.
A few points of note:
Elementary enrolment is continuing to rise.
Dieppe and Haultain schools have been recommended for closure in 2012.
McDonald and Coronation Park have been taken off the closure list.
Martin Collegiate’s planned closure has been put on hold pending a review of all current high schools, in the context of a potential new high school for south east Regina. It was noted that three high schools are “below the confidence band” – Sheldon, Martin and Johnson.
There will be consultations in 2011-2012 to determine the location of a McDermid/Imperial merger. Both schools will stay open pending provincial approval for a redesigned facility (which could be indefinite).
An estimated 63 per cent of the Athabasca students went to Lakeview School, 32 per cent to Argyle.
The maximum acceptable size for an elementary school seems to have crept up to 520 students. Previously the Plan referred to a maximum of 400 elementary students, and 300 in schools that serve at-risk populations. They have likely done this by applying the +or – 30% confidence band to the upper end as well as the lower end of enrolment.
The net operational savings of closing Jenkins and Massey English was estimated at $47,664 in 2010-2011.
Capital requests include land purchase for a high school in Greens on Gardiner subdivision (southeast Regina), an elementary school in The Towns subdivision (east Regina), and Harbour Landing (southwest Regina).
Balfour will be reviewed with a choice of repair or replacement, including potential ‘replacement’ with a high school in south east Regina.
They are looking to replace, not restore, Lakeview School.
A request has been put in for a major upgrade of Connaught.
It should be noted that capital requests to the province are just that – requests. Often they sit on the books for years.
There’s lots more in the report that deserves a careful read. Please have a look yourself, and send us your observations.
Biennial Review announced (sort of)
Sept. 3, 2011 - Regina Public will table a review of the 10 Year Plan on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 7:00 p.m. It will include recommendations on the next round of school closures, to be voted on at the next board meeting, Sept. 20.
The board didn’t put the notice on their website until late Friday before a long weekend and, contrary to recently established practice, the review document wasn’t posted with the board info package. It’s unlikely many people know about it or are prepared to respond in a tight time frame (in contrast, the 2009 review provided 36 days).
If RealRenewal is going to make a presentation, this might be a good opportunity to comment on the process by which the board invites (or dis-invites) public input into its decisions, including school closure reviews.
Many people tell us they are dissatisfied with the way consultation meetings are run, and with the lack of reliable background information. Now is a good time to suggest policy changes. Things to think about:
1. What information is needed for an informed discussion?
2. How should public meetings be advertised?
3. If a review committee were formed that included members of the public, like in rural school divisions, who should be represented?
4. What status should public input have in decision-making?
5. Should there be an appeals process? How would it work?
Please email your thoughts and ideas ASAP to email@example.com
May 17, 2011 - For the first time in recent memory, members of the general public lobbed several questions at their school trustees during the Regina Public’s Annual Meeting of Electors last Tuesday, May 10. The Q&A session was brief and cut off rather abruptly, but there was enough time for a few electors to ask about school closures and the erosion of community coordinator staff positions.
Of note, trustees responded that they would consider an alternative proposal to the closure of Athabasca School as part of the biennial review of the 10 Year Plan. This means members of the Athabasca School community have until August to pull together a workable plan to keep the school open, a task they have already begun with the help of a researcher from the Faculty of Education. An Athabasca parent asked for a moratorium on disposal of the building, and was told this would be considered if brought to a regular meeting of the trustees. Meanwhile, the Athabasca group plans to gather as many petition signatures as possible in time for a trustee meeting in June. If you can help with petitioning in any way, please contact Bob Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the community coordinator front, the board chair attributed the ongoing loss of coordinators to individual circumstances at schools, rather than a division-wide policy direction to reduce and/or eliminate these staff positions. Dr. Young also stressed that staffing decisions are not a matter for consultation with School Community Councils. If you want to be part of further discussions about the future of the community school framework – originally intended to empower community members – please contact RealRenewal at email@example.com right away. One of our volunteer members is working to pull ideas together and get the ball rolling on addressing this important issue.
Support Services (Special Needs)
There were a few people in the audience concerned about the reductions to special needs programs and education assistants, but unfortunately the meeting was called to a close before they could ask any questions. At the RealRenewal AGM, held on Sunday, May 8, one of the issues that came up was the loss of designated hours for tutorials in some of the high schools, and the lack of consultation with students and parents about such changes.
Overall, the meeting was a good reminder to the board that this is not the Board’s AGM – it is the Electorate’s AGM. Hopefully there will be even more people there next year to reclaim our annual meeting as public space.
Regina Public leads the way in EA cuts
Regina Public has eliminated 61 education assistant positions since 2007, making it Saskatchewan's top cutter of frontline staff positions. Meanwhile, Saskatoon Public added 31 new positions this year, restoring most of the positions they had cut earlier. CUPE, the union representing education assistants, points out in a fact sheet that the demand for support services (special needs services) has been rising dramatically provincewide, while staff positions are falling. A provincial plan encourages school boards to replace frontline on-site 'non-professional' staff with floating 'professional' consultants.
Aboriginal-focus school considered
April 17, 2011
Vancouver Public is looking in to creating a school with an aboriginal focus. They're just finished consultations, and have issued this report.
Athabasca School Action
Members of the Athabasca School community have launched a campaign to save their school, slated for closure in June.
Vancouver puts moratorium on school closures
The Vancouver Public School board has placed a moratorium on school closures until 2012, and will instead develop a plan to revitalize schools as centres of community. The Dec. 14 decision follows a three-month public consultation on proposed school closures. In a report to the trustees, senior administrative staff noted:
"Throughout the school closure consultation process, the Board of Education heard that the public wanted to hear about options other than school closure. There were calls for expanding affordable childcare and for re-thinking the use of our facilities, their future and centrality to the community...After careful consideration of all of the information received to date and through the public consultation process, senior staff believe that more needs to be done to vitalize Vancouver public schools as central elements of our neighbourhoods and communities."
Each school that had been threatened with closure will instead be given a special programming focus to help boost enrolment.
Read more: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/school-closures
Edmonton puts moratorium on closures
While the Regina Public School Board moves forward with another school closure, in December the Edmonton Public School Board trustees approved a two-year moratorium on school closures. The motion, introduced by newly elected trustee and vice-chair Sarah Hoffman, passed by a vote of seven to two and calls on the board to “seek to further understand the issues and impacts surrounding school closures.”
Thinking outside the box
A Vancouver school is looking outside the box to increase enrolment by developing a multicultural fine arts focus. Read more.
SCAR calls on Regina Public to rescind comments
The Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism (SCAR) is calling on Regina Public School Board Chairperson Dr. Barbara Young to rescind her comments that she made to a Leader Post reporter about the students in the Functional Integrated Academic Program (FIAP). Ms Young was commenting on enrollment numbers at Athabasca School in Regina in her effort to have that school closed and she indicated that “special needs” students are only counted in that school’s enrollment numbers if they are attending their neighbourhood school. “We find that statement to be offensive and absolutely discriminatory!” said Bob Hughes, spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism, “Students who are not in a FIAP program are counted in a school’s enrolment whether they live in that school’s neighbourhood or not… why the double standard?”, asked Hughes.
Premier Brad Wall, in a November 25, 2010 letter to Dawn Reich of “Save Our Schools” stated that “students requiring intensive supports are counted as part of a school’s core enrollment.” “It is extremely disappointing to us at SCAR to have the Chair of the Regina Public School Board making such statements that not only are discriminatory but, clearly, are against the Ministry of Education policy” said Hughes.
Education Assistants' session at the legislature
There will be an Education Assistants Session at the Leg in Regina on November 17. The session starts at 1:30 p.m., and members of the public are encouraged to come and show their support. Pat Atkinson will be asking the Minister of Education a few questions about the contradictions on what is happening with the reduction of supports from EA's to Saskatchewan children.
The event organizers, who are EAs, would like to hear from any parents whose kids have lost their EA support, or from any EAs who have lost their jobs. Contact the organizers.
Sit-in stops bulldozers
The Huffington Post October 26, 2010
Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman has proposed a deal to build a library at Whittier Dual Language Elementary School, and keep its fieldhouse from being bulldozed.
The deal seeks to end a weeks-long standoff that has pitted parents against CPS and drawn city-wide attention to the small Pilsen school.
The city had planned to raze the school's field house, arguing that it is structurally unsound and poorly heated. But parents at Whittier want to see the building converted to a library, which the school doesn't currently have.
On September 15 of this year, parents began occupying the building to keep it from being destroyed. They have stayed in the fieldhouse 24 hours a day ever since, even after Chicago Public Schools cut off the heat to the building during the coldest nights of the season.
During the occupation, parents have set up their own lending library in the run-down building, benefiting from over 1,000 books donated by people and institutions from around the city. It operates five days a week in the after-school hours.
Seeking to defuse the volatile situation at Whittier, CPS CEO Ron Huberman proposed a compromise to the protesting parents.
The deal: CPS would construct a library within the school's main building. And to keep the fieldhouse from being torn down, it would be leased to a nonprofit for $1; that organization would be responsible for getting it up to code.
"We believe that this proposal for the field house is a good-faith effort to continue the work we have completed on behalf of Whittier students," Huberman told the Sun-Times.
Athabasca and Massey English Closures
Regina public is holding two consultation meetings for the public to discuss “possible attendance area mergers involving students” at Athabasca and Massey Schools. Translated, this means they are considering the closure of Athabasca School and the Massey School English program as the next step in the board’s 10 Year Plan.
All members of the public are invited to attend and make presentations.
Athabasca School Community Consultation
November 8, 2010
3905 Princess Drive
Massey School Community Consultation (English Program Only)
November 9, 2010
131 Massey Road
Athabasca School serves the River Heights neighbourhood. It has just under 150 students, including junior and senior FIAP (special needs) classrooms with 20 students and a Discovery Preschool with 22 students. By all reports, the neighbourhood is going through a population change similar to the one experienced by Cathedral Area. One resident reports that 20 new families with young children have recently moved in within a few blocks radius of her house. As many of the kids are not school-aged yet, it is likely these families won’t know about the meetings, which have been lightly advertised. If you know of these families, please pass the word on. You don’t have to have kids already registered in the school to voice your opinion.
When the Massey English program was first announced as a potential closure, families with kids in both the English and French program argued the closure would split up siblings. Families will have the choice of Grant Road or McVeety schools and, if they wish to remain in a dual track school, the next nearest option is Connaught.
Connaught is no longer being considered for closure due to rising enrolment. If anything, there are concerns the school could be pushed beyond capacity as a result of surrounding closures, as has happened in other Regina communities.
The meetings are open to all, and presentations are welcome. If any of these issues concern you, please consider speaking, and help spread the word.
To get on the agenda, call the school office phone numbers listed above. You can also present to a regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting by contacting Ms. Suzanne Shuba at 523-3018.
The Board will finalize a decision on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.
This Tuesday the school board will consider two closure citations. They are Athabasca School and the Massey English Program.
Athabasca is a school with an enrolment of approx. 150 as of this September. It serves the River Heights neighbourhood, as well students bused there since the McNabb school closure, and students attending the schools' two FIAP (Functional Integrated Academics Program) classrooms. FIAP classrooms provide enhanced support for children with special needs. It is also the site of a Discovery Preschool.
Under the 10 Year Plan, Massey English students were to be given the choice of either Grant Road or McVeety schools.
Closure citations have not been listed on the agenda available to the public, nor is there any background information available. The item will come up under 'Renewal Planning.'
September 21, 2010, at 7:00 p.m.
Regina Public School Board Office – 1600 4th Avenue
The agenda is available at www.rbe.sk.ca
EA cuts hit home
CBC Saskatchewan reports that cuts to educational assistants are beginning to hit home for families in the Prairie Spirit School Division, where 41 EA positions have been eliminated. A lively online discussion follows their report.
Ontario teachers call for testing moratorium
Ontario's public elementary school teachers have called for a two-year moratorium on standardized tests in Grade 3 and Grade 6, saying the annual exams are expensive, detract from other subjects and give parents the wrong idea about what makes a good school.
"Something is very wrong when areas including science, history, social studies and the arts are getting sidelined in the race to get young students prepared for EQAO, which is focused solely on literacy and math," said Sam Hammond, ETFO's president.
EFTO's concerns were raised after a series of focus group meetings revealed problems with the testing program. Among other concerns, participants questioned why essential classroom supports such as educational assistants are being cut back, while more than $100 million is being spent on 'the literacy and numeracy bureaucracy.'
New research supports small classes, small schools
Reducing class sizes from 25 to 15 students results in a long term economic benefit of $66,000 per student over 20 years, according to a new research report released in the U.S. The study found smaller class sizes results in improved academic and economic success for students. Smaller schools and long-term relationships with teachers also improve students success.
Advocacy Workshop Presentation
On April 27 RealRenewal representatives presented a report to Regina Public trustees on the workshop 'Advocating for Our Children, Our Schools and Our Communities.' The report touched on key issues raised during the workshop, including racism in education, support services, overcrowding and transportation issues resulting from school closures, decision-making processes, and standardized assessment.
A group of Regina parents has started an online discussion forum for SCC members. If you are an SCC member, join at http://www.SCCRegina.ning.com.
The Sask Association of School Councils would like SCC members to know that the grant they receive annually can be put toward volunteer 'professional development' activities, such as participating in the SASC conference April 30-May 1 in Saskatoon. This year's conference has an interesting line-up of speakers and topics, including Rick Sawa on standardized evaluation.
The anticipated closure of Ken Jenkins Community School was made official at last night’s school board meeting. Jenkins is a school that has struggled for several years with low enrolment that did not appear to be rebounding, and there seemed to be little movement in the surrounding community to keep it operating. Transition issues will remain a concern in the coming year, as students will be moving from one of Regina’s smallest school to some of the largest schools, Buck and Mironuck.
RealRenewal raised concerns last October about potential ripple effects, noting that each closure, however small, has the potential to push receiving schools over acceptable enrolment levels for an elementary school. Mironuck had already been the recipient Wascana School’s French students, who were moved to accommodate the students arriving at Wascana from the Herchmer closures, for example. The board has since been engaged in adjusting attendance boundaries to spread students around more evenly. With school enrolments rising generally in Regina, working with attendance boundaries is a measure that could help support enrolment at schools on the borderline, ensuring we don’t end up with wide enrolment disparities at either end of the scale.
The loss of a designated community school is also an issue to keep in mind as a transition issue to be tracked, as community schools come with additional staff and funding supports for their students.
Special needs changes slammed
On Feb, 24 NDP Education Critic Pat Atkinson denounced proposed changes by the Wall government to funding for special needs students "that would disrupt the learning environment for all students and deprive thousands of special needs students of the in-class supports they need to succeed."
RealRenewal is a nonpartisan organization, however for your information, we have posted the full text of the press release and media backgrounder released by the NDP.
New Canadian study supports neighbourhood schools
A new study on children and urban sprawl released by the Vanier Institute on the Family is critical of school planning decisions that increase the distance between students and schools. “Neighbourhood schools where children can walk or bike independently offer many of the features children want in a high quality living environment,” writes author Juan Torrez of the University of Montreal’s Institute of Urbanism.
10-Year Plan Altered
Three schools – Connaught, Glen Elm and Dieppe – were taken off the school board’s list of impending closures at their Oct. 6 meeting. As well, the board stated that because Davin no longer has a school to merge with, it is effectively no longer a candidate for closure, as it had been under the 10 Year Plan. The plan proposal for Davin or Connaught had been “one facility closes June 2014,” without naming which of the two schools would be shuttered. In a presentation, Davin parent Yens Pederson described Davin as a school that, left open, can serve as a model neighbourhood school.
Parents from Dieppe School staved off an immediate closure citation, by presenting the board with September 2009 enrolment figures. Parent representative Dawn Popescul told the board that as of September 30, enrolment had increased 20 per cent since 2008, bringing the school above the board’s ‘confidence band’ of a minimum of 140 students.
Meanwhile Jenkins was cited for closure with John Conway as the only dissenting vote. Other schools put on future notice included Haultain and Athabasca, citing the biennial review’s picture of continued low enrolments in 2008. Very likely Dieppe would have shared this fate if parents had not intervened with updated numbers, as Dieppe had just 117 students in 2008, compared to 140 in 2009. According to board policy, there must now be a community consultation on the most immediate closure, Jenkins, followed by a final vote in March 2010.
The process to merge Argyle and Athabasca schools into a new facility was put on hold. If funds are unavailable to proceed within one year, the board voted to begin the process of moving toward the closure of Athabasca by June 2011. Athabasca students will be given the choice of attending Connaught, Lakeview or Argyle.
As for the entire plan, RealRenewal argued that lack of information on 2009 enrolments, which appear to be rising sharply across the board, along with a new provincial funding regime that remains up in the air, were compelling reasons to table the plan until there is greater clarity. Board member John Conway echoed these sentiments, stating that a “lame duck” board shouldn’t saddle newly elected board members with a plan that has shaky funding and the potential to immediately embroil the new board in contentious closure procedures. Member Russ Marchuk disagreed, saying that new board members will need a plan to go forward on. With Conway as the only dissenting vote, the board voted to keep the plan on the table, albeit with the above-stated amendments to scale back closures.
Parents can congratulate themselves for keeping school closures in the public eye over the past year, providing ample reason for future board members to reconsider the plan’s emphasis on school closures. Nine schools remain listed as potential closures.
RealRenewal discusses Biennial Review
RealRenewal made a presentation to the board on Oct. 6 regarding the Biennial Review. The presentation recommended that the report be tabled for at least one year, due to lack of clarity raised by rapidly changing enrolment and funding landscapes. The board did not accept this recommendation, with the majority voting to continue with the plan with some modifications.
Plan should be rescinded, report reveals
Rising enrolment and cost over-runs should spell an early end to the Regina Public School Board’s 10-year school closure plan.
The plan’s first year ended $933,034 over budget, according to an internal review report tabled at the board’s Tuesday meeting. As well, a number of targeted schools can no longer be considered for closure due to enrolment increases, including Connaught, Glen Elm, Kitchener and Walker. The report recommends putting the plan on hold or altering it significantly.
Athabasca campaign takes shape
Jan 31, 2011
From the Regina Leader-Post:
Whether it's by banging pots at a public protest or going door to door with petitions, community members opposed to the pending closure of Athabasca School say they're prepared to make some noise. The beginnings of a Save Athabasca School committee took shape Saturday, after about 20 people met at a Regina library to come up with ways that they hope could prompt a reversal of the closure decision.
To volunteer for the campaign, email the Save Athabasca School committee.
Financial donations may be made via RealRenewal.
Audited Financial Statements 2007-08
The Regina Board of Education presented its audited financial statements at its AGM, May 5, 2009.
June board meeting report
Site selection consultation results were announced for two proposed mergers. The current Argyle school site was recommended as the new location for Athabasca students. Size of the site was mentioned as an important factor. The former Herchmer school site was recommended as the new location for Wascana students, with location, size and other factors coming into play. Former Herchmer students are currently attending Wascana and other area schools following the demolition of the school building last summer. These project proposals are dependant on funding commitments from the province.
Longstanding board member John Conway announced he would not seek re-election in October, stating that the loss of taxation power has made the school board a stalking horse of the provincial government rather than an independent democratic body. He said he nonetheless hoped others would continue the fight for smaller classes and schools under the new funding regime.
Edith Mountjoy, a former Scott Collegiate student, gave a presentation on her experiences in restoring historic buildings, and the importance of doing so. As someone who grew up in the area, she noted that the lack of decent housing and other services in North Central is a relatively recent condition driven a lack of policy and support for social justice; these things cannot be fixed simply by building new spaces.
Carla Beck and Trish Elliott gave presentations on behalf of RealRenewal. Elliott outlined a list of transition difficulties faced by Usher students, which has reportedly led to a drop off in school participation and grades. She called for closer tracking of the impacts of school closures. As well, Elliott challenged the notion that structural innovation necessarily requires larger schools, citing the example of small university programs that offer project-based and inquiry-based learning, flexible teaching, internships, interdisciplinarity and other hallmarks of the board’s plan.
Beck spoke on the value of walkable communities and walkable schools, and criticized the board’s plan to increase bussing. She also noted lack of support for parent-led walk-to-school initiatives at two schools. Several board members responded that they support walking to school, but need to consider liability issues. It was also stated that such a program would have to be developed through a civic committee rather than by school community councils.There was also a healthy exchange on democratic accountability. Although there were no questions or comments raised on substantive issues around the 10-year-plan, the majority of board members did respond with some opinions and thoughts, an improvement over the stony silence encountered by previous presenters. A strong contingent of citizens attended the meeting, requiring more chairs to be brought in, a positive sign that school board meetings are becoming more public in nature.
Walking School Bus pilot a success
Congratulations to the organizers of the Cathedral neighbourhood's Walk to School Wednesday. Some 70 kids and parents participated on a beautiful spring day, despite the school board's attempt to discourage the event.Here's an article posted by the prairie dog:
Walking to School a Radical, Dangerous Idea
Dieppe and Haultain to close
In a stunning yet unsurprising failure of flexibility and foresight, public school trustees last night voted to strip yet two more Regina neighbourhoods of their schools. Before the vote, Haultain School Community Council chair Lara Quintin called on the board to make an exception to the10-Year Plan’s rigid program model of 200 to 400 students. “It’s not irresponsible or inequitable to invest more in a community that has substantially less, a community with barriers to overcome and dangers to consider,” she said.
The Regina Public School Board is considering a proposal to change the way learning is organized. A Structual Innovation Plan suggests greater movement for students between grades and schools.
The plan has been developed in response to the poor academic standing of Saskatchewan students, whose basic literacy skills are rated among the lowest in the country.
The report contains some promising ideas for more tailored education, including ongoing assessment of students and early intervention to address learning gaps.
At the same time, however, it may be used to dodge issues like poor student-teacher ratios, and to support the demolition of neighbourhood schools on the argument that they won't provide large enough 'professional learning communities' to make the plan work. The board chair has publicly stated that innovation is not possible in schools of less than 200 students, although there is no research basis for this statement. There is no reason innovation cannot happen within our neighbourhood schools.
Parents involved in consultations should consider ways to break this model free of its inherent 'business wisdom' and replace it with the kind of 'community wisdom' that values neighbourhood schools as a good base for innovation.
For a copy of the Concept Paper, email firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the links below.
School board ponders budget proposal
The School Board is in the process of considering a 2009-2010 budget proposal. Currently they are awaiting more information from the province about the new funding structure. Below is the pre-budget proposal.
Of note, the proposal anticipates enrolment increases in the pre-K and K classes, which bodes well for the future of Regina schools. Disappointingly, the proposal suggests virtually no progress on class size reduction, identified as a priority during public consultations.
Boards lose taxation power
he provincial government has stripped school boards of their right to set taxation levels, and will increase direct provincial funding to 63 per cent of the total in 2009, rising to 66 per cent in 2010. This means that education funding will be less tied to property taxes.
The move may help reduce the real estate and construction industry’s unhealthy interest and involvement in school board politics. For too long, mill rates have been kept artificially low by a powerful local business lobby. At the same time, the move may curtail a progressive board’s ability to make up for years of underfunding.
At the end of the day, however, we can hope that increasing the province’s direct stake in education funding will lead to increased provincial accountability for ensuring quality, well-funded education province wide. At the very least, the move should translate into a greater onus on school boards to undertake performance planning as required by the provincial auditor, and to improve their administrative transparency. For the province’s part, it will be harder to hide behind local politics and rate-setting as an excuse for poorly funded and managed education. It’s worth noting that New Brunswick got rid of school boards altogether in 2000.
Infrastructure funding announced
On Feb. 9 the province announced $142 million in “accelerated” school infrastructure funding. A number of the projects, such as the Scott shared facility and repairs to Campbell, had already been announced some time ago. The “acceleration” or “boost” means the funds will be moved forward into the dying days of this fiscal year, instead of the next. While this may simply be an end-of-year accounting shift to reduce expenditures in next year’s budget, it is nonetheless welcome news that the money is in the bank for projects already well underway, like the new Arcola-Douglas Park school. Also on the list are assorted elementary school repairs and 6 more portable classrooms for Winston Knoll. The rising number of highschool students in cramped portables is a matter for concern.
Meanwhile, the elementary schools showing the highest deferred maintenance deficits (and therefore the most likely in need of repair), including Lakeview, Connaught and Wascana, must wait and hope for better luck next fiscal year-end.
The Regina projects are:
Major Capital: Scott, Campbell, Arcola, Douglas Park (all previously announced)
Accessibility Projects: Grant Road, Sheldon, Massey, Centennial and Winston Knoll.
Portable Classrooms: Thom and Winston Knoll
New roofs: Bryant, Hanna, Balfour, A.E. Perry, Mclurg
Manitoba halts closures
Manitoba parents are elated that school closures plans in Manitoba will be halted by new legislation. The Strengthening Local Schools Act received royal assent Friday. “It is a shock to everyone. It is the beginning - it provides for a brighter and hopeful future for our children, our small local community schools, and their neighbourhoods,” said Manitoba parent Victoria Schindle. Schindle is chair of the Argyle Community Action Group, a group that encourages boards and governments to develop alternative ideas to school closures.
Sask Party Policy
*Saskatchewan** Party Caucus News Releases*
*Bridge Financing Would Give Boards A Chance to Keep Schools Open:
/Learning Critic Offers Boards A Chance To Reverse Some School Closures/*
Thursday - June 21, 2007
REGINA—Saskatchewan Party Learning Critic Rod Gantefoer today said
trustees need new tools to give communities the opportunity to keep
their schools open.
“Because of the NDP’s failure to take leadership on this important
issue, closure decisions have been made without communities receiving
all of the information they need, exploring all other options and taking
sufficient time to have a meaningful discussion about alternatives,”
“These communities need to have discussions about complimentary uses for
school buildings, whether as libraries, seniors’ centres, town offices
and medical centres. Trustees also need an enhanced set of standards and
criteria for school closures, tools that are not yet available and will
Education Act Changes Panned
Rural parents and RM leaders have panned the government’s proposed Education Act changes. “We’re upset with the whole thing,” Dave Marit, president of SARM, told the media after the Saskatchewan Party tabled its proposed Education Act changes yesterday. Marit pointed out that the changes fall far short of what rural communities lobbied for, by providing only minimally longer time periods for closures. Todd Lewis of SOS Saskatchewan agreed, telling the Leader Post that the government is “fiddling away at the edges” while communities face the deep crisis of school closures in the middle of an economic boom. Critics noted that the proposed community-school committees have no authority, and that the proposal contains no appeals process, which was a key recommendation of rural communities. Urban communities fared even worse – they were excluded entirely from the proposed changes. This will doubtless form the basis of discussion when RealRenewal meets with education ministry senior officials on Wednesday.