El­gin County to look at form­ing county school board

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA BROADLEY [email protected]­media.com

El­gin County coun­cil is ask­ing staff to re­port on the cre­ation of a county or re­gional board of ed­u­ca­tion.

Heather Derks, for­mer chair of the pupil ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view com­mit­tee for Sparta ele­men­tary school, asked county coun­cil­lors Tues­day to have staff look into cre­at­ing a new El­gin County board or re­gional school board.

“I was very pleased with coun­cil’s sup­port, they’ve been ex­tremely sup­port­ive through­out,” Derks said in an in­ter­view.

She has been a vo­cal op­po­nent of a de­ci­sion last year by the Thames Val­ley District school board to close Sparta, Springfield, New Sarum, South Dorch­ester and West­min­ster ele­men­tary schools. The plan also in­cluded build­ing new schools in Bel­mont and St. Thomas.

El­gin County had its own school sys­tem un­til 1997 when amal­ga­ma­tion took place and the Thames Val­ley board was cre­ated to man­age schools in Ox­ford, El­gin and Mid­dle­sex coun­ties and Lon­don.

Derks said she and her hus­band con­sid­ered ru­ral schools as a pri­or­ity when they moved to El­gin County in 2009.

Derks con­tends the provin­cial govern­ment might be sup­port­ive of an El­gin County school board be­cause sav­ings could be found in the salaries of school board ex­ec­u­tives, who she said are paid $20,000 to $40,000 more than their county and mu­nic­i­pal coun­ter­parts.

The clos­ing of the ru­ral schools puts pres­sure on the tax base on the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and county, Derks said.

“The wide­spread re­moval of four of our com­mu­nity schools by the (ele­men­tary pupil ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view) has neg­a­tively im­pacted the abil­ity of these oth­er­wise com­plete ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties to at­tract the kind of res­i­dents that are will­ing to pay a lit­tle more in prop­erty taxes in re­turn for the ex­cel­lent qual­ity of life our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties of­fer,” Derks told coun­cil.

Cen­tral El­gin Mayor David Marr said to coun­cil the cre­ation of an El­gin County board of ed­u­ca­tion would take a lot of work.

“I fully sup­port that we should at least look at the op­tion of go­ing back to an El­gin County board,” Marr said. “I do re­mem­ber those days and I think it did work.”

Cen­tral El­gin deputy mayor Sally Mar­tyn, a re­tired teacher, told coun­cil she fully sup­ports the idea of an El­gin County board.

“The El­gin board was very fis­cally re­spon­si­ble,” Mar­tyn said. “They had a li­brar­ian in ev­ery school, they had a vice-prin­ci­pal in ev­ery school — there are prac­ti­cally none now, they had a mu­sic teacher in ev­ery school and French be­gan in Grade 1 for ev­ery stu­dent in El­gin County.”

Mar­tyn has voiced her op­po­si­tion to the clos­ing of the El­gin County schools in the past and also of the pupil ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view process.

“They ig­nored ev­ery­thing we said,” Mar­tyn said.

When asked for com­ment, Chris Goodall, El­gin County trustee with the Thames Val­ley board, wrote in an email that he had not been con­tacted and had not re­viewed the re­quest as of yet.

I fully sup­port that we should at least look at the op­tion of go­ing back to an El­gin County board.”

David Marr, Cen­tral El­gin Mayor

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