MacDonald pushes forward with school board merger vision
Stormont- Dundas- Glengarry Warden Jamie MacDonald hopes to meet with Ontario’s Ministry of Education next month to discuss a new vision for education in Eastern Ontario.
During his inauguration speech as warden late last year, Mr. MacDonald lambasted the status quo, where four different school boards operate in the area, decrying it as impractical and unsustainable. He has since put together a focus group – which also consists of South Glengarry Councillor Stephanie Jaworski, North Glengarry Councillor Jeff Manley, South Stormont Councillor Jennifer MacIssac, and former Save Our Schools member David Filion – to discuss the matter and, in the words of Mr. MacDonald, “provide a road map for a different style of what rural education would look like.”
The warden wants one all-encompassing school board with English and French streams or
School board perspective
Todd Lalonde, Chairman of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, says it’s disappointing that the warden would make comments on education and that he should have reached out to stakeholders, like his board, to get some input.
“The system right now works,” insists Mr. Lalonde, who represents Glengarry and Cornwall. “I hope there’s no false information put out to the public regarding big time savings if you merge school boards because it’s been proven that’s not the case.”
Mr. Lalonde points out that the Upper Canada District School Board has 25,000 students while his board has 15,000.
“Even if you merge the boards, you still need to house them, pay for transportation and pay the teachers.”
But John Danaher, Glengarry’s trustee with the Upper Canada District School Board, wasn’t nearly as critical as Mr. Lalonde.
“I believe Mr. MacDonald has every right as a community member, mayor, and warden to look at this situation to see if there’s enough momentum to bring it to the ministry,” said Mr. Danaher, a retired educator who served, at times, as principal of Glengarry District and Char-Lan high schools. “He will likely get some support in the community. There’s a lot of people who support how he feels.”
School board chairs have different takes on amalgamation proposal.
Lalonde say they’re willing to work together to streamline efficiencies. One example is Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) – a consortium put together by the two boards to transport students to and from school.
But Mr. MacDonald doesn’t believe that finding efficiencies is enough to solve the problem. When asked about a potential compromise, a forced amalgamation between STEO and its francophone counterpart, he says that doesn’t take things far enough.
“Fixing the busing situation is a big part of the financial package but we still have half-full schools,” he says. “Right now, with larger class sizes, we’re not going to get the programming we can get. It’s just more nails in the coffin unless we do something now.”
Mr. Lalonde, who says that part of his mandate is to protect Catholic education, points out that the constitution protects Catholic schools. Indeed, section 93 of the Constitution Act, states, “Nothing in any such Law shall prejudicially affect any Right or Privilege with respect to Denominational Schools which any Class of Persons have by Law in the Province at the Union” and that “All the Powers, Privileges, and Duties at the Union by Law conferred and imposed in Upper Canada on the Separate Schools and School Trustees of the Queen’s Roman Catholic Subjects shall be and the same are hereby extended to the Dissentient Schools of the Queen’s Protestant and Roman Catholic Subjects in Quebec.”
However, Mr. MacDonald seemed relatively unfazed by this. He pointed out that Catholic boards have been challenged in other provinces (Newfoundland, for example) and that “I would think the same would happen here.”