Pop quiz time, kiddies.
I need you to put on your thinking caps. I have some quotes for you, and I want you to identify the speaker.
Here goes (italicized musings are mine):
"I do not support the closure of schools."
"Neighbourhood schools are an important part of any community."
You mean like the ones in Cedar?
"People consider whether or not a neighbourhood has a school in deciding where to live."
They certainly do.
"Closing a school takes the heart out of a community."
Imagine what closing down more than one would do.
"Every effort needs to be made, including inviting other community services to share facilities, in order to avoid school closures."
Sounds pretty clear, doesn't it?
For those of you who guessed the aforementioned comments came from current Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district board chairman Jamie Brennan, take a bow.
Now, I'm hopeful people will forgive my loutish behaviour.
I'm clearly cherry-picking his comments, made in 2005 (during the runup to elections), to suit my particular narrative. That being the current board's decision to support a controversial facilities plan that includes the shutting down of several Cedar schools. It also includes sending every student at Cedar Secondary School elsewhere in the district.
Despite a continued public outcry, Brennan and his fellow trustees remain unmoved and are adamant that the closures must take place. Brennan may well still be philosophically opposed to school closures, and trustees have stated repeatedly that the plan is based on what's best for the entire district.
Certainly their prerogative as elected officials.
But it's hard for me to go back to the "closing a school takes the heart out of a community" statement and not think of all the folks in the community of Cedar.
They're still getting their hearts ripped out, whether it's 2005 or 2013.
For me, the biggest issue in this entire mess remains the inaction from Education Minister Peter Fassbender. That's the minister of education, who steadfastly refuses to do much of anything.
Responding to emails from Steve Rae of the Save Cedar Schools group (the ones who have gathered signatures from more than 4,000 people opposed to the plan), Fassbender wrote: "I would like to be clear that British Columbia's boards of education are separate, legal entities under the School Act. .. . Boards have the autonomy to decide how best to address the needs of students within their local communities. Accordingly, the Ministry of Education will not intervene in the school closure process of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith board of education."
You'd be hard-pressed to find this much offloading if you were on raft watch in Miami.
Essentially, the voices of 4,000 people mean little. The fact the school district faces a lawsuit over the facilities plan? Apparently of no concern. Wake us up when the schools are all shuttered.
I've said many times, school boards are a waste of time. They are basically useless entities that should be disbanded across the province.
If schools are going to be closed, that word should come definitively from the top, with those making the final decisions forced to answer to the public.
It just seems wrong to dump those decisions on trustees who must deal with the massive financial constraints placed upon them by the higher-ups.
I would invite Mr. Fassbender to pay a visit to Cedar and address the various stakeholders.
Instead of passing the buck, how about facing the music?
Contact deputy editor Philip Wolf at PWolf@nanaimodailynews.com, twitter.com/philipwolf13, or call 250-729-4240.
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