Politicians riled over school for poor kids - Macleans.ca

Politicians riled over school for poor kids

Niagara school would provide extra supports for low income students


A proposal to start a special school in Niagara for poor children is drawing harsh rebukes from Queen’s Park, the Toronto Star reports. Ontario Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky says she is “concerned about the stigmatization.”  Although the minister said it was too early to ban the school, she noted that “We are watching this very closely.” Earlier in the week, New Democrat Peter Kormos went further by likening the proposed school to “educational apartheid.”

District School Board of Niagara is designing the school in an effort to boost the district’s high school graduation rates. Students from low income families, who are more likely to dropout, will receive extra supports including a longer school day and a focus on skills development. Rejecting the suggestion that the new school will stigmatize students, board chair Dale Robinson said,”[b]eing poor is a stigma already… this is something to give people dignity, to give people hope. It’s not about where they’re coming from, it’s where they can go.”

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Politicians riled over school for poor kids

  1. Thank you for asking our thoughts on the DSBN Debacle.

    I ran for DSBN Trustee for St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake in the recent election. I was honoured with 5729 votes, and despite widespread media reports that I won, I actually lost. Many people still think that I won and I want to distance myself from this issue as I believe it is wrong on many levels, as many have eloquently expressed across the media.

    During the campaign, we candidates all attended 3 DSBN Trustee Candidate Nights. This idea was NEVER mentioned by the incumbents when discussing issues and proposals to better our education system.
    It is notable that at each event, the DSBN hierachy was very well-represented and seated directly in front of me and due to the alphabet, also in front of Dalton Clark and Lora and Lynn Campbell, who were all sitting trustees.

    Dalton Clark has served as Trustee continuously since the 1960s and Lora Campbell has for the past 25 years. They are Career Trustees.
    Superintendants Linda Kartasinki, Jim Watson, the 2 DSBN’s PR staff being Brett Sweeney and Kim Yielding (why does a school board need 2 PR staff?), the Director’s Executive Assistant and others were in attendace. On top of that, on at least one occasion, they videotaped our entire event. Why such interest and monitoring of an event that the public has historically taken such little interest in? Other DSBN events did not apparently have the presence or the taping.

    Dalton Clark, Lora Campbell and Lynn Campbell (the latter who was DSBN Vice Chair at the time) should be held accountable as to why they did not disclose this during the election time. I ask the media to do so.

    Dalton Clark has been quoted as saying he knew the Academy wouldn’t be popular. Ask him why he didn’t tell us about the Academy before the election!

    The DSBN had stopped making their agendas available to the public for 5 years and only relented to doing so again due to presure during the campaign. However, they still hold their cards close to their chest as the agendas only become available 1 day before teh meeting.

    The day after the October election, the DSBN sitting trustees voted to move the Don Reilly Centre to NDSS, which is another major very contentious matter that was never discussed during the election. NDSS was just closed a few months earlier, depriving Niagara on the Lake of its only high school.

    (The former NDSS students are now bussed to 2 St. Catharines high school predominently to schools that are now over-capacity due to the NDSS students enrolment)

    Since that agenda was only posted on election day, the non-trustees did not know about it before voting day.

    Please make these elected officials accountable. Only the media can do this as the trustees are not responding to the public’s request for accountability.

    I’m not submitting this to get my name in your magazine. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I am making a great effort NOT to have my name in the news locally on this. You need to understand what we are dealing with in Niagara.

  2. A couple of other things on this topic.

    I moved back to St. Catharines after an absence of nearly 25 years, just in time for the closing of the only DSBN high school in Niagara-on-the-Lake (just outside of St. Catharines). NDSS was closed due to low enrollment. The proposed school (DSBN Academy) would have comparable or lower enrollment. Why is that acceptable when the kids from NDSS can’t go to a school in their own community and must be bused more than 20 km each way to school?

    The other question I have about such a school being set up, is why is the support only going to be for a select few and not all children in the board in similar circumstances? Why isn’t the money being funneled into a program for the entire school board? Why would we want to marginalize kids by putting them into one school in the first place? This school is to be in Welland. If my children were to qualify, and I live in St. Catharines, why would they need to be bused so far away?

    These are concerns average citizens have where we see that the money could be better spent (they are budgeting $400,000 for busing to the new school) within already existing schools.

  3. This is the other reason people are so riled up about the DSBN Academy. Because the DSBN chose to do the very expensive, unproven DSBN Academy that only addresses less than 10% if its impoverished students that removes children from their families for a huge amount of theri day, from their home communities and their friends, and stigmatizes them, when they could have a proven, successful program alread successful in Ontario and Canada called Pathways to Education. It has had HUGE successes turning around drop out rates and boosted the amount of low income kids going to post-secondary education…WITHOUT removing them from their home schools or stigmatizing them. Read here http://www.scstandard.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=2952323

    The professor has asked to address the DSBN Board of Trustees on Tuesday Feb 8.

  4. A T4 slip should not be required to enter any Public School Program. Another requirement for admission is that the parents of these children must not have attended University or College. Education and poverty are not mutually exclusive, especially in the Niagara Region where many are underemployed. After these requirements are met the students will be picked by lottery. I also fear that the students in the “Academy” will not have the extracurricular opportunities such as senior sports or dances that they do at the other public schools. There is more to a rounded school life then admission to College or University. The amounts of money spent on transportation, and fuel, and they time spent on the bus (up to one hour a day) could be better spent with family or enjoying before and after school programs at existing schools. It will also be difficult for these students to hold part time jobs, learning work skills and saving for tuition. The money would be much better spent on programs targeting these students in need at existing schools.

  5. Yes this all sounds pretty ridiculous. You don’t need to marginalize kids or separate them further from their communities. They are better off just upgrading the institutions they already have. Or placing more programs for at-risk youth in the existing schools, such as adding more teachers, creating smaller class sizes, more after school programs, possibly teacher assistants in some core classes like English, Math and Sciences.

    As well as just because one creates a school for “poor kids” doesn’t mean the kids or their family are going to want them to attend. Usually in these cases the schools that the “rich kids” go to, have better and more plentiful resources.

  6. The fact is the DSBN simply cannot afford this program. In order to balance the 2010/2011 budget, the DSBN had to take $2.6 million from its reserves in order to balance its budget.

    In January 2011, the DSBN agreed to spend over $431,000 *just to bus* the first 150 school children to this school from all over Niagara, an area of more than 751 square miles (1,852 km2) to this new DSBN Academy. Ostensibly. the dollars for the transportation came out of the reserves as well. How much will transportation cost taxpayers when the full 525 students attend the Academy?

    To quote from the June 22, 2010 DSBN Minutes, a meeting that I attended: “Trustee Clark reminded the Board that $2.6 million was transferred from the general operating reserves to balance the 2009-2010 budget…Trustee Clark added that as at September 1, 2010, the Board will have an opening balance in the general operating reserves of $3,807,110 and the Board will only be able to transfer funds out of the general operating reserves for another one to one and one-half years…Trustee Clark reminded the Board that the District School Board of Niagara is the second lowest funded in Special Education in the province.”

    To quote the DSBN’s own press release on balancing the budget: “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.

    Then why is the DSBN doing this DSBN Academy when it simply cannot afford it, and that instead we could consider the Pathways to Education program, an award-winning model with proven results that keeps kids in their own schools and does not stigmatize them?

    Empire School, where the DSBN wants to house the DSBN Academy needs $690,000 in facility upgrades for things such as roof repai and heating. In fact, the DSBN just voted at that very same June 22 meeting to close the building as it was too costly to repair for the local (coincidentally low income) students who will stop going there as of June 2011. This cost of building upgrade hasn’t even been recognized by the board yet, as only informal information was provided to the Trustees before their vote.

    This board has shoown that it is unable to live within its means and is not conducting itself in a transparent, accountable, responsible manner.

    The Minister of Education must now step in and stop the abuse of taxpayers and children as experimental pawns. The Minister has a duty to save us from these bureaucrats who hide important, contentious issues such as this at election time.

    Director Warren Hoshizaki, long time serving Trustees Dalton Clark, Lora Campbell, the new DSBN Chair Kevin Maves, and all of the other incumbents who hid this from us should be removed from their positions. They have breached our trust and should not be allowed the privilege to keep representing us.





  7. At first glance, from my standpoint of a traditional left leaning liberal, the DSBN’s plan to initiate an academy school for students of low income, less educated parents seems both misguided and anti democratic. Thoughts of the draconian residential schools instituted decades ago to anglicize native children comes to mind.

    Nevertheless it seems the DSBN is trying to be proactive in dealing with the well researched issue of children from lower educated parents, not achieving higher levels of education. Personally, again, as a fairly well educated baby boomer, I’ve observed that many fellow “Zoomers” as we are now being labelled, also grew up in the homes of less educated parents who were raised in the great depression but who wanted their children to be better educated. Neither of my parents attended post secondary school but initiated an education savings fund shortly after my birth and I was raised with the expectation that I would eventually be attending university.

    Anyhow times it seems have changed and the research does appear to substantiate the premise on which the idea for this school was conceived. I do have to question its temporary location in one of the oldest school buildings in Niagara, renovated about 1989, and situated across the street from the old Atlas Steel Complex. Seems a little uninspiring and it was originally scheduled for closure.

    It does seem to be a noble experiment, unfortunately with only limited precedents in other school board districts. I’m encouraged by the fact that students are accepted by making application, must possess a certain potential for success and are not just rounded up and sent there. With all due deference to our local MPP and others who are criticizing this project, I think the efforts of the board to address an issue of public concern makes it worthy of keeping an open mind. Whether it turns out be cost effective and has a truly positive impact on student success is an open question, but I believe its plan is neither frivolous nor ill intentioned. The idea that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a long standing cliche and is unfortunately, sometimes reflected in our public schools

  8. I live in the Niagara region, and even more so minutes away from this proposed ‘poor school’ and however politically correct we may aim to be.. this is a superb idea. It is a fairly strong argument to make, saying poor kids equal less academically successful. Although exceptions clearly exist (I’d like to think myself one of them) it is a fair shot to place these kids in a collective, special school.
    I went to an elementary school where academic merit ranked so low, I felt completely alone in my love of learning. Needless to say, entering into high school and seeing how fast my fellow classmates fled to the infamous ‘Banks’ (a grassy knoll by the canal, across the street from my school) made my head spin. Even now, whenever I walk by our office, 8/10 I find kids from my old school. Sad as it may be, unless it is instilled in them early on that education is key, this pattern will continue.