Closing schools and changing reasons

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The Eastern School District consultation process is failing the students of Catalina Elementary.

In the spring of 2012, the Eastern School District board of trustees had a meeting with the school council of Catalina Elementary with an overview of the possible “options” for Catalina Elementary. In turn, the school council presented these options to the parents, looking for direction as to how to proceed.

The options were:  

• Keep Catalina Elementary a K-8 school, with multi-grade as a possibility in the future.

• Reconfigure Catalina Elementary to a K-6 school.

• Close Catalina Elementary and bus the students to Bonavista.

After that meeting, all parents agreed that we wanted to keep our school as is, a K-8 school, and we would deal with the multi-grading issue as

it arose. The school council then informed the board of trustees of our decision.

In October, the board of trustees’ recommendation was closure.

What happened between March and October? I guess nobody was listening right from the beginning.

The first reason for the closure of Catalina Elementary was programming. When the criterion-referenced testing (CRT) scores show that students of Catalina Elementary are outperforming the rest of the province in almost all areas on their CRT exams, programming was not an issue. (This, though Education Minister Clyde Jackman publicly stated that schools that do well on CRT exams are models for the rest of the province.) Yet we have been recently told by an Eastern School District employee the CRT scores have no bearing on the closure of a school. Explain that.

The next grasp at straws that the board of trustees came up with was declining enrolment. Again, through the research completed by parents of the community, we were able to show that not only is the enrolment at Catalina Elementary levelling off, but that the numbers used by the board are incorrect and in fact, the predicted enrolment is actually higher.

Now the newest issue is space. Well, there is space in just about every rural school in Newfoundland. There is space in Catalina Elementary, there’s space in St. Mark’s and there’s space in Bishop White, just to name a few.

How are they going to fill all this space?

Is that what our children are, space fillers? What happened to, and I quote Premier Kathy Dunderdale, “providing the students with the best possible education”?

As we said from the very beginning, our children are numbers and dollar signs. I’ve never been so discouraged with a “process” in all my life. Mr. Jackman, I plead with you to change this process and truely consult with the parents and community members of Trinity Bay North to come to a reasonable solution to avoid the closure of one of the best schools in Newfoundland — Catalina Elementary.

It’s our right to demand that our children get the best possible education.

Roger Cullimore

Port Union


Organizations: CullimorePort Union

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Trinity Bay North

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Recent comments

  • tcooper
    November 23, 2012 - 00:53

    Mr. Bruce Vey CEO of Eastern School District has quoted publicly that dollars and sense were not even considered in this proposed school closure. Eastern School district spend an average of $59,000 per year per bus on it own fleet of 61 busses and spends an average of $41,000 per year per bus on privately owned contracted out busses. They also spend an average of $17,000 per year per route on special transportation. ESDNL has indicated that it costs approximately $87,000 per year to operate the building of Catalina Elementary including heat, light, snowclearing etc... It is simple math to see that the cost of transporting 140 children will cost more than keeping the building open. What a great way to save taxpayers dollars. Mothball a modern facility that is used by four communities to not only educate their children but to also keep them healthy and active and engaged in their community. Very shortsighted and flawed logic when we see rising levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes in our youth that are unprecedented as well as the skyrocketing costs of health care. It is time for someone to wake up and see that schools are an investment in our future and well being as a province and not an expense that needs to be slashed no matter who it hurts.

  • Ken Collis
    November 21, 2012 - 12:21

    I agree with A Business Man 100%. The only thing is it should be reversed. St. John's has what, exactly? What are the resourses? Do they have oil? NO. Do they have minerals? NO. Do they have fish? NO. They only have taxpayer dollars being spent to keep a population base intact. That's it. Nothing more!!! Someone else prove me wrong. As for the statistics that the majority of the population should be able to get their own way with the majority of the vote, think of it this way. 9 out of 10 people involved think gang rape is good!!! Should it be legal then? I'm really sorry for the analigy but I wanted to get my point across. I'm sorry if this offends anyone.

  • It's dollars and sense
    November 21, 2012 - 08:19

    What happened between March and October the author asks? I'd guess government cuts to budgeting came down and the board was forced to make a decision to save money so they chose the easiest option. Perhaps the board should look inside their administrative ranks and eliminate some of the dead wood and archaic processes in place there. Lead by example, so to speak.

  • a business man
    November 21, 2012 - 07:05

    I absolutely agree that parents have the right to demand the best possible education for thier children. We each have the right to demand whatever we feel is in our individual best interests. That is why I support the closure of the school. Further, I support the re-allocation of educational resources from rural NL to the city. We should all demand what is in our best interests. Some will get their way, some will not. But as long as the majority gets their way, democracy is served. I disagree with those who oppose the closure but I have all the respect in the world for them for fighting for their cause.