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.