Last week, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe spoke publicly regarding overcrowding at St. Peter’s Elementary School and the need for both short-term action and longer-term solutions to be considered. This leadership by Mayor O’Keefe was welcomed by concerned parents.
St. Peter’s has a student population of 750 children (K-6) that it draws equally from St. John’s and Mount Pearl.
As a concerned parent and also the chairman of the School Council, I emailed Mayor O’Keefe and Mayor Simms of Mount Pearl, offering a briefing on overcrowding issues that were raised at a recent public meeting held by parents. Mayor O’ Keefe was very responsive and met with me at length to get a full understanding of the issues and ultimately offering his support. In my opinion, this was a highly appropriate action in response to issues raised by his constituents.
Comments were subsequently issued by Mount Pearl Councillor John Walsh, criticizing Mayor O’Keefe for intervening in what he deemed Mount Pearl’s affairs. Many parents have expressed to me their dismay with that criticism of Mayor O’Keefe’s response to the honest concerns of citizens. I have since spoken with Coun. Walsh and he has reiterated his support of parents and children at the school as well.
Although education is a provincial responsibility, parents expect their municipal representatives to be informed and supportive of these essential services. There are times to rise above the divisive nature of politics and municipal boundaries to put the public interest first.
As communities St. John’s and Mount Pearl should be coming together in support of finding solutions that ensure quality education and a healthy learning environment for all children in the area.
I would like to take this opportunity to redirect the conversation back to the core issues.
St. Peter’s Elementary remains overcrowded.
The school will have staff levels decreased by losing a vice-principal in September 2013 due to cuts in the teacher allocation formula. This is not acceptable and disadvantages students in all large enrolment schools.
Further, there are infrastructure issues and investments that need to be made at St. Peter’s. Parents are rightly expressing concern about these issues and are seeking solutions from Eastern School District and the Department of Education.
Chairman, St. Peter’s Elementary School council