Parents being ignored on school changes

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I am a parent of two boys who currently attend Newtown Elementary and I have a third son who will enter the school system in the fall of 2015. I am writing you today

in relation to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District’s decision of April 12 to dismantle two of Mount Pearl’s elementary schools (Newtown and St. Peter’s) and transform them into a K-3 and 4-6 school system.

In short, the board completely and utterly ignored the overwhelming feedback that they received from the parents, guardians and teachers who advised them that splitting the schools to a K-3 and 4-6 system was not in the best interest of students and families, and that there was a better solution by altering catchment zones to keep both schools as a K-6 system.

The consultation process from the very beginning was flawed and one that was not developed with the intent of securing the best possible option, but instead

was designed to push through a pre-

determined decision.

Parents were presented with only two official options to vote on from the board. For Newtown and St. Peter’s families, both options were the exact same. The online feedback system was not designed to seek support for other available options and catchment re-alignment was discouraged by the board, against the wishes of parents from both schools.

At a high level, some of the arguments for keeping both schools as a K-6 model are:

‰ Reducing school transitions — Studies link transition years to greater academic challenges, social challenges and diminished sense of belonging, and psychological struggles. These challenges are often magnified for our students with special needs. The board’s decision will now mean that students will face an increase of school transitions, not a reduction.

‰ The loss of leadership and mentoring opportunities — These opportunities build character, leadership development, evoke empathy and instil a sense of responsibility in the older children for younger children. Our younger children benefit from these programs and also from the ability to mimic and mirror positive attributes from our older children and gain a sense of place and belonging when the older children take an interest in them.

‰ Traffic safety concerns — The traffic congestion is already noted as a challenge for current families at St. Peter’s. As you increase the number of younger children without the support of older children, more families will be dropping children off.

‰ Risk of increased bullying — my concern for the Grade 4s at Newtown who would go from middle of the pack regarding age to the youngest in a Grade 4-6 system. I fear for the increased potential for bullying and, these students being a target as opposed to being a part of the big-kid group in the school under a K-6 configuration.

These are but a few of the many arguments that parents put forward to the board and in the end, the board ignored the overwhelming feedback received and pushed on with a solution that only 20 per cent of people supported. A better solution was proposed regarding rezoning the catchment areas.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has instituted a Safe and Caring Schools Policy.

Point 2.6  of that policy reads “The positive nature of relationships within the school community, and the consistent, inclusive and nurturing nature of the school permit students to build healthy relationships, to create a strong and supportive social network, to develop emotional well-being and to achieve academically to the best of their ability.”

It is difficult to imagine that the spirit of Safe and Caring Schools policy is being considered in this decision.

On behalf of the families who voted against this change, I urge Education Minister Clyde Jackman to please intervene for all of our children and respect the wishes of the majority of parents and guardians who know our children best and know what environment they need to thrive in.

We are not ignoring or refuting that change needs to happen, just that it needs to happen in the most informed, positive way possible.

 

Mark Fahey

Mount Pearl

Organizations: Reducing school, Safe and Caring Schools Policy

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Abby
    May 08, 2014 - 15:14

    Why they ignore our opinion? Certainly we can argue a lot but some changes are necessary and we can`t influence them. All in all it would be right if they organize some meeting beforehand to ask parents and to listen to their proposals. As I understand the main aim of any educational establishment to make students become successful member of our society and close interaction with parents is a very important step. I feel that we can`t get support there and as the result we spend hours at home trying to fulfill task (here we get HelpOnEssay ) Unfortunately it seema that they ignore about our opinion and I hope that all this resist will be successful.

  • Corporate Psycho
    April 15, 2014 - 15:56

    Traffic safety concerns. Bullying. Loss of leadership. Talk about grasping at straws.

  • Lorraine
    April 15, 2014 - 14:45

    It's the primary aged children that are getting lost in the shuffle of all of this. Among the most vunerable in the school population, their first experience at school should be positive and nurturing. Many grades are going to go from 2-3 classes per grade up to as many as 6-8 classes per grade. That's not to mention the class sizes. I agree the children don't need coddling, however, at their age group smaller groups would certainly be of more benefit. There is no guarantee of suitable spaces for gym or music classes. Physical activity being such a focus of "healthy schools"....and no gym space? If the parents don't advocate for this age group nobody will. For the longer term, re-configuring the catchment areas makes much more sense. Wait till the full day kindergarten program starts.....what will they do with everyone then? In another few years, then be searching out another solution.....

  • BricksAndMortar
    April 15, 2014 - 14:25

    This decision was made to please the elite 20% that end up with the ideal situation, while ignoring the 80% that are actually concerned about the MOUNT PEARL community. How did we come to this point in society when we make numbers, units, bricks and mortar more important then the safety and caring of our children. Common sense tells you that this decision doesn't make sense. We have chosen to split up siblings rather than realign catchments and split up a subdivision. Even our judicial system states that the most important factor in a divorce proceeding is the children and young children should remain together to keep them in a safe and caring environment. But now our education system says its alright to split up siblings in our schools where they spend the majority of their childhood life. It amazes me that people cannot grasp this concept.

  • J
    April 15, 2014 - 12:31

    Yawn, bullying is the topic de jour. Maybe you folks should home school your kids and protect them from the big, bad world out there.

  • Brian King
    April 15, 2014 - 11:41

    As a parent of 2 children at St. Peter's Elementary (a third goes to MPI), I want to applaud the efforts of the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District to correct a significant overcrowding situation facing our schools. I was impressed with the consultation and opportunity provided to all to input into the decision. There were several public meetings and an online feedback tool. Plus several meetings with school councils. I believe that all positions were presented and everyone given ample opportunity to express their views. The alternatives to the options presented and recently voted on were significantly negative for St. Peter's Elementary with little impact for the other elementary school involved. I was very pleased that this counter position was not adopted and that the overall impacts on all students were considered not simply the wants of one school population. It would be unfair for the children of one school population to shoulder the entire weight of a solution when a more acceptable solution overall is available which minimizes disruption for all. It has also been suggested that people were ignored in this process. I believe that it is incorrect to assume that feedback was ignored simply because the decision made was not supported by some. I believe that all feedback was reviewed and that a decision was made with the needs of all schools and all children taken into account.

    • Informing
      April 15, 2014 - 20:05

      I argue that Newtown indeed was taking it's share of the hit if Rezoning was pursued. Expanding a close knit small school to welcome 100+ new students was a significant change. Also under some catchment realignment models some Newtown students were zoned for Mary Queen of the World and ratio wise I think the impact on Newtown would have been as large as SPE. I don't argue SPE is over capacity and we all needed to change, but this is the wrong solution to redistributing students. So much is lost with the board's decision when we can maintain k-6 schools. The numbers per school under most rezoning models were actually smaller for SPE and Newtown than the current k-3/4-6 model according to the boards march 5 presentation. I am confident we are going to see the loss of teaching resources under this new configuration, larger class sizes and unnecessary complications for students and families. Change was needed. Newtown needed to be utilized, but please don't argue that this process is not equal unless we all suffer equally. I'd rather celebrate a solution that utilized all our available space and provided the best programming to students and support for those students and families. I can't be happy that we all lost equally - that isn't something to be proud of. Also your argument regarding minimizing disruption for all is asinine. Under rezoning 10-12% of students would be impacted. 45% are affected under k-3/4-6 reconfiguration. We all need to think bigger and consider all implications.

    • facts
      April 15, 2014 - 20:12

      This whole process has been very frustrating and has made no sense. The board went with a solution that dissolved k-6 system which goes against researched best practices, sees the reduction/elimination of many peer-peer programs, increases bussing requirements, under utilizes available space in the area at MQW, increases class size, complicates family dynamics and impacts 45% of students instead of 10-12% under the alternate option. Numbers remain larger in each of the two affected schools than the alternative, they'll require additions onto each affected building sooner and the number of entire classrooms that will have to be shifted by September is staggering. They've increased safety concerns especially in parking lots and have not provided the rationale as to why they went with this solution except to point to an out of context suggestion made by councils in October before any solid options were offered for consideration. I would love a solid rationale and can admit defeat when presented with a legitimate argument even if contrary to my beliefs. Changes were needed, but they really really missed the mark!

  • DaMama
    April 15, 2014 - 08:53

    Thank you Mark for writing what we all wanted to say. You put it in the words that were better said. I too can see the bulling, children NOT wanting to go to school and the teachers and parents not being able to do a friggin thing about it. They are going to have more trouble then they think because of it. I know some parents who have two or three children who will have to travel to different schools and they wont be able to get them there on time. Then what happens? Mom or dad is late for work and the children are late for school. How long will that last. ( might lose your job if your late too often). Hope the minister gets a heart and do something about this mess. Signed a concerned mom

    • Parent too
      April 15, 2014 - 09:53

      DaMama. Please put your concerns in a letter to minister Jackman! clydejackman@gov.nl.ca Agree totally!