Former supt. drags MPP’s religion into school closure debate

The front of Rothwell-Osnabruck school in Ingleside, Ont. (Jennifer MacIssac via Newswatch Group)

SD&G – A former school superintendent, making the case for a two-board school system based on language, is throwing the local MPP’s religion into the mix for the elected member’s non-support of the plan.

Ken MacLennan is holding public meetings with school councils this week at Char-Lan District High School (Nov. 1), Rothwell-Osnabruck High School (Wednesday Nov. 2, 6:30 p.m.) as well as at a rally at Seaway District High School (Friday Nov. 4 5:30 p.m.) to make the case to and an English school board and a French school board.

He is a former superintendent of the SD&G County Board of Education.

“I recognize that Jim (McDonell) is a devout Catholic and wants to promote the Catholic religion. I have no problem with that. My problem is doing nothing, he sends the message that he does not care about the quality of education of both Catholic and Public school students,” MacLennan wrote in a Nov. 2 email to supporters and copied to local media.

“You would have to be brain dead to not know that operating a competing school system would affect the cost of education and the quality of education,” he wrote.

MacLennan’s stinging comments come after McDonell sent an email to MacLennan on Nov. 1 asking that he, the SD&SG PC Association or the party not be dragged into his plan.

“The region is embroiled in a battle to keep our local schools open and I support the cause,” McDonell wrote. “I do not believe we need to confuse the issue by introducing the elimination of the Catholic School system into the discussion.”

The MPP, who is asking the education minister to suspend the school closure review, suggested constitutional court battles and a referendum process would take far longer than the school boards’ plan to close up to 29 Public schools and four Catholic schools – some by the end of this school year.

MacLennan, who has proclaimed that he is “not anti-Catholic,” has suggested going higher up the chain to the provincial executive and is even contemplating legal action to push his agenda.

According to his calculations, the two-board plan would reduce the number of Ontario English boards from 72 to 31, plus eight French boards, for a total of 39 Ontario school boards. It’s thought that could free up 10 per cent of the $2.3 billion spent on the four board model to save the closure of schools and make them viable long term.