Parent says R.O. decision is plain wrong

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

The following is an open letter from Teri-Lynn Beckstead to the trustees of the Upper Canada District School Board, following their decision March 23 to close Rothwell-Osnabruck high school in Ingleside:

Before I begin I must take this opportunity to say Wendy, John, Jeremy, Lisa and Caroll this email is not intended for you but as trustees you should hear what I have to say. I want to personally thank each of you for supporting RO with your yes vote and above all else thinking about the best interests of our children. Thank-you!

Thursday night’s decision to close the Secondary section of Rothwell-Osnabruck School (grades 7-12) in Ingleside is wrong! It’s that simple.

The UCDSB mission is “We prepare all students for a successful life”. How are you accomplishing this by removing students from a school in their home community? A school where they get a seamless education from grades JK to 12 and build irreplaceable relationships with peers, teachers and their community, not to mention academic excellence! It takes a village to raise a child. But more importantly, have you asked the students this question?

Trustee Jeff McMillan you said and I quote you, “Do we have the right number of schools in the right places to support our vision for educational programming”.  With no high school in South Stormont, a growing community of 13,110 how have you accomplished the above?

It seems to me here that the intention is to remove all the rural schools in our area to make room for 1 mega school in Cornwall to the tune of $41 Million. Sorry but how does this accomplish having the right number of schools in the right places to support our vision for educational programming when we will have but one school? This is not what the communities want, not in the least!

Trustee David McDonald, you say that the community has not spoken, pardon me? What was the ARC process? What were the hundreds, if not thousands of emails and surveys received? What were the numerous delegations and presentations that were delivered? What were the offers brought forward by our Mayor and council (Township)? We have spoken on many occasions and continue to do so. You aren’t listening.

You also say that our enrollment has declined, you are correct – the reason is quite simple though – we have no French programming to offer our students and it has been asked for numerous times over the last 15 years. It’s not a magic potion, it’s fact. All our rural schools should be on an equal playing field and they are not! If we were all equal RO would  not be in this process, then you would see where the children chose to attend school. The real numbers would surface and RO would be full. It really is that simple.

So let’s discuss numbers and enrollment….as you know while presenting March 2nd, we brought to the attention of the panel and audience that the UCDSB had an enormous error in the data representing RO Secondary in regards to utilization and capacity. It was represented that RO Secondary had a capacity of 363 students, enrollment of 129 (9-12 students) and a utilization of 35%. That is incorrect! First, RO Secondary is grades 7-12 not 9-12, the capacity of the high school is 231 not 363 and the enrollment for grades 7-12 is 183 students creating a utilization of 79.22%. I took the time to send an email to all the trustees on March 3 to clarify all this data, I have to ask as I never heard a response, did you take the time to read it? This is important factual information about our school that was incorrect and the difference between the incorrect data and the actual is staggering, can’t be ignored.

Onto our children, the ones that matter here and who it is supposed to be all about. Trustees, I feel that each and every one of you should have visited the schools slated for closure and spoken to the children. Their voices are the ones that matter here and they were completely ignored. I want to add to that, this past Friday after the decision to close RO was brought forward and the children returned to school, the way in which this news was handled was not acceptable and up to standard whatsoever. It was robotic, un empathetic and almost insulting to our students. Let it be clear, not by teachers and support staff but by the process that is tremendously flawed. Children like mine were made to feel as though they were just a number and an insignificant one to boot. How is this right?

Now let’s take a moment to discuss coterminous competition. I feel that I must share with you the fact that we have competing CDSBEO schools in our communities and they are going to benefit from this decision in a big way. I can share with you with the upmost confidence that many children will be switching to that board. It is happening right now!

Mine will. We have lost our faith in the UCDSB so how can we support it?

My final point will be one from a Canadian taxpayers’ standpoint. I have to ask you based on the above and the continued decision to close the high school in the fastest growing community how can my education tax dollars support the UCDSB? They can’t, it’s that simple. I have the right as a Canadian to vote and say my piece and I also have the right to choose what school board to direct my hard earned tax dollars. Each of my children are worth $12,500 in education tax dollars, well I am sorry to say you just lost $25,000 of tax dollars from my household.

This fight is not over, it is not what is right for our children or our community!

I understand that this devastating and wrong decision can be revoked and I am asking you to please consider the decision to revoke this. Our children and community deserve that much!

Teri-Lynn Beckstead