Wilson to Trustees: Stand With Local Families(March 31, 2011) Jim Wilson wrote a letter to the Simcoe County District School Board today urging trustees to reject the staff report recommending the closure of Duntroon Central Public School. In his letter, the Simcoe-Grey MPP argues trustees should support local families instead. The following is the text of Wilson’s letter:
March 31, 2011
Ms. Debra Edwards
Simcoe County District School Board
1170 Highway 26
Midhurst, Ontario L0L 1X0
Dear Ms. Edwards:
I am writing to provide comments for your deliberations on the Pupil Accommodation Review process for Clearview elementary schools. As the local Member of Provincial Parliament, I urge you to reject the staff report and support local families instead.
I appreciate that many of your decisions are based on the direction you receive from the Ministry of Education and I know that it was the McGuinty government who forced you into this accommodation review process. In my view, that should never have happened in light of Dalton McGuinty’s clear commitment to the electorate not to close rural schools in his current mandate.
Every school in Simcoe-Grey is a rural school. As I have told Mr. McGuinty, the headquarters of the Rural Ontario Medical Program is situated in Collingwood, while our municipalities all belong to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association. We benefit from provincial programs like the Rural Connections Broadband Program and the Canada Ontario Municipal Rural Infrastructure Program. We have a low population density and a vast agricultural community.
When I speak to local families, they tell me they are satisfied with the education their children receive at small schools like Duntroon Central. They beam with pride when they talk about its unique programs and the camaraderie amongst students and their families.
When I speak to local business owners, they express concern that school closures affect the viability of local enterprises. We all know that schools are often the anchor of the neighbourhood and a vital piece of the local economy. In rural communities, it's more than just enrolment numbers. It’s about attracting and retaining young families.
I was happy that when I met recently with families at Duntroon Central that Clearview Mayor Ken Ferguson, Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage and Councillors Orville Brown, Doug Measures and Thom Patterson took the initiative to attend. Clearview Council clearly understands the big picture. It's more than the parents and students of today; it's about the municipality as a whole and the viability of the communities within the township.
I think this near unanimous community support should not be taken lightly. In my view, it is a terrific opportunity for trustees to make use of this support to pressure the McGuinty government to keep its promise not to close rural schools – instead of implementing their dirty work.
In Toronto, it’s not uncommon for the community to rally with their trustees to save school swimming pools. In fact, when they did so last time, they secured $12 million from the province to keep their pools open. I’d argue that we have a higher, more noble purpose. We aim to save a school, not a pool. We’re trying to keep kids out of portables, preserve exceptional community education and build the local economy.
I believe it is critical to be mindful of the fact that as of today, there are 188 days until Ontario families go to the polls. From more than 20 years of elected experience, both in the Legislature and in Cabinet, I can say that I would be stunned to find myself sitting next to a candidate at a debate who was advocating for the closure of rural schools. In light of this reality, it is premature to close rural schools now. In fact, at Queen’s Park, even the Secretary of Cabinet would be hesitant to apply significant new public policy decisions so close to an election.
In closing, I want to thank you for your hard work and support of local families. I urge you to stand with them – the people who elect you and who overwhelmingly support keeping rural schools open.
Jim Wilson, MPP
Related Information:February 8, 2011 -The case for rural schools
February 2011 -Wilson pleased by community desire to keep rural schools open
January 23, 2011 - Put the brakes on rural school closures says Wilson
February 4, 2011 -Community Update: Rural Schools
June 3, 2008 -Debate on rural school closures from Hansard