A deputation to the Special Meeting of the Bluewater District School Board February 28, 2017.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Becky Maus, and I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share some thoughts on this incredible job you as Trustees have in caring for the school community in Bruce & Grey Counties.
As has been mentioned on more than one occasion, the Bluewater District School Board has considerable concern with low enrolment and school operation costs.
What a terrible position for you as Trustees to be in the middle of. Obviously, you must consider so many facts, figures, and alternative options in finding ways to address declining enrolment and responsible fiscal planning. Your solutions must include short-term relief and have such long term ramifications that any decision cannot be made lightly. Certainly there is a lot of pressure on the Bluewater Board Senior Administration, tasked with the job of providing the best advice and guidance to you, the Trustees as you attempt to operate this Board of Education as a successful and financially sound business.
The bottom line is that CHANGE is needed at the Bluewater Board of Education.
The secret to "change" is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new.
Change is inevitable – this isn't new news. However, how do we make change positive, rather than a chaotic mess?
It is time to put aside differences, and simply work together.
As trustees, you are our elected representatives from every geographical area of Bruce & Grey counties, and form the inner most circle of the Bluewater Board. However, the crazy pressure and massive responsibility of your role as trustee is thankfully minimized by the tremendous number of people on your team...there are so many people all working together to make the best education for all of our children a reality.
Your team specifically consists of our local municipalities, the County governments, community members, business owners, and parents. Such a strong team, that dates back to the beginnings of Paisley Central School, as even the original property for our school was DONATED for the building in the '60's. This team has history, commitment, and the interest of the community to move forward together.
We are ALL interested in one single cause – to provide the best education for all of our children while maintaining a fiscally responsible budget.
Andrew Carnegie famously said, "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
All of these parties I have just mentioned are all on the SAME team, and it is time we all realize how valuable that is.
We all have something to offer the change that the Bluewater board needs
Throughout the consultation period there was interest in potential partnerships with Paisley Central School. There was an awesome offer from the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie to lease two classrooms over the next five years at a rate of $9.00 per square foot ($14,400 per year) that would partially offset the expected school operations annual deficit. This offer was ONLY a starting point on negotiations between the Municipality and the Bluewater Board- certainly more time and effort can be put into finalizing details and coming to the appropriate rate/usage agreement that is beneficial to all parties. In fact, Arran-Elderslie has already increased their offer to $11 per sq ft. As stated by the Bluewater District School Board, " Rentals and the leasing of space in a single school assist the financial position of that single school and to a limited extent, the board".
Bruce Power is also helping with the CHANGE needed at the Bluewater Board. The current refurbishment that has already started for the Nuclear Plant located less than 25 kms from Paisley Central School and the Paisley Community indicates a clear commitment on this large employer's part to the long-term economic change and growth for our area of Bruce County.
Boundaries are an important part of the makeup of school catchment areas, and in correcting some of the rather obscure current boundaries of Paisley Central School this change would also positively affect other buildings and school communities by decreasing the overcrowding and stress on those other locations.
I've always loved the old proverb...."If you're not going forward, you're going backwards".
There is no such thing as being stagnant in business. The moment you think you're doing everything just as it should be done and all you need to do is keep sailing with the wind in your back, you're asking for your ship to sink. It's often said that change is the only constant in life. Yet humans are evolutionarily predisposed to resist change because of the risk associated with it. Despite this resistance to change, it is now more important than ever for you as Trustees to realize the Change you are directing has very important repercussions for all students, families, and businesses, and the foundation of our rural landscape.
As Trustees, you have the opportunity to provide strong leadership to the BWDSB and initiate positive change.
Do not settle for what is happening across the province, the course that the province is on of closing schools and creating chaos in the world of education, particularly throughout rural Ontario.
Instead, initiate change....
Start at the beginning. This is your opportunity to Change the image of the Bluewater Board of Education.
You are in the education business. Start servicing your business! Take care of your students, families, and staff. They are your greatest assets to any successful business. Consider your competition. Are you encouraging new business, in other words are you looking to grow your enrolment, welcome new students and families into the Bluewater Board, show the general community of Grey & Bruce Counties what an awesome education system we have? My husband and I have three children in two different school buildings in the Bluewater Board. I couldn't be prouder of what both of these schools are offering our kids. The list of accomplishments and bragging rights for both of these schools is endless, and yet for some reason most of this awesomeness remains a big secret, never advertised or shown to the world. Why hide what we have to offer in Bluewater? Get out there and promote growth, rather than meet time after time to figure out how to dismantle a business you have built.
It needs to matter to every one of you around this table, to every employee of the Bluewater Board, and to every parent and community member that supports our Board that we are losing students to other education systems. We have competition out there. Lets stand up to it, rather than just watch the students walk out the door. It must be unacceptable in the future to not KNOW where students are going when they leave our Board, and unacceptable to not CARE about losing a student to another education system.
This team I spoke of that is committed to working with the Bluewater Board must be taken seriously as we move forward. It is time to build strong relationships with the communities in which we are providing education systems. Nurture these relationships, and be sure they are relationships built on trust and transparency.
You have so many factors to consider as you move forward with positive change and growth in Bluewater. This is an exciting time.
However, it will be challenging for Trustees as the Ministry of Education provides you with School Consolidation funding while broadcasting in the media the importance of rural education, extra-circular activities, exercise for children, and keeping transportation times low. Unfortunately for you, the Province is investing billions of dollars into education but making the job of a trustee difficult as the proper tools and infrastructure you need are not in place to provide a solid education system with their current financial investment strategy.
Certainly you are caught between a rock and a hard place. However, as you rise to this challenge you must consider where your growth is going to be and how can you properly prepare for it.
You are being inundated with information, facts, and figures. The role of the Trustee will be to somehow consolidate your crystal ball and somehow figure out what is the best and most reliable information you have to go on. For example, Paisley is the closest inland community from Bruce Power. Many people who chose not to live or can't afford to live on the lakeshore will settle in Paisley. When all is said and done, I would expect the true statistics on growth will not be offered in either the Watson Report or SHS/metro economics report, but rather somewhere down the middle of the two.
Please consider the importance of Change as you move forward with your fact finding and decision making in this current ARC process. Paisley Central School is an amazing environment for our children, and will continue to grow and thrive in the future. Embrace the amazing attributes of the Bluewater Board and start promoting what the Bluewater District School Board has to offer, including this very essential elementary school location in Paisley. Remember that you have a huge team behind you, and that the community, the municipality, the county of Bruce, and many businesses, including Bruce Power, all believe in us.
Now it is your opportunity as Trustees to believe in Paisley as well.
Change is inevitable. Progress is optional.