Merging Catholic and Public school boards best option for Ottawa-area students and communities

Merging Catholic and Public school boards best option for Ottawa-area students and communities
Posted on February 2, 2017 | James O'Grady | Written on February 2, 2017
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Ottawa Citizen

Former Ontario PC candidate and Ottawa Citizen columnist Randall Denley borrowed a play from the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) playbook in his column today advocating for the merger of the Public and Catholic School Boards in Ottawa. 

On this we agree--The Schools Boards must be merged!

The #GPO estimates $1 Billion can be saved province wide. Why divide local communities and deprive them of a local school? Why destroy an already weakened public school system to support a flawed plan?

The Catholic School Board recruits non-Catholics now to keep their numbers up. The two Boards are essentially competing for students. It doesn't make sense to maintain the administrative and operational duplication while closing local schools at the same time. The students are the one's losing out.

No where in any elementary school handbook does it say mega-schools, like the one being proposed for Knoxdale in my community of Trend-Arlington (in Nepean), are better than small schools for learning. This is especially true for elementary school aged children. 

As a teacher and community leader who teaches and coaches elementary school children, I can tell you that Grade 7 students are not ready to go to high school. These kids are not mature enough to be exposed to the social and sexual pressures of high school. To suggest otherwise is to ignore what every Grade 7 teacher already knows. 

I would like to see the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Trustees punt this football back to Queen's Park and re-iterate their support to merge the Catholic and Public School Boards in Ottawa and throughout Ontario. It is their duty to advocate for every child in the Board equally.

Unfortunately, the OCDSB plan doesn't achieve this objective. English language students are being disadvantaged. In a city and province that are not officially bilingual, its hard to imagine why English language students have to be bused out of their communities in order to study. 

It takes a village, (I.e. a 'community') to raise a child. Depriving these kids of the opportunity to go to school with their neighborhood friends and family hurts them, it hurts their families and it hurts the community as a whole. Both now and in the future, depending on the parth these children take. If the OCDSB can't treat every student and family equally, then their plan is not the right plan. 

Communities all across the province are being hung out to dry simply to satisfy an outdated and unsustainable political promise. Randall Denley is right, this is not about religion, it's about providing the best learning environment and education for all of our children, in the most fair and equitable way.

Let's come together and combine the best of both school boards so we can realize the benefits of the community based education model. Neighborhood elementary schools like Leslie Park PS, Greenbank MS, D.A. Moodie and JH Putman should not have to close. These schools have serviced our communities very well for over 50 years. 

James O'Grady

About The Author

I am an entrepreneur, communications professional, school teacher and community activist living in Ottawa, Ontario. I am also a hockey goaltender, political hack and most importantly, an advocate for grassroots,... More

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