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OPINION: Parent claims systemic mismanagement in high school closure debate

'Both our Director of Education and, as is my understanding, one of our Superintendents live outside of the district, working flex hours and using travel days to commute'
Near North DSB office turl 2 (1)2015 12 2

By Karen Matthews, North Bay


Dear Ombudsman,

I am a parent whose child attends a Near North District School Board school, and I have been working for over a year with other parents whose child(ren) also attend NNDSB schools, grandparents, former Board employees, current Board staff, and members of the community. We came together during the Accommodation Review process that involved all three of our Board’s public English high schools, along with three English elementary schools; we continue to work together because we have discovered the systemic mismanagement by Trustees, the Director of education and senior administration, opaqueness (in place of transparency), in addition to coercion during the ARC process. 

Both our Director of Education and, as is my understanding, one of our Superintendents live outside of the district, working flex hours and using travel days to commute. The former makes close to $200k and the latter just over $140k. We find this unacceptable. Our students deserve full-time, dedicated staff and our taxpayers deserve Board employees who reside in the District and contribute to its economy.

Some staff who have hailed from various regions other than North Bay and District have moved their families to the area and made it their home, getting to know families and students who they serve. That they are unfamiliar with the societal struggles many of our families face, and unaware of some of the inherent issues the large number of First Nations students/families deal with makes those who commute from hours away out of touch with the children and families who are their reasons for existence - they are veritable visitors to the area, making changes that won’t affect them in the least.

The ARC process was underhanded and, by the facilitator Paul Addie’s own admission,  behaviour by Board employees could easily have jeopardized the entire process. The committee was made up of upstanding citizens who submitted thoughtful recommendations, however, these were ultimately overlooked by the Board, who substantially altered them to suit their own agenda.

The Board Preferred Option was a 2,247 student super school and they begrudgingly passed a 3:2 consolidation motion while warning it would be a stop-gap on the way to a single super school. Most recently the Board decided to fast-track its post-ARC school closure decisions, leaving a misled community confused and angry.  We need your intervention. Students, by the hundreds, are making plans to switch Boards (the declining enrollment will be a self-fulfilling prophecy affected by these hastily-made decisions). Staff at all six affected schools are worried about their futures, and fearful of retaliation if they speak publicly about their concerns. One Trustee who has spoken out against this has been met with hostility from the Chair. 

Kind regards, 

Karen Matthews