What’s killing Cedar and Yellow Point?

How can a few people on a school board vote to kill a community? Why was there no public referendum on such a serious issue as closing all the schools in Cedar and Yellow Point?  Also, how is it that the Nanaimo Regional District was never involved in this decision to close all of these schools? Once again we are looking at property and construction issues and who stands to profit.

Here is the latest press release from Save Cedar Schools:

Save Cedar Schools challenges trustee claims that the decision to close every school in the Cedar area is about giving students the best education possible. 

“Trustee Saunders voted against the closure of Cedar Community Secondary School in two of the three votes needed to close the school on June 26th, 2013,” said Steve Rae of Save Cedar Schools.  “And now she is out in front of the media saying this is about better educational opportunities.  To tell us it’s about a better education is an insult.  It is about getting the schools in the board to 95% capacity so they can build a new NDSS.”

On July 31, Trustees Terry-Lynn Saunders and Bill Robinson stated that the decision to close every school in the Cedar area is about offering Cedar students the best educational opportunities available.  Some important background information on Trustee Saunders in regards to this process include:

  • Trustee Saunders was on the board of trustees when the decision to build Cedar Community Secondary School was made just over 12 years ago.
  • 12 years later she spoke eloquently at the board meeting on June 26th about why the decision to close Cedar Community Secondary School was a bad decision for the students of Cedar.  She objected to the motion to close Cedar Community Secondary School during two of the three votes and stated when she changed her vote that while she “did not agree with the closing of CCSS”, but she would “not stand in the way of the larger board plan”.

This statement, made by Trustee Saunders on June 26th indicates to Save Cedar Schools that she understands and recognizes that the educational opportunities of Cedar students from k-12 are being negatively impacted as part of the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan.

The district staff reference only ONE report to justify the optimal secondary school size of 600-1000 students and elementary school size of 200-400 students.  These optimal school sizes are having huge impacts on the way students in SD 68 are educated.  Important details from this report include the following:

  • This report clearly states that secondary schools “serving student populations exclusively or largely from diverse and/or disadvantaged backgrounds should be LIMITED to about 600 students OR FEWER.”
  • The same report states that “smaller schools do not seem to be an impediment to the learning of more advantaged or high achieving students” and that “smaller schools have higher retention rates for struggling students and thus are likely to have lower achievement rates because in larger schools struggling students are more likely to drop out.”
  • The same report states that as a result of these higher retention rates smaller schools are “more efficient and cost effective” because “small secondary schools manage to graduate a significantly larger proportion of their students than do larger secondary schools”.

Save Cedar Schools has read this SINGLE literature review and wonders if the trustees did their homework and read the same SINGLE literature review?  This was the only report that was referenced as justification for the sweeping changes to the way students across SD68 are educated in the Enhance Facilities for Learning Plan.  If the Trustees did read this report, then they would recognize that this plan does not offer the “best educational opportunities available” for the students of Cedar, Barsby or the rest of the students of SD68.

Save Cedar Schools has been busy since its inception on July 9.  Some examples of our activities over the past month include:

  • The collection and presentation of over 2500 signatures on a petition to the Minister of Education.
  • Joining forces with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, other parent groups, local politicians and provincial organizations dedicated to ensuring that quality remains part of public education.
  • Area A director Alec McPherson has had two motions of support passed by the RDN noting that the RDN was not consulted on the closure and disposal of the Cedar area schools.  (See attached)
  • As a result of the RDN motions, a letter to the Minister of Education from the RDN has been sent informing the minister that the RDN was not properly consulted during the official consultation process.  (See attached)
  • The Save Cedars Schools coalition has documented over 100 examples of the trustees’ failure to respond to community members across SD 68 during the consultation process and the number keeps growing daily.
  • The Save Cedar Schools coalition has requested answers to 8 outstanding questions that should have been answered during the consultation process.  Continued failure to answer these questions demonstrates that the trustees did not exercise proper oversight in their approval of the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan (see attached letter sent to the board on July 22, to which we received an automated response.)
  • Save Cedar Schools has requested a spot on the August 28 Board of Trustees meeting.  We are awaiting a response from the board.
  • Save Cedar Schools is working on a comprehensive, costed alternative plan to achieve the goal of acquiring funding for a new NDSS while still retaining k-12 education for the students in our community.
  • Save Cedar Schools has engaged in a letter writing campaign encouraging people across SD68 to write to their trustees, local MLA’s and the education Minister expressing their feelings and beliefs in regards to the Enhanced Facilities for Learning Plan.

“We know that we might seem like a group of parents that are just angry that our schools are getting shut down. But we want the community to know that we are fighting for something bigger than just the bricks and mortar of the schools in the Cedar Area.  We understand tough decisions need to be made and are willing to make them.  We are in favour of a new NDSS but not at the cost of our community.  We believe this can be realized through a meaningful consultation process.” said Steve Rae. “The district staff and board of trustees rolled into our community with a highly questionable and educationally unsound plan and told us they were closing our schools.  Then they did not answer one question about the plan during the consultation process.  Despite the trustees’ every effort to pit Cedar against Barsby, our outrage is not about the school our students will be bused to.  Barsby is a great community school with a committed PAC and faculty.  Our outrage is directed at the grossly unfair way this plan has been justified and enacted.  Save Cedar Schools feels that if this can happen to us, it is only a matter of time before the board and district staff start making other questionable decisions across SD68 under the guise of ‘better opportunities for students’.  This has galvanized us all.  We really feel we are standing up for quality public education across SD68 with this battle and we are in it for the long haul.”

Save Cedar Schools has a Facebook page with more information, including opportunities to volunteer for the Coalition.  They can also be found on twitter @SaveCedarSchool and reached via email SaveCedarSchools(at)gmail.com.