Why do they do this?

One thing that all parents who  have shown some resistance to the ARC process that it is the process is a consultative sham.

These same complaints come up consistently in every contested area.

This school year we have heard complaints from parents that the staff at the ARCS do not listen to their concerns.

  • They say that the board staff has a preordained agenda at each ARC that they do not vary from.
  • They say that meetings are called and cancelled at the last-minute.
  • They say that difficult questions are consistently ignored.
  • They say that agendas of public meetings are engineered to sidestep the issue that the ARCs are about school closings.
  • They say that staff has recruited former students and others to speak in favour of school closing in order to skew public meetings in favour of its agenda.
  • They say that final ARC reports are rewritten by staff to reflect the board’s agenda even over the objections of ARC members.

None of this should be part of a true consultative process so why do parents see this happening time after time.

ARCs are organized and run by superintendents who are administrators.

They are used to having teachers, students and sometimes parents do what they want out of respect for their position and their the superintendant’s ability to influence their work experience.

But school closing is not an administrative problem. School closing is a political process as is community consultation.

They are not trained or used to the combative nature of consultations.

All they can do is follow the board’s or the province’s directives about the ARC process.

On top of this there is the boards plan.

No board goes into an ARC without a clear idea of how it wants to reorganize the schools and which school(s)l it wants to close. Of course this is not bad in itself. We expect them to plan.

But the full nature of the plan for an ARC area is not revealed to the community for months after the start of the process.

Usually the community is asked in the first of four mandated meetings to envision the school they would like their child to attend and what facilities would be needed to do this.

But the process is not about program or facility improvement. It is about cutting facilities and programs.

So the first few meetings are wasted because the superintendent refuses to deal with the real issue, school closing.

Each superintendent knows these plans and is paid to bring in a board favourable ARC report.

That is why staff tend to manipulate the information that comes to the ARC meetings and fail to answer important but difficult questions and generally make us feel irrelevant to the decision process.

For example, the board planing experts make gloom and doom predictions of school populations far into the future where they cannot scientifically see.

The public usually sees through this. They know what is happening in their communities and so angry meetings happen.

The super intendant’s job at the ARC is to close schools in order  save the board money and, more recently, sell the school land to developers. That is what the board is paying him to do.

Our job, as citizens is just that; to fight this process. We have to make it very difficult, politely at first, for any board to close a school by asking those difficult questions and sometimes being disruptive.

This does not mean that schools will not and sometimes should not close. It does mean that when a school does close, the decision should have gone though a rigorous and legitimate community consultative process.

Expect more of this next school year.

Published on May 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Boy, this is required reading for any community beginning an ARC process. Basically, it’s a complete sham. What a waste of people’s time. Additionally, it is dishonest: to pretend that there is a process that requires community input and instead is about manipulating the community into believing that they have been consulted and their interests and concerns fully heard. No wonder people are angry. I get angry too when I find I’m being lied to and manipulated. Wow. What an eye opener.

    We need full disclosure of what the agenda is – an agenda that our government feels can only be achieved by lying to and manipulating the public. Usually, that’s a very bad sign that suggests it is an agenda that has nothing to do with the public interest.

    So, again, we need to ask, whose agenda is being served? Mr. Young has suggested in another post that it is a neo-conservative agenda. I didn’t expect to find that in Ontario with a Liberal provincial government – Shame on me for being so naive.

    The first step in fighting a battle seems to me to be “know thy enemy.” We need to understand who and what we are fighting here or we will be running around in circles. Shedding light on the lies and manipulation is an important step. Now we know at least this important piece of the puzzle.

    I think Naomi Klein’s book “Shock Doctrine” might be important reading for anyone that wants to understand the neo-conservative agenda and how they utilize crisis, whether real, contrived or imagined, to achieve their goals.

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