Community stands to speak up for what’s right

I love my job. I absolutely love my job! This month I got to see five communities find their voices individually and collectively.

Five school communities faced a problem, grappled with it, found leadership, shared leadership, found their message, shaped it and pounded it into a clear reflection of their feelings and beliefs.

I got to see them discover how to say “enough is enough” with cohesion, dignity, clarity and a delicious self confidence.

They did it as individuals, as single communities and as a collection of communities.

They discovered how to say to the School Board and to the Province that years of being passed over was no longer acceptable.  Well, it never was acceptable but now THEY were saying loud and clear, “Our children deserve being housed in adequate places. It’s our turn.”

Crescent Town, Secord, George Webster, DA Morrison and Parkside schools have over the last year gone through a process set out by the School Board and the Ministry of Education for determining program and site changes.  In complete conformity with the proper policy, these communities did exactly what was expected of them.  They worked hard and made annoyingly hard decisions with grace and dignity.  They followed the policies, the rules and pathways required on time and well.

They voted and ended up with some happy and some hard to swallow conclusions but they did it as a group for the good of the individual schools and the neighbourhood as a whole.

Crescent Town would become a JK to 4 School because there was no room any more for a JK to 5 school and NO room at all to build. George Webster would become a JK to 8 school. Secord would become a JK to 8 school. DA Morrison would become a JK to 8 dual track French Immersion school. Parkside would move to DA Morrison and their building would take on other uses.

All these communities consulted and did the work of deciding as required. All accepted the decision – some more happily than others – but with good grace.

The paperwork was filled out and sent in and they waited for the good stuff to happen…

The bureaucratic wheels turned and things were falling into place when BOOM! The Ministry of Education froze all our capital funds.

It hit this group of communities like a sledge hammer. They were stunned. They had followed the rules. Their need was documented by the Ministry and the Board.  They were short 800 pupil places in this specific area – the Ministry said so, the Board said so! It was demonstrable. It was real! They had 800 kids with no place to go but into more portables!

Hitting immovable barriers is never a pleasant experience but this was the moment where communities and individuals decide to be victims or winners. This was their moment.

They came alive – first with indignation, then determination.

Meetings were held; jobs parceled out; tasks done; imagination and creativity exploded; media were contacted; material was written and delegations were prepared.

This past Wednesday night amidst an appalling reception from some of the trustees, 250 parents, children, community members, and their Councillor descended on 5050 Yonge St., the Education Centre for the Toronto District School Board.

They spoke with a voice that was loud and reasoned and clear and filled with pride and a demand for respect and action. They were spectacular.

I cried. I was so proud to be associated with this community, my community, I could hardly sit still.

Moments like this are when it is clear why I so love my job. It is, as far as I am concerned, better than, well, you know…

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