Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Far Right in Thunder Bay: Tamara Johnson's groupies speak

Wow, the internet is a fascinating place. Now, a while ago, I did a blog post about Thunder Bay's Queen of far right, racist politics, Tamara Johnson. She is quite the piece of work, along the lines of a Tommy Robinson or Marie Le Pen. If she was living in the UK, I'm sure her favourite hang out events would be EDL rallies and Combat 18 meetings. She is racist to the core. And, sadly, she has a following. In Thunder Bay, Ontario, she got somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000 votes in the municipal election, and this was based almost entirely on a racist, far right agenda, where the demonizing of First Nation's people seemed to be the only platform she ran on. Bizarre and sad.

So, today, on Thunder Bay's own ultra right wing, and very bizarre Facebook page called Dirty Laundry Thunder Bay an admin named Chelsea went on a tearing whine fest about how poorly Tamara Johnson has been treated by the social media masses and Thunder Bay media, posting some screen captures of various posts, some of which were pretty threatening indeed.

Now, I do not agree with death threats in the slightest. Just don't do it, okay. It's serious business and it crosses a line. I mean, come on, Tamara is a complete idiot, but threatening her with death, even if it isn't a serious threat, is counter productive and wrong. I need to put that in here now to make sure that is clear. And now we shall carry on.

Anyway, the text of the Facebook post goes as such.

"Tamara Johnsons face was continuously criticized on Social media and on many facebook groups like CC by Derek halstead sikver . Her profile pictures were commented on by strangers whose purpose was to bully her . She was called a bimbo, a whore and a hooker. Her family was threatened and intimidated. The bimbo comment is most recently posted on tbaynews thread. How can we as a society stop bullying if we allow people to make these types of comments against women?. Tamara volunteers in our community and is a good mother yet is still continuously threatened . Why did tbaynews ignore these threats?. They were posted as a plea for help from her and not one person did the right thing to stop it . By allowing comments about an individual who is no longer a public figure. This furthers the notion that equality for women does not exist . It also furthers the notion that Caucasian woman can be bullied and told to go kill themselves without consequence. Until our community, news media , and police take a pro active approach to end ALL forms of Social media bullying .. Nothing will be accomplished and it will continue to segregate people. Although there are certain groups that are rabiddly against Tamara, there are even more fans and supporters. Nobody can deny that her popularity soared within a 1 year span that garnered her over 10 thousand votes in the city of Thunder Bay. This huge support base needs to be respected. Freedom of speech needs to be supported. We live in a democratic, civilized society and should not tolerate bullying/harrasment at all. We have been sent countless evidence of support for this woman and unfortunately too many screenshots of the abuse directed toward her. Most are too vile and racist to post on our site, pure racism directed toward Tamara - Admin Chelsea"

Oh my frickin' GAWD. The irony. Are these people for real?? Tamara Johnson is now even more of a victim?? How did this happen? What planet are these people living on? A blatant far right racist spews racist stuff and runs on an electoral platform that appears only to be based on the issue of race, and yet somehow she is a victim?

Now, I believe in free speech. I am not against that. As I said in the last blog post, I fully support people with racist views to share them. That way, we know who the vile racists are in our society and we can oppose them, counter them, protest against them and challenge them. They deserve being challenged. Free speech is a two way street. You say something stupid, and someone challenges you. If you put it out there, people will respond, especially when you are in the public eye. Now, of course, threats of violence and violence are not acceptable, but to feel as though one spewing racist, divisive, arrogant, cruel and disgusting stuff should be immune from accepting low brow rhetoric in return is just, well, stupid. If you set the bar low, as Tamara did, the response is probably not going to be warm, fuzzy and gentle.

But, apparently, the feedback to Tamara's bullying approach to race relations is in itself bullying and how on earth can we allow this in a free and civil society? Wait, so absolute racist bullshit is somehow good for our society, but saying not nice things to or about the person saying the absolute racist bullshit is crossing some line? Are you people for real? Do you even listen to yourselves, or are you too caught up in your own pure white fantasy world where whites are the victims of those oppressive Indians who are so racist against whites all the time. For frick sakes, this is stupidity beyond belief.

Ya, I defend her right to free speech. But I also defend the right of people to exercise their free speech right back at her, as they have done. No violence, no threats, I don't condone those, but I do condone absolutely grilling her and calling her out as the far right racist she is. It all makes me sad to see what my old hometown of Thunder Bay has become. I mean, racism has always been an issue there, there are no two ways about it. BUT, with the arrival of a far right mouthpiece who decided she would run for both municipal and provincial politics, Thunder Bay is sliding deeper down a scary slope, and 10,000 supporters of this far right candidate have proven how bad it is.

Here is some good stuff for you to read to find out more about our far right friend/foe, the Queen of Thunder Bay racism, the pride and joy of her far right supporters, one Tamara 'I'm Always the Victim' Johnson. Enjoy!

Tamara Johnson election ad 'shocks' Anishinabek Nation

Tamara Johnson: 'They threw me out' over Facebook comments

Mayor Keith Hobbs calls Tamara Johnson's statements 'disgusting'

An Open Letter to Tamara Johnson

Former PC candidate says she was booted from party for speaking the truth

‘Racist’ election ad sparks outrage

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Earl Grey and LaVerendrye: THE SHOWDOWN!

Well, tonight was the night. The BIG night, when both LaVerendrye School and Earl Grey School got to make their presentations to the Winnipeg School Division Trustees in regards to a proposed school swap. In this corner, LaVerendrye School, dedicated to taking over Earl Grey School in a swap! In that corner, Earl Grey School, desperately trying to stop the swap and save what we have worked so hard to create.

Now, once again, I know. LaVerendrye has a serious overcrowding issue. We got that. And there is no one, from what I can see, that doesn't acknowledge this. It's just fact. How they got to that point is just bad decision making by several parties. We got it. They need help. However, as was made abundantly clear by the presenters representing LaVerendrye, the ONLY option that they seem to be remotely interested in is a full school swap with Earl Grey School...oh, and by September 2015. But, according to one presenter, they aren't interested in displacing kids, ignoring the fact that this is EXACTLY what a swap is.

Yes, the whole evening, during all of LaVerendrye's presenting, not once, NOT ONCE, was any of the other options available to alleviate their overcrowding issue given any weight, if mentioned at all. The ONLY option that these folks are interested in is a full swap, with EG, in September. End of story. No room for negotiation. Yet, YET, apparently, as we were told, we are supposed to be a community, working together for the best solution for our WHOLE community. What this basically translates to is, LaV wants Earl Grey School, and because it is good for LaV, it is good for the whole community. Got it.

We were told that a swap really is in the best interest of everyone...including the taxpayer. This is based on...what? How do they know this without an assessment that determines which of the options available is the most cost effective? And, also, most cost effective does NOT translate to most effective overall. And, as far as I am concerned, a deal that displaces Earl Grey students, dissolves our Junior High program, puts the Early Child Care Center, day care options, Earl Grey Community Center programs and Montessori programs at RISK (if not out and out wiped out) is NOT the most effective way to deal with the LaVerendrye overcrowding issue.

It just seemed rather condescending of the LaV presenters to imply that the losses will be minimal and that there really is not much to this. No, the losses are NOT minimal. We lose our Jr. High program with absolutely no guarantees of where our Jr. High kids are going to go. We know that the Earl Grey Children's Centre is licensed ONLY for Earl Grey School. It ain't going anywhere. And, the distance between the LaV school site and Earl Grey School is significant enough to make transportation (so far we have been offered, vaguely, a walking school bus option) between the two schools a challenge for kids who are, say, 5 years old, particularly when it's blizzardy or extremely cold outside. And, has anyone ever tried to walk with 20 five year olds in full winter gear? Gawd dang it. It takes me 10 minutes to get my two kids across the frickin' street in the dead of winter.

But, you know what? Earl Grey is able to adapt, you know, we can make anything work. It's all possible. We can do it, we can overcome any obstacles to make this work. The Earl Grey families can do it, we were told by a LaVerendrye presenter! That's great. Apparently, the LaV folks can't adapt to any other options other than taking over Earl Grey, but us at Earl Grey can adapt to anything. Funny how that is. It's always easier for the OTHER party to adapt. Thanks guys! No, no, don't worry, we will be just fine. You told us we will be, so, heck, who are WE to question your mighty judgement. GAWD!

So, basically, in a condescending way, we were told that we have nothing to worry about, and our concerns are overblown, or...whatever. Well, you can guess how well that went over with the Earl Grey families in attendance. Let me tell you, no bridges were built tonight. Having our concerns swept under the table, once again, was not a nice experience. But, apparently, if the swap goes through, we, the Earl Grey families, are going to come together, have a great Barbeque and share some Memory books of some sort, according to one Lav presenter, laughing at all the memories before we go on to the bigger and better things open to us in a smaller school that will limit our growth, where the Earl Grey school community is ripped apart. Oh, the joy! It's so nice that they painted this rosey picture of how beautiful it will all be when after their hostile takeover. What condescending wankery. The nerve.

The Earl Grey representatives did do a good presentation and laid out well how the school is utilized, pointed out the fact that Earl Grey is GROWING, pointed out that our school population is pretty darn reliant on the programs offered by the adjacent community centre (called Earl Grey Community Centre, for frick sakes) that we will be pulled away from, and that we have a SUCCESSFUL, integrated, complete package that should be emulated, not torn apart, that is years, if not decades ahead of it's time. I mean, we really DO have a great setup that took years to develop and build, that is a complete, pre-school to grade 8 experience. And, a swap is going to dismantle this, no question about it, no matter how much some wish to insist that it won't. We will be going back years, if not decades from where we are now. And, the impression from last night is not only do LaV parents not understand the nature of our school or what we have built and why a swap would be so destructive, they basically showed that they don't give a fu....I mean, darn.

And, frustratingly, we keep being told that Earl Grey School can hold 600 students. We KNOW that it can't. This is an outdated figure. Completely outdated .There needs to be a reevaluation of the school here. With class size limits, dedicated rooms for computer labs, etc, it is no longer able to suit the needs of 600 students. So, why does it matter? If LaV is going into this with this idea that Earl Grey is an under utilized school, with cavernous amounts of space collecting cobwebs, then they have got their hopes way up, and this is a problem. The truth is, if LaV is going to keep growing as it seems to be doing, it ain't going to be all that long before they are looking at space issues at the Earl Grey site. It's that simple. And then what? We get kicked out of our school, shoved into LaV, and then in a few years, they have to attend to the issue of space...again? Why do this? Just fix this RIGHT from the beginning. Do what should be done, which is to open a second French Milieu school that will allow the program to grow. And leave Earl Grey School where it is, so it can grow, like it is doing. Don't put US in a situation where we don't have room to grow and continue to develop.

There ARE other options, but they were not discussed by LaV tonight at all. They only want to pursue ONE option, and that is the one that just happens to be most destructive to Earl Grey. And they are fixated on it, believing it is the end all and be all answer. But, apparently, they are willing to work with us to make the move work. That's just lovely! Thank you SO much for that. Unfortunately, you know what, we don't WANT to move because it is a bad deal for us. What LaV wants is for a swap to happen, no matter what. They aren't interested in working with us for a solution. They are interested in dictating the solution, which is a full swap, and they could care less about us.

Given this, we don't really have much choice. Our back is against the wall. We have been shoved into a corner. We know what we want, and that is to save our school and it's community which is working so well, but is under threat of being dismantled. This community IS divided. It IS an us vs them scenario, despite the fact that no one wants that. But, we can't escape it. We are two parties pitted against each other, and the divide deepened last night through lack of understanding, empathy, plenty of misinformation and just general condescending rhetoric from the LaV presenters. And, we at Earl Grey have to defend what we have, for our kids today and into the future, especially when the other side, at LaV have determined that they will ONLY pursue one option, and that is to take over our school and push us into the LaVerendrye school site. That's it. No other option works for them. And we are left to do everything we can to stop the swap.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Progress? Understanding between Earl Grey and LaVerendrye?

I know, I know, this blog of mine has become devoted to one topic lately, and it is the proposed swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye School. As an Earl Grey parent, I've been pretty consumed by this topic because it is going to directly impact the future of my children and all the kids they go to school with. So, it would be irresponsible for me to not take this seriously.

Today, I opened up twitter to find a rather well written blog by a LaVerendrye parent who I had previously seen on twitter who seemed to have little interest in the views or concerns of Earl Grey parents. I think we have made a break through. I think our speaking up has finally got through to Lav parents who are seeing that yes, we at Earl Grey have plenty to lose in this swap. It's becoming obvious that the Lav parents are starting to understand that we have to be worked with, not just pushed aside, that we shouldn't just be expected to roll over and accept this swap. So, I, personally, want to acknowledge this olive branch of sorts. I think it is a sign that we are making progress at least in mutual understanding. I don't think at any point Earl Grey families have not understood or acknowledged that yes, indeed, LaVerendrye has serious space issues at their school. They do. And they need help. So, now, I feel that there is at least mutual understanding across the board of what each side is facing. 

Does it change how I feel about the swap? No. I still feel that in the end Earl Grey has way too much to lose to not try and prevent a swap. I don't think that what we are doing at Earl Grey to prevent the swap is anything any other school wouldn't do. When faced with program loses and displacement, we, just as they are doing over at LaVerendrye, owe it to ourselves and our kids to stand up and do our best to preserve them, and I hope that the LaVerendrye folks see and understand this. No, it isn't personal. We are two groups with very different ideas trying to persuade a middle party that has to decide on this what the best route to take will be. Obviously, at Earl Grey, we are against a swap. We don't want it. We see there are other options and we encourage those to be explored. LaVerendrye, however, seems to have narrowed into one solution which is a school swap, which unfortunately is the option that is the most destructive to Earl Grey School. So, we must keep pushing forth, expressing our views, explaining why we believe that this is a bad deal, especially for Earl Grey.

ADDED SECTION: Because I keep getting questions about what exactly we will be losing, as if some LaVerendrye parents think this is going to be seamless and painless for Earl Grey, I will outline it here. First off, we LOSE our Jr. High programming. This seems to be heavily downplayed which is extremely frustrating. We have a 50 percent rise in applicants for our Jr. High next year, yet if it disappears, we have no actual catchment area and no guarantees on where exactly our kids will go to Jr. High, or any understanding of how transportation works. So, this is a huge, disruptive lost.

Furthermore, the Earl Grey Early Childhood Education programs are licensed ONLY for Earl Grey School. At the moment, they cannot move over to LaVerendrye, which means we lose them in our school. Some are downplaying this, saying that both Lav and Earl Grey are just blocks from each other. That's lovely, but at the moment, all we have been told is that we might have walking bus service between the two schools. We are talking about 5 year old kids walking back and forth between schools in Winnipeg's famously brutal winter. It is a large enough distance where this is just not acceptable.

Also, we have students who rely on the lunch and after school programs that are at the Earl Grey Community Center which is on the Earl Grey School site. We lose that connection to those programs. These are vital for so many students, especially from single and low income families.

Want more? We have a GROWING school, contrary to reports. How long until LaVerendrye School will no longer be adequate for our needs if we are moved over there? Sticking Earl Grey into a smaller school limits the growth Earl Grey can experience. And for what? If LaVerendrye moves into Earl Grey, I think they will be surprised to find they don't have the cavernous space they expect to have and, if they are growing as fast as they appear to be, will soon run out of space at that site. And then what? Earl Grey will have been dismantled. And for what? Basically a short term solution, when what is needed is a second French milieu school.

We have plenty to lose. And it is important to fight for this. It is frustrating to see people downplaying our losses. Or, trying to gloss over our very real concerns and questions over how this whole swap will work, because at the moment absolutely NOTHING has been clearly outlined, except what we have to lose. We have not been presented with one single gain yet! Just lose, lose, lose!

Now back to the blog as originally written:

So, are we a community divided? Yes and no. We are divided on this issue. But, none of us have to make this into a personal division between one another. We all have to live with the choices made in the end of course. It should only be on this subject that we look at ourselves as divided. In every other way, no we are not, and our feelings about this subject should not bleed through into other parts of our lives. I know that is hard with such an emotional issue. This is how I am approaching it, and I hope others are as well. Of course we will come through this. But, at the moment, we have a very divisive issue put in front of us. There is going to be damage done to the community. It is inevitable when a divisive issues comes forth. I, personally, am not going to have my connection with this community as a whole damaged, but I can see and understand how this might not be the case with everyone. It is a risk that comes from issues like this. 

In the end, yes, it is up to the Winnipeg School Division and the Trustees to make the final decision. The best all of us can do is present our cases. I still stand against a swap. I will still encourage parties involved to look at options that do not include Earl Grey School in it's solution. I will still stand up for the future of our school, it's programs, the staff and the students. Stop the swap. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Earl Grey School: The inconvenient reality of resistance

Boy am I getting frustrated by this whole school swap stuff. I wrote about it before when I posted an open letter to the Winnipeg School Division and Trustees petitioning against a school swap between Earl Grey School and LaVerendrye.

Since writing that letter, I have become increasingly frustrated as opposed to feeling better about the situation. Part of the reason is social media interactions with some of the LaVerendrye parents pushing for a school swap. Now, I get where they are coming from. Their kids are in a school that is no longer meeting their needs. They have run out of space. I got that. They are losing programming because of space issues. Again, I got that. I do feel for them, I really do. They have a tough situation there, and it needs to be fixed. And it sound be fixed. It has to be fixed.

However, there is this single minded obsession with some that the full and complete answer to their problems is to have a school swap with Earl Grey School. There is this perception that Earl Grey is a giant school that is half empty, and so they want it, come hell or high water, and want it for September 2015! Well, for starters, no the school is not half empty. Somewhere along the line this figure of a 600 kid capacity has come about which is an outdated and inaccurate number of kids that can fit into Earl Grey School. Yet, this seems to be the figure that people are sticking too. We are seen as a school with a population of somewhere around 230 hogging a school that can hold 600 kids. Well, no, it can't hold 600 kids and if LaVerendrye does succeed in pushing us out of the school, they will quickly find that their 360 students won't have space coming out of their ears either.

Apparently, LaVerendrye is a growing school. It is a school in demand. Lovely. I'm glad they are successful. However, if it is this great growing school, how long before the Earl Grey School site is no longer adequate for their needs. I would say much sooner than later. Plus, heck, Earl Grey is growing as well. This seems to be forgotten about. Putting Earl Grey into a small school when it is growing doesn't make a lot of sense. It's like if I were to buy skinny jeans and eat a cake everyday for breakfast. This is a pretty good reason right there to open a second French milieu school (the format of LaVerendrye) that would allow their programs to grow, not just in our community but the whole city.

What is bothering me the most is the lack of empathy or understanding coming from the LaVerendrye folks. I shouldn't paint all of them with the same brush. There is a certain core of determined folks that want Lav to move to Earl Grey and they want it done by September 2015, and they ain't stopping til they get that. And, they really don't seem to care about the Earl Grey folks in the slightest. What other parents there think I'm not sure. I'm only going by the most vocal who want a swap and only a swap, and they appear to have zero concerns about us, which is hurtful and concerning. I mean, come on, what are we, chopped liver? (I hate liver)

Even when presented with the reality that if Earl Grey moves to the LaVerendrye site, we will lose programming (Jr. High for starters), they seem to balk and either not believe or just completely downplay our legit concerns. Well, quite frankly, this isn't helping me have much sympathy for them. They want our school, bottom line, telling us how great this is for our community as a whole, and how a school is just bricks and it's all about the community. That's nice, but the Earl Grey COMMUNITY will actually be torn apart by this swap. That's the concern we have. Come on guys, respect and understand it, Is that too much to ask? We have legit concerns. We know we would lose our Jr. High. We know that the Early Childcare Centre cannot transfer over to Lav with us and therefore we have no clue what the future for that will be (other than the fact it looks bleak, at best). Our connection with the Earl Grey Community Centre, which so many kids rely on for lunch and after school programs is at risk. We do stand to lose a lot, and the LaVerendrye folks have to understand this. Heck, the Winnipeg School Division has to understand this. The people who are making decisions have to understand this. The WORLD has to understand this (the first priority for people in Syria I am sure).

What is particularly frustrating, as I go back and look at news articles about this topic, and even past Parent Council Meeting minutes is that Earl Grey was promised, and I emphasized PROMISED that there would not be a swap, that it was off the cards and a dead deal. However, here we are in March 2015, just months before a swap would happen, facing the very real possibility that a swap could take place. How did this happen?? Well, pressure from LaVerendrye parents happened, for starters. They have decided that of all the options available to us all, they want Earl Grey School and nothing can convince them otherwise. And now we have to go on the defensive to save our school, our programs and even jobs within the Earl Grey Community, and it has all kicked off within such a short amount of time. We are working with such little information about how this thing will work, and the full impact it will have on Earl Grey. What we already know about an impact is not overly comforting. We know we will lose in the end, and we haven't even gotten into some of the other impacts that we don't even know about yet.

Yet, it seems that some Lav parents have got this whole thing figured out, including how things will work with our day care and Earl Childhood Education programs, etc. Oh ya, the plans are all drawn up it would appear, just no one bothered to tell us. The question is, where are THEY getting their info from and at what point was anyone going to fill the Earl Grey folks in as to what was going to happen to us? It almost feels like some at Lav wanted to push this through with as little resistance as possible, keeping Earl Grey out of the loop for as long as possible as to not threaten their grand plans. I'm sure there will be many at Lav who claim this isn't the case, but it sure feels like it. And then, some want to say this is best for the community. Glad they have determined what is best for the community and that it is Lav parents having their way, and screw everyone else. Thanks for that. I didn't realize that is how a community worked. Learn something new everyday.

I can't take away the fact that they have good reason to do all of this. Yes, they have a huge overcrowding problem and they want a solution yesterday. Understandable. And there are solutions out there that would not impact Earl Grey, but they do not appear to be attractive to the Lav folks. Fine. Whatever. They want what they want. I can't fault them for that. They are doing what they feel they need to do for their kids. Well, guess what, we gotta do what is best for our kids as well. Our kids matter here just as much as theirs. We want the best possible outcome to give them the best possible future. If a school swap goes through, however, I don't believe that we are getting a good deal. I think we are getting a bad deal in fact. LaVerendrye is mad because they are losing programming. Fine. Understandable. Then why put Earl Grey in a position where WE lose programming?? What about our programming? Isn't it as important? To me it is. I want to see Lav kids have all the opportunities they can get. But I also want to see my kids have those same opportunities. So, it makes sense to come up with a solution that will ensure this. A swap does not. So, I don't have much choice other than to fight against a school swap.

I'm not fighting it to be a jerk. I'm not fighting because I dislike Lav and want to hinder their progress. I'm not fighting because I don't want Lav students to get the programs they need and deserve. I'm fighting because I know there are other alternatives that don't end up screwing Earl Grey in the end. Can anyone blame me? Can anyone blame any of the Earl Grey parents doing the same thing? I don't think so. Unfortunately, we have been given such a short time (a matter of a few months between being told this is now actually an option....well, not just an option, but the PRIME option, after we were lead to believe it was off the table) to fight for our school. This doesn't give much time to figure out what is going on, and with such scant info being given as to how this will all work (other than the guarantee that we LOSE Jr. High and that our Early Childhood Education programs are only licensed for the Earl Grey site meaning it might not be able to move with us, we lose our connection with the community centre we rely on, we lose space, etc) we've already been screwed and messed with and we haven't even got to the confirmation we will have a swap. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

#stoptheswap Open Letter Opposing Earl Grey/LaVerendrye School Swap

Dear Trustees, Winnipeg School Division administration and other interested parties,

It is my understanding that because of overcrowding issues at Laverendrye school (Lav), one solution that has been put forth is a “school swap”, where Earl Grey School would swap places with Lav. Based on media reports and social media interactions, it seems that some of the Lav parents are quite serious about this idea, and appear to be pushing Trustees and the Winnipeg School Division in this direction.  As a parent of two children at Earl Grey School, I am deeply concerned by this proposal and frustrated that it is even being considered.

On the surface, this sounds simple. A school swap implies just that. It implies that two schools would just swap spaces and everyone would go along as if nothing happened. But what is being proposed is NOT a school swap. This is taking one group that has a space issue (LaVerendrye) and completely displacing and dismantling a tight knit community (Earl Grey) to solve their problem. It is taking a group that has no problem, is having success and building a top notch school and making them suffer to accommodate the needs of LaVerendrye.  In fact, it baffles me that Earl Grey even ended up in the equation as a way to solve LaVerendrye’s issues.

The students of LaVerendrye have everything to gain from this proposal which is why it is attractive to that group. However, the students of Earl Grey basically lose everything. How is this advantageous to anyone? The Earl Grey school community will lose its connection to the Earl Grey Community Centre. It will lose its connection with Dante Day Care, and it may lose its in-school Early Childhood Education programs and Montessori school. These are valuable programs that, if Earl Grey moves, will create a wealth of problems and pain to students and their families. Again, LaVerendrye will gain these, and we will lose them. How is this fair? Once again, this is not a swap. This is one group pushing another group out and gaining everything the other group will lose.

Furthermore, the proposal for a school swap involves taking away grade 7 and 8 programs from Earl Grey. Essentially, the system we have in place will be decapitated. In a school designed to have children from all grades work together, learn from each other, guide each other and participate in activities together, two of the senior grades will be taken away. This destroys so much of what has been worked for at Earl Grey. Where will these kids go? Dispersed to other schools where they will be just a number?

To outsiders, on paper, a “school swap” may look like a simple, easy solution to alleviate a problem. It is not. It will come with severe consequences for all of the families and students of Earl Grey School. This is NOT merely a school swap. This is tearing apart a school community, ripping all the pieces that make it a successful, productive and satisfying whole to shreds in order to solve a problem that another school is facing.

What I ask is that this option be dropped from the table, for the sake of the Earl Grey Community. There are other options that will help LaVerendrye while not dismantling Earl Grey. These are what should be pursued for the sake of all.  Earl Grey, with its small class sizes and tight knit community that works together with the community center, early childhood education and Montessori programs, is a system that should be emulated, not destroyed.

The option that, from my perspective, makes better sense is developing another French milieu school elsewhere, possibly at the William Osler site. If the demand for these types of schools is so high, it really won’t be long until the Earl Grey site will no longer meet the needs of LaVerendrye either, which means it won’t be that long before the school is facing the same issues all over again. There are numbers floating out there suggesting Earl Grey can hold 600 students, and this appears to have supporters of the swap feeling that Earl Grey is a half empty, dying school. Well, there is actually only 1 empty classroom. All others are being utilized. And, from my understanding, the 600 number comes from outdated estimates before class sizes were capped, before dedicated classes for computer labs and a library were needed. The idea that 600 students can fit into the current Earl Grey site is just not accurate.

If the School Board and Trustees believe we have too much space in the Earl Grey School, I think you would be hard pressed to find a parent that wouldn’t support the opening of the space to new programs or new students and welcome proposals to share the school with others. But, I don’t think you will find a single parent in the school comfortable with the idea of having Earl Grey as we know it completely dismantled.

I live across from Earl Grey School and am watching as our neighbourhood is drawing younger people who are buying up relatively affordable housing and renovating. It seems to me that it won’t be too long before the demand for a school like Earl Grey increases.  Earl Grey, if stuck in the LaVerendrye School site, will be looking at space issues before long, as will Lav in the Earl Grey location. All that will have been achieved is some shuffling around and destroying of the Earl Grey School community that is showing success, where students are happy, where we have no issues. Temporary gain for Lav, but long term pain for all involved is not a solution. That is what a school swap delivers.

Earl Grey families and students face many losses if this proposed school swap goes through. Why do this to the Earl Grey kids? Why do it to the families of Earl Grey students? A better solution must exist. Many others have been put forth worth considering. For the sake of the Earl Grey community, please drop the school swap idea. Let Earl Grey continue with its successful formula. Allow Earl Grey families to continue to enjoy the programs they rely so much on that we will lose in the event of a swap. Let Earl Grey survive.  Stop the swap.