The Carlington Summit
by David Darwin.

Here are a few items which highlight recent happenings at the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board.

Administration recommends closure of schools

The Administration of the Board has presented its response to the report by the Independent Review Panel on School Area Review Phase II. The staff response addresses four goals important to the Board in regard to the School Area Review process: to provide funding requirements for implementation of the Board's 15-Year Capital Plan (first five years) by eliminating surplus pupil places; to reduce school operating costs, staffing requirements, maintenance expenditures and equipment/material costs; to provide funding for renovation and retrofitting of older school facilities; and to ensure program viability and effectiveness through the establishment of efficient school sites.

“This School Area Review is a painful process for the Board to go through,” said June Flynn-Turner, Board Chairperson, “but this is something the Board must deal with.” Phil Rocco, Director of Education, pointed out that school consolidation/closure is necessary for a number of reasons, only one of which is to generate funds for new school construction. The Board must also generate provincial grants to do needed renovations at older schools in the system. In addition, the Board must generate savings in staffing and operations in order to invest that money into programming.

The IRP Report contained a number of other recommendations, including the suggestion that the Board adopt a flexible approach to school structure and the recommendation that the Board safeguard its breakfast programs, day care and after-school programs as much as possible. The IRP also recommended that boundary studies be done in several areas in order to try to maximize the use of school space.

The Review Panel urged the Board to make its decisions on school closure/consolidation as quickly as possible and recommended that the Board develop a plan for the rationalization and consolidation of its administrative space.

The Administration response recommends the following:

That St. Thomas School be closed, effective June 2000, and the students directed to Bayshore Catholic School.

That St. Joseph Intermediate School be closed, effective June 2003.

Students who would have attended St. Joseph's would be consolidated at Notre Dame High School (grades 7-12) no later than September 2003.

That St. George School be closed, effective June 2001, and that St. George and St. Mary School students be accommodated at a St. Mary-St. Thomas Aquinas campus for September 2001, when the St. Thomas Aquinas facility becomes vacant.

That students at St. Michael School (Ottawa) be relocated to Ecole St. Paul, effective June 2000, and the St. Michael name be retained. The existing St. Michael School building be disposed of.

That Assumption School and Jean Vanier Catholic Intermediate School be closed, effective June 2000, with the students to be relocated to Ecole Glaude, effective September 2000.

That Elmridge Catholic School be closed, effective June 2000, with students transferring to T.D. McGee Catholic School. The report further recommends that a task force be established to consider alternative uses for the Elmridge facility, if there is no interest expressed in the building when it is offered for sale.

The Board met to make its final decisions on school consolidation/closure on Wednesday, April 26 at 8 p.m. at Immaculata Catholic High School. The final decision and the full text of the IRP and Administration reports are available on the Board's web site at http://www.occdsb.on.ca/.

If all the recommendations contained in the Administration report are implemented, the Board would eliminate 2,095 pupil places. The recommendations would also result in an annual savings of $780,000. The report points out that there would be a one-time cost of $1.6 million to upgrade the schools that would be required to accept additional students.

The Ministry of Education's funding model requires that school boards eliminate their surplus pupil places before they can qualify for funding to build new schools in high-growth areas. In addition, the Board is examining the most effective use of its limited resources in terms of the schools it can operate, maintain and staff.

Board gives approval to school year calendar

The Board approved the 2000-2001 school year calendar, which goes to the Ministry of Education for formal approval. The main dates of interest in the calendar include the following. First day of school: Tuesday, September 5, 2000; Christmas Break: December 25, 2000 to January 5, 2001 inclusive; First day of school after Christmas Break: Monday, January 8, 2001; Mid-Winter Break: March 12-16, 2001; Last Day of School (Secondary): June 26, 2001; and Last Day of School (Elementary): June 27, 2001.

Professional Development Days (all schools unless otherwise noted) are: Friday, October 6, 2000; Friday, December 1, 2000 (Elementary); Friday, February 2, 2001; Wednesday, June 27, 2001 (Secondary) and Thursday, June 28, 2001.

Trustee position declared vacant

The Education Act requires that a position on the Board be declared vacant when a trustee is absent from three consecutive regular meetings without prior authorization from the Board. As a result of Trustee Patrick Mullan being absent from three consecutive meetings in March, the Board was forced to declare the Zone 8 position vacant.

To fill the vacancy, the Board will advertise for any qualified individuals interested in the position to put their names forward. Candidates must submit their applications by Wednesday, May 3. These candidates will then be interviewed by the Board of Trustees prior to the Regular Board Meeting on Tuesday, May 9. Each candidate will be allowed to give a five-minute presentation, followed by a five-minute question period.

Following a review of the applications and interviews, Trustees will vote by secret ballot to select the successful candidate. A candidate must receive a simple majority vote to be appointed. Following completion of the voting, the Board will appoint a new Trustee, effective May 9, 2000 until the end of the current Board's term on November 30, 2000. The appointment will be made during the open session of the Regular Board Meeting on May 9.

St. Pius X students off to Paris

The Board approved an exchange trip to Paris, France by St. Pius X High School students in grades 10, 11 and 12 who are studying French. Students and teachers from France will travel to Ottawa in October, 2000, while St. Pius X students and supervisors will leave for Paris during the March Break, 2001, for a 10-day stay.

Board praised

The Board has been praised for its innovative work by the Education Improvement Commission (EIC).

During an April 19 news conference in Ottawa, the EIC launched its manual citing the most effective work by Ontario school boards. Entitled “Best of Effective Practices,” the publication contains best practices the EIC identified during its review of school boards. In the manual, the EIC identified eight examples of best practices by the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic School Board from which other school boards across the province could benefit.

“We're very proud of this report,” said OCCSB Board Chairperson June Flynn-Turner. “This Board has always been committed to providing our students with quality Catholic education that is second to none. It's encouraging to see our efforts recognized province-wide.”

“This Board has always placed a very high priority on student achievement and public accountability,” said Phil Rocco, Director of Education. “This report highlights the innovative work this Board is doing to maintain quality Catholic education for our students.”

The Education Improvement Commission is an arm's-length agency of the Ontario government established to oversee the transition to a system of district school boards. The EIC traveled across Ontario last year to conduct a review of all the province's 72 school boards.