At its’ regular meeting on Tuesday, November 1st, the Board of Trustees of District School Board Ontario North East voted to suspend the Board’s Capital Planning process, pending direct discussion with the Minister of Education to determine the plan’s shortcomings.
"The members of the Board, in partnership with senior administration, spent considerable time preparing a comprehensive 5 year Capital Plan in January 2015," commented Board Chair Doug Shearer. "The plan was vetted by members of the Ministry of Education’s Financial Services Branch and the advice received at that time was that the plan was sound. The Capital Plan was then communicated to a large number of stakeholders across the Board area including municipal councils, DSSAB’s and the North East Ontario Mayors’ Association."
"Shortly after meeting with Ministry staff, the first item in the Plan, an extension to Timmins Centennial Public School to accommodate a daycare program, was submitted. Not recognizing Timmins Centennial is a French Immersion school, this request was rejected by the Ministry on the basis that surplus space was available elsewhere in Timmins, and either the daycare or other classes should be relocated to them."
Chair Shearer continued: "The second item in the Plan, submitted in the spring of 2016, was the construction of a new JK to Grade 12 school in Temiskaming Shores. While the Board has never received any direct communication from the Ministry, it would appear from information received through press enquiries, that this item has also been rejected. The rationale given was several small capital grants were provided 2 and 3 years ago to prepare one school for potential community hub use and two minor capital programs in secondary schools to accommodate Grade 7 and 8 students."
Shearer pointed out the Board has not received major capital dollars for expansion or new construction for more than 8 years.
"The failure of the Ministry to actually communicate with either Board administration or trustees demonstrates an incredible ignorance of the challenges trustees and senior administration face. Across Ontario, and particularly in the North, trustees are facing tremendous challenges related to enrolment decline and aging infrastructure. In addition, trustees and staff face ongoing demands that Boards cut costs. The Ministry seems quite happy to leave trustees wedged between their communities and an insensitive bureaucracy."
"Before our Board moves forward with further efforts to put in place practical plans that will effectively address both community and Board needs, District School Board Ontario North East will be seeking a dialogue with the Minister of Education on what is needed to successfully receive capital funding," added Shearer.
"At the very least, the Ministry should demonstrate respect for Boards by sharing information with them before making press releases which catch local officials off guard and unable to effectively respond to enquiries on decisions. Furthermore, I know of no reason the Ministry cannot publish a list of all capital requests made by Boards and the responses given. Capital Plans are subject to motions in open session. There is certainly no reason to treat decisions made in relation to them as somehow secret."
To view the original media release:
Board Suspends Capital Planning Program - November 3, 2016.pdf