On Thursday January 14, I woke up to CHOK news playing a sound bit from Gary Girardi, Superintendent of Education of our Lambton Kent District School Board. I was shocked to hear him speak so confidently, implying that closing SCITS was all but a done deal. For a superintendent of our school board to be so bold in what should be a democratic process involving elected trustees, was akin to a judge asserting his opinion to the jury before deliberations. This government official should be playing an impartial role presenting the data that he has compiled through empirical examination of our schools. Yet he seems to have reached his own conclusions and is influencing both the accommodations review committee as well as the public. It looks like the LKDSB is steam rolling right over all rational community discussion on the merging of SCITS and St. Clair to push their own predetermined agenda.
I agree, based on the declining student population numbers and the changes in the funding formula that we are probably going to lose one of our high schools. Having looked thoroughly at the data provided by the school board on their website I have come to my own conclusions. For every point they make for moving SCITS into St. Clair, I see two or more points for the case of moving St. Clair into SCITS. Some will say, the numbers don’t lie, but sometimes they do. The only real figures to trust in this debate are the real dollars previously spent on maintenance, utilities, overhead, staffing and so on. The projected cost estimates are way too vague in most of the information provided by the board. I don’t think we should all be so trusting in what we are being served up.
It appears the LKDSB has a clear agenda to close SCITS that they aren’t sharing with the public. The whole ARC process seems to be for show. The LKDSB comes across as hostile to proposals other than their plan to merge SCITS into St. Clair. We all know the greatest cost savings for the community will be accommodating all of these students in one school whether it be St. Clair or SCITS. Just amalgamating these two schools will eliminate millions of dollars over time in reductions of redundancies and staff. In the big picture whether SCITS is more expensive to heat or St. Clair will cost more to re-roof is almost insignificant in the long run. The bottom line is, we are going to continue to put massive amounts of tax dollars into whichever school we are left with.
SCITS is 1/6 larger than St. Clair in building size. It boasts beautiful architecture and better amenities, such as a grand auditorium, indoor swimming pool and wrestling facilities. It has outstanding technical shops, and is known and respected for fostering the city’s best art, music and theater programs. In addition it plays an integral role in Sarnia’s core and is designated as a Priority School Initiative, which provides considerable extra funding from the government that may be lost if SCITS is closed. When comparing these two schools, it is clear; SCITS has the better facilities. Closing it would do immense harm to Sarnia’s core and the students who will miss out on its unique amenities.
Realistically, St. Clair will probably not end up with a first class auditorium. It is questionable whether there will be any “free Government of Ontario money” to provide for the $14,000,000 plus plus plus projected budget. The tax paying people of Lambton and Kent counties do not want to be bled any deeper into debt and taxes than we already are to pay for this LKDSB dream. Instead, let’s use our “free Government of Ontario money” for things we really need, not to replace the things we already have at SCITS. Our province is broke, we have the highest per capita sub-sovereign debt in the world (at 290 Billion dollars). Let’s wise up. If we truly want to give the next generation something special, let’s give them a quality education in the school we already have and spare them a future of servitude to a crushing load of government debt. Let’s do our best for this community and it’s kids and move the St. Clair students into SCITS. We can do the basic maintenance on that beautiful old girl standing at 275 Wellington Street.
We’ll keep something irreplaceable that we can all be proud of and the Lambton Kent District School Board can get straight A’s from the community it is dutifully bound to serve.