The future of our school: please mark Jan. 17 on your calendar


It is a Christmas tradition at Madoc Township Public School to serve a full turkey dinner to parents and other members of the school community each December. Here’s one photo from this year’s event, which happened in the school gym last Tuesday. (Hey, I remember when that gym was built! It was a big event!) You can see more photos of this and other activities at our wonderful rural school at its Facebook page, here. (Photo from the Madoc Township Public School Facebook page)

It’s been a while since I posted about the threat to Madoc Township Public School, the small and excellent rural elementary school that children from Queensborough, Madoc Township and surrounding areas have been attending for many decades. As everyone in my immediate geographic area knows, the local public board of education, the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board, is proposing to close MTPS as of the end of the current school year and start busing its students to the playground-challenged Madoc Public School in the village of Madoc. (For those of you who are further away and perhaps less personally invested in this community issue, my earlier posts explaining it all are here and here.)

Me in front of Madoc Township Public School

Me in front of my old school a few summers ago.

Anyway: the threat has certainly not gone away. The school board continues with its process, which is called (in classic education-bureaucracy-speak) an “accommodation review” as opposed to what it really is, which is: a proposal to close a school.

(In a wonderful bit of – what? irony? coincidence? – Madoc Township Public School was recently placed atop every other school in the board’s jurisdiction for student achievement in reading, writing and math in the annual national survey done by the Fraser Institute, a conservative think tank. [I always wonder when I hear that phrase: why do they think in tanks, of all places?] Teachers and education administrators routinely pooh-pooh the Fraser Institute’s reports; parents, who care about their kids’ achievements in reading, writing and math – not so much. For me, the results reinforced what I already knew about the quality of the teaching and learning at Madoc Township Public School, having experienced them first-hand from Grades 1 through 6.)

Anyway, back to the “accommodation review.” Advertisements about what happens next have appeared in the local newspapers in the past couple of weeks. Probably many of the people who care deeply about Madoc Township Public School have seen these ads, but since paper delivery can be spotty (don’t get me started), and since not everybody reads the ads, I thought it would be useful to draw them to your attention here at Meanwhile, at the Manse. So here we go, and I’ll go into some of the details below. (Click on the image if you want/need to see it larger.)

Madoc schools "accommodation process"

What this tells you is this: the board is asking for people – parents and other folks from the local community – to put their names forward to be members of what it calls an “accommodation review committee.” The committee’s mandate is to “act as an official conduit of information shared between the school board and the school communities.” One can only hope that this translates to “share the feelings of the community with the board” and not just “try to make the board’s message about closing Madoc Township Public School more palatable to the community.”

I hope there are people willing to put their names forward to be on the committee. If you happen to be one of them, don’t delay; the deadline to apply is this coming Thursday, Dec. 22. More information about the process can be found here.

So that’s one important thing. Probably even more important is the first public meeting that the board has scheduled to talk about the proposed closure and related moves of students to Madoc Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary School. As you’ll see in the right-hand column of the newspaper ad, that meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m., in the gym at CHSS in Madoc.

As a former education reporter, I can tell you that public meetings of this sort can have a big impact on final decisions by school boards. If people who care about Madoc Township Public School show up in good numbers, speak respectfully but knowledgeably (having done their research and carried out their discussions with fellow members of the community), and decline to back down in the face of what is likely to be a “Sorry, but this is the only way” message from the board and its administrators – it can and will make a difference.

As a former student and proud graduate of of Madoc Township Public School, and a current member of the local school community (and supporter of the public school board through my property taxes), I plan to be there.

I hope you do too.

6 thoughts on “The future of our school: please mark Jan. 17 on your calendar

  1. Thanks for the update Katherine. It’s a shame when any school that has been a part of a community for a long time is threatened, especially since the newer schools around here at least, are built as central, permanent pod-like motherships, with less permanent, separated, portables all around. In the newly-renovated 80s school I now substitute teach at on a regular basis, I don’t even see more than a fraction of the students from k-8, most of whom I’ve known since grade one, because of the design. It’s twice the population of the k-6 community school we left behind, where portables were attached to the school until the last few years. It is great to see interest in your own situation, as too often, it feels like people think new is automatically better. Always reminds me of the Disney/Pixar movie Robots motto “Why be you when you can be new?”

    • So, so true… Madoc Township Public School may be far from perfect, facilities-wise (though I don’t know that there’s much wrong with it other than its once-terrific library room having been repurposed and the reduced “library” shuffled off to a former classroom), and far from new – but it is a fine little school and a very important part of the Madoc Township community. I just wish that once in a while, well enough could be left alone.

  2. Katherine once again we are battling common causes. The elementary school that serves Seeleys Bay is also under threat and the ‘Pupil Accommodation Review’ process is one of the most manipulative and bizarre approaches I have ever seen…through years of public consultation processes. It seems clearly designed to try to shift the conflict to the more local areas and local actors …so that the Boards can say…”see you couldn’t come to a consensus”. I believe the province needs to bring a rural lens to their formulae so that the value of ‘smaller, closer- to-home education’ trumps simplistic critical mass equations that ignore the value of bring connected to one’s own community life.

    • Liz, I could not have said it better. I hope you don’t mind if I quote your words at a public meeting sometime in the bear future. Good luck on keeping your community school open! Perhaps we can share strategies. There is strength in numbers…

  3. The official announcement of the Accommodation Review for Centre Hastings Schools may be found on page 28 of the Jan 5 edition of the Central Hastings Trent Hills News. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday Jan 17 at 6:30 pm in the main Gym at CHSS.

    So far, there seems to be a deafening silence from the Councillors of Madoc Township. Councillor Loyde Blackburn & his siblings went to MTPS. Former Councillor Charlie Robinson & his siblings also went to MTPS. Reeve Bob Sager undoubtedly had relatives attend MTPS. Ditto for Deputy-Reeve Tom Bruce. I’m not sure about Councillor Randy Rowe himself but I do know that his wife & her sister definitely attended MTPS — in fact, I discussed this issue extensively with Randy just after an all-candidates meeting during the last Municipal Election campaign. So why haven’t we heard from them?

    • I remain hopeful that the council will come forward and roundly support keeping Madoc Township Public School open – I’d be really shocked if it didn’t. It seems to me that supporting a critical community institution like this is what elected officials are supposed to do.

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