A thrilling new chapter in the life of Madoc Township Public School

MTPS front entrance, June 12, 2017Today, a new chapter was written in the 56-year (and counting) history of Madoc Township Public School. It is an amazing, positive, slightly surprising and utterly wonderful new chapter.

Today, the 10 trustees who make up the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board unanimously stood up in support of the continued and expanded life of Madoc Township Public School – the rural school that serves all of Madoc Township and environs, including Queensborough. Meeting as the board’s student enrolment/school capacity committee, the trustees rejected a plan by the board’s administrators to close MTPS and send its students to Madoc Public School and to ship all Grades 7 and 8 students from both schools’ catchment areas to Centre Hastings Secondary School in Madoc. And not only did the trustees vote to keep MTPS open; they voted to reverse a change made way back in the early 1970s and bring Grades 7 and 8 back to it! (From Madoc Public School, where they have been bused for the past 40-plus years.) This means that MTPS will once again – as it did when it was established with so much hope for the future back in 1961 – be educating all elementary-school-age students from our rural area. It means that MTPS will be almost at capacity as of this coming September – and very probably full to capacity and then some in a few short years, as the news spreads that this outstanding small school is a going concern and is in it for the long run.

Today the trustees demonstrated faith in our excellent local school, and in the promise and possibilities of rural education and rural communities. I know I speak for hundreds and hundreds of local kids, parents and community members when I say that we cannot thank them enough. Trustees Bonnie Danes (Centre Hastings), Justin Bray (Southeast Hastings), Dave Patterson (Belleville/Thurlow), Mary Hall (Belleville/Thurlow), Jim Williams (Sidney and Frankford in Quinte West), Lucille Kyle (North Hastings), Mike Brant (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory), Jennifer Cobb (North Prince Edward County), Tom Biniaris (Trenton and Canadian Forces Base Trenton) and Dwayne Inch (South Prince Edward County) have demonstrated courage and leadership in the provincewide battle against an urban-focused provincial government that (despite its claims to the contrary) has made it extraordinarily difficult for rural schools to survive and for rural school boards to make that happen.

Trustees, Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board

The trustees who made the difference: from left, Tom Biniaris, Dwayne Inch, Justin Bray, Bonnie Danes, Mike Brant, director of education (not a trustee) Mandy Savery-Whiteway, Jennifer Cobb, Lucille Kyle, Dave Patterson, Mary Hall and Jim Williams.

There is one more step before we can all breathe a huge and final sigh of relief. One week from today (Monday, June 19, 7 p.m., at board headquarters at 156 Ann St. in Belleville), the same 10 trustees will meet again, this time not in the form of a committee of the board but as the full board. There they will be asked to vote again on the recommendations they approved today. You have to think that a unanimous (and, judging by the comments the trustees made and the tone of their voices as they cast their votes, determined and enthusiastic) decision in committee will be held up at the board meeting. But as we say and understand in rural Ontario: don’t count your chicks before they’re hatched. I hope as many of you as possible will join me in attending that final meeting next week, and once again showing your support for Madoc Township Public School.

Facebook Live, school-board meeting

To watch and hear all the comments by school-board trustees on today’s votes, please go to the Save Madoc Township Public School Facebook page, where you can watch the Facebook Live post that MTPS supporter Denise Gray posted.

Meanwhile, thank you to the large number of community members who turned out for today’s meeting! And thanks especially to Denise Gray – one of the tireless MTPS supporters who have attended every meeting, repeatedly lobbied trustees and board administrators, and generally kept the issue alive when some thought it was a done deal and a dead duck – for shooting live video of the discussions and vote so that you can see them. Go to the Save Madoc Township Public School Facebook page here to see that live footage.

If you do, you’ll see some great stuff, like when:

  • Utter silence greets the request for a mover and seconder for the board administration’s motion to close Madoc Township Public School.
  • Centre Hastings’s trustee, Bonnie Danes, presents the alternative motion, which is to keep MTPS open and bring its Grade 7 and 8 students back.
  • Trustee Dave Patterson speaks about what this alternative plan will mean: “What it is is about building a total school community, with Grades 7s and 8s as leaders, as models for the younger children. And giving them also maximized opportunity to engage in sports, and activities, and utilize the advantages of their communities that they live in and come from.” (Applause from us in the gallery.)
  • Trustee Jim Williams recounts a visit that he and Trustee Mike Brant made to MTPS, being escorted on a tour of the school by two of the senior students. “Had a wonderful tour! And while we were there, we were very, very impressed with the green space … There was a lot of green space! There was a track; there was a bit of a toboggan hill; there was a shelter area and lots of grass – and so we were really impressed, especially when we compared that with what we saw in town. The in-town school had very little in the way of anything green – and so there was a thumbs-up for the Township School.”
  • Trustee Tom Biniaris says that his own daughter in Grade 7 attends a Grade 7-to-12 school and it has been a good experience for her, “but from listening to the comments from Madoc Township – it changed my mind.”
  • The trustees vote, in order: Jim Williams: “Yes.” Mary Hall: “Ay.” Dave Patterson: “Yea.” Lucille Kyle: “I support this.” Jennifer Cobb (committee chair): “I support this as well.” Mike Brant: “Yea.” Bonnie Danes (surely the prime architect behind what happened this afternoon): “Definitely yes!” Justin Bray (also doubtless a big influence on today’s vote): “Yes.” Dwayne Inch: “Yes.” Mike Biniaris: “Yea.”

And with that, it’s unanimous. More applause. And tissues.

Even before the vote was done, as it became clear that the outcome would be in our school’s favour, the tears started to flow. I was weeping. The people in front of me were weeping. The people beside me and behind me were weeping. So many people had worked so hard for that moment, and the odds were so against us. But in the end the trustees recognized the merits of the arguments, and most especially the merits of MTPS’s continued existence. We could not quite believe that it was happening, and we were so, so grateful that it was. How could we not weep with joy? Our school, and our community, had just been given a massive vote of confidence.

The future feels very bright indeed.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering (as well you should be, you readers being smart and inquisitive and all that) where this leaves Madoc Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary. Based on what happened at today’s committee meeting, those schools are at status quo.

What may happen down the line is this: a newly built state-of-the-art school housing all students, from kindergarten to Grade 12, from all three of the local schools. But the motion on that front that was approved by the trustees today (moved by Trustee Bonnie Danes, seconded by Trustee Justin Bray, and approved unanimously) was that nothing will happen to the existing schools until the provincial government approves funding for that new school. The approved motion also said that if the provincial government does not approve funding for that K-to-12 school for all area students, Madoc Public School and CHSS would be consolidated as a K-to-12 school – if the provincial government approves an addition and/or renovations at CHSS, and if the government provides funding for demolition of the old Madoc Public School building and creation of green space in its stead, and if there are approved plans for separated learning spaces for the elementary and secondary students at CHSS.

For now, and for September 2017: status quo. And in the meantime: how about we all take a deep breath and think about what’s really best for the kids of our community, and how best to make that happen?

As I drove home to Queensborough from the board meeting, I was still kind of in shock, though the best kind of shock. My glasses were all splotchy with tear stains. I decided I should swing by Madoc Township Public School for a quiet visit (it was after the school day had ended) and a few photos. The one at the top of this post is one of them. Here are a few more:

Madoc Township Public School, June 12, 2017

The Canadian flag waving proudly in the wind this afternoon at what was the original main entrance to Madoc Township Public School. How wonderful that, as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, MTPS can celebrate (and look to the future) along with it!

50th anniversary tree at MTPS

A maple tree planted in front of MTPS on its 50th anniversary, in 2011, “to honour the classes of the 1960s.” Hey, that’s me! And many others. All of whom will be thrilled to see our school continue and maybe even enlarged.

My June art-class tree, Madoc Township Public School

This might or might not be the same tree that a tired and mildly exasperated early-grades teacher took my class outside to sketch (in lieu of doing inside lessons that we were all bored with) one bright June day somewhere around 1967 or ’68 at Madoc Township Public School. On a bright June day half a century (yikes!) later, when our brilliant rural school had just got a great boost, I thought I’d take a picture of it. (Not draw a sketch, which I couldn’t do back then and still can’t.)

Florence McCoy, 1st Principal

I never tire of looking at the plaque that was proudly placed on the front wall of Madoc Township Public School when it was opened in 1961, and especially the plaque above it paying tribute to Florence McCoy, its first principal. As I’ve written many times before, Florence McCoy was an astounding educator, the kindest of people, and the best principal ever. As I walked by that plaque yet again today, I thought: “Florence would be SO proud of what her flock has done to save this school.” Good on you and your lasting influence, Mrs. McCoy!

Just as I was leaving, a teacher who was working late came out of the building and gave me a friendly greeting. “Did you hear what happened at today’s school-board meeting?” I asked. Oh yes, the teacher had; all the teachers had. “It goes to show the power of community,” the teacher told me.

Yes it does. Yes it does.

26 thoughts on “A thrilling new chapter in the life of Madoc Township Public School

  1. Congratulations Katherine and Ray and the scores of community members who fought the good fight to save MTPS from closure. Your hard work and success is an inspiration to the rest of Canada.

    • Oh my goodness, John – thank you for the kind words! So many people worked so hard to try to bring about this result and, in the process, do the best thing for local kids and the local community. It was a very tough battle, and it won’t be over until the final vote next week, but if it goes as expected and MTPS is saved, there will be a lot of people to thank.

  2. The power of the people, the community and you Katherine for voicing the “real” heartwarming stories around MTPS and its past, present & future. All have tirelessly presented what it is truly like in children having the great opportunity to attend this country school. Couldn’t be more proud of your efforts, your success and for relaying this to all of us throughout your long journey. What a wonderful 150th gift to all! d&e brick (Pigden)

  3. Having worked for a school board, I can tell you this never happens. “Accommodation review” is a death knell that is, much of the time, a practical and long overdue acknowledgement of painful reality. As I read your posts, I thought “What a wonderful case they have to save this school and especially that amazing play area. Too bad it’ll never happen.” So needless to say, I’m gobsmacked, impressed and delighted for you and your community. In my defence, a few weeks ago at dinner, I explained the campaign to my family and added “If it stays open, it will be because of Katherine’s blog.” Not that you did it on your own, of course, but that you connected people and provided information, rational analysis and hope. Congratulations to everyone involved; the kids must be over the moon!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Nancy. It makes me feel proud for our hard-working supporters of MTPS that we accomplished something that, as you say, is practically unheard-of. But boy oh boy, it was a lot of work and a lot of hours for everyone. One behalf of all of them – thank you again!

  4. Madoc Township is a fantastic school and I always loved going there when I worked for the school board. This is amazing news that I’ve been following. Well done to all in the community that believed in the school and contnued to fight for it.

  5. Congratulations Katherine and to your whole passionate team of rural believers – I love the idea of returning the Grades 7 & 8 as a way to solidify the school, but also for the role they play as leaders/mentors

    • Thank you so much, Liz! It is wonderful to see a real win for a rural area – our rural area. Thanks to the continued existence of our wonderful school, we can go on to do so much! (Including attract young families, which as you well know is so important.) It’s just so great!

  6. Hi Katherine: This is wonderful news! I am so happy that the trustees have done the right thing. And it’s even better, considering that Grades 7 and 8 will return to MTPS, bringing the school population to near-capacity. Thank you for all of the updates and for your dedication to this important project.

  7. Congratulations! A job well done! I’m a fan of the MTPS since my oldest son Jason attended in the 70s and 80s. He was dislexic and entered Grade Eight reading at a Grade Five level. Art Gough was the principal then and personally took Jason under his wing, tutoring him on his own time. Jason graduated being able to read at the proper level. I suspect if not for the care he received from this excellent school and teachers he would not be where he is today ( working at Toronto Pearson Airport in security) Just an example of how small schools like Madoc Townsip Public School help it’s students succeed . Our local schools do matter!
    Shelley Morley

    • Thank you so much, Shelley – especially for sharing the story of Jason’s experience and how MTPS and Art Gough in particular helped him reach his full potential. The school was so fortunate to have Art take over when the amazing Florence McCoy retired; Art too was an incredible leader and principal. What an amazing history MTPS has – and how many other stories like Jason’s there must be!

  8. Wonderful news, Katherine. You and the others who have worked on behalf of Madoc Township Public School must be so proud and happy.
    Doris Pearce

    • Thank you so much, Doris! Yes, we are proud, happy – and kind of exhausted! But if all goes as expected next week and the trustees vote again to keep MTPS open and bring the Grades 7 and 8 students back to it, you can bet we will be celebrating. It is such good news for this community that I know you care a great deal about.

    • Thank you so much, Karen! I hope what has happened with Madoc Township Public School will inspire others in rural areas to keep fighting the good fight for the health and future of their communities.

  9. My Grandson went to this school and I am proud to say with his great start there he is now working in a Ottawa Hospital as a lab Tech. When a child is raised in a comfortable helpful atmosphere such as the school has it makes for a good start in their nurturing process and I for one and apparently many others are glad to see some prevention in this governments drastic decisions to close out local community schools, good work on your part, this country needs more people like you.

    • Thank you for your words of congratulations, Mary! This success came about through the very hard work of a bunch of people; my own role is really just as the chronicler (and sometimes perhaps interpreter) of what has transpired. Thanks too for sharing your personal story of the impact that a small, caring school can have on a child’s future!

  10. Katherine the people in the community certainly have you to thank in many ways for all the time attending meetings and keeping all informed of what was going on, lots of people, if they did not have children attending would have just said “no bad”. Raymond and yourself are such caring people and as I have said many times, such an asset to the community and surrounding areas.
    As usual, a job well done and Raymond is so supportive of you in all your undertakings.

    • Barbara, you are too kind! Thank you for the nice words, and you are absolutely right when you mention how supportive Raymond is; truer words were never spoken. The hard work of trying to save Madoc Township Pubic School was undertaken by a number of people – I’m just the “voice,” if you will. If the motion to keep the school open and bring back the Grades 7 and 8 students is approved this coming Monday evening, there will be a lot of people to thank – and a big celebration to be had!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s