Now it’s on us – to celebrate our school, and to work for it

Thanking the trustees

Some of the people who have worked so hard to save Madoc Township Public School (at left, from left, Margaret Heard, Wendy Spence and Amy Beaton) offer handshakes and heartfelt thanks to school-board trustees (in foreground is Dwayne Inch; behind him is Jim Patterson, and half-hidden while shaking Amy’s hand is Mary Hall) this evening for their unanimous support of keeping MTPS open and returning to it students in Grades 7 and 8.

Call it a victory for rural education. Call it the best-case scenario for the children of Madoc, Elzevir and Tudor and Cashel townships. Call it a huge shot in the arm for our local economy and way of life. Call it whatever you like. We have something to celebrate.

This evening, the trustees who make up the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board voted unanimously to keep Madoc Township Public School open, and to expand it by bringing back students in Grades 7 and 8 as of this coming September. Here’s the video of the vote that put paid to the whole thing:

Big crowd at the school-board meeting

The boardroom was filled to capacity for this evening’s final votes by the school board on the future of quite a few schools in Hastings and Prince Edward counties. Many supporters of Madoc Township Public School were among the crowd.

After a campaign that lasted more than six months – beginning in November 2016, when administrators with the board announced their recommendation to close MTPS and bus its students to Madoc Public School in the village of Madoc as of this September – our community emerged stronger than when the whole thing started. Madoc Township’s only school will not only be able to carry on its long tradition of excellence in education, but students from our rural area will be able to attend it through Grade 8 rather than (as has been the case for about 45 years) be bused into “town.”

This is an astounding outcome, and one that even the most optimistic among us campaigners for MTPS barely dared think about, let alone hope for, during these past six months.

(If anyone reading this is unaware of the whole saga, which I freely admit I’ve covered in perhaps more detail than anyone wanted, just click on the “Madoc Township Public School” category on the right side of this blog’s home page. It’s all there – every step of the way.)

Thanks to Trustee Danes from MTPS supporters

Centre Hastings Trustee Bonnie Danes (left) was all smiles after this evening’s board meeting, as supporters of Madoc Township Public School, including recent MTPS grad Brooklyn Gylyktiuk (right foreground) and her mum, Wendy Spence, thanked her for her tireless work.

Every single one of the trustees on the board gets my huge thanks – and I hope yours too – for this vote of confidence in our school and our community. But I’d really like to single out Centre Hastings Trustee Bonnie Danes, who I think I’m safe in saying spearheaded the work behind the scenes at the board level in pushing for MTPS’s continued existence. I am sure that Southeast Hastings Trustee Justin Bray worked really hard on this one too. Trustees Danes and Bray: thank you so much!

As for the core of volunteers who have championed the cause of our local school on behalf of the community as a whole – who attended what seems like endless meetings, and put hundreds of hours into researching, planning, lobbying, networking, worrying (hey, I have to be honest) and strategizing – really, there are no words. Here they are, and it is one of the greatest honours of my life that they asked me to be in the photo with them:

The MTPS crew

Some of the core group of Madoc Township Public School supporters and activists who made it happen: from left, honorary member Brooklyn Gylyktiuk (an MTPS grad), plus some of the main crew: Wendy Spence, Margaret Heard, Randy Gray, Denise Gray, Holly Kormann, Amy Beaton – and, I feel shy to say and very honoured because they asked me to be in the photo, me.

So what happens next?

Well, we know that MTPS will be open for business this coming September, welcoming students from junior kindergarten to Grade 8. That is just amazing. And wonderful. And I think we should have a party! Maybe now; maybe in September. Whenever: a time for kids, parents and the community at large to gather on the five-plus acres at Madoc Township Public School for an afternoon or evening of kids running and jumping and exploring and playing soccer or softball or tag or hide and seek, parents taking photos and refereeing and chatting and enjoying the outdoors, and community members sharing their memories (old or new) of happy times at MTPS. With hot dogs and lemonade and conversation and smiles and tears of joy. Wouldn’t that be fun?

But in the longer term (and by that I mean only the very slightly longer term, i.e. starting pretty much now), I think it behooves all of us – parents, community members and MTPS students and supporters – to step up and show our ongoing support. I’m speaking only for myself here, but maybe I’m not alone in having realized that until six months ago, I took Madoc Township Public School for granted. It was there, it was a great school and a great asset to our community, and I assumed it would continue to be all of that.

And then we almost lost it. As Joni Mitchell says: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” Now, I think we did know what we had; but maybe we weren’t doing everything we could to ensure our community would continue to have it.

In the note of thanks that I sent to the 10 trustees last week after they passed their first (though not final) vote in favour of keeping MTPS open, I wrote this:

The confidence the trustees have shown in our school inspires me to do everything I can to ensure the community in turn does everything it can to support MTPS. Ways we can help that come to mind immediately are fundraising for playground, library and other school equipment and resources; assistance in establishing after-school care to help working parents; and support for outdoor-education programs that take full advantage of our school’s unparalleled green space. But I’m sure there are many other ways we can continue and expand our support.

I really mean that, and I hope others in the community will feel the same. If we want to continue to have this splendid school in our community, we can’t take it for granted; we have to work for it! And the more we do to help and improve our school, the greater its success will be – and the more assured will be its continued existence.

Madoc Township Public School, June 12, 2017

This is our school – and I am so proud of it!

One area that I feel strongly about is support for the school library. When I was a kid attending that brand-new school back in the 1960s and ’70s, it had a wonderful library – lots of books, comfy chairs, a welcoming ambience; it made you want to just curl up and read and read and read. Among my happiest memories of MTPS days are exploring all the books on the shelves, learning how they were categorized and shelved, and taking advantage of the newfangled (hey, it was the ’60s) audio-visual equipment. When I returned to MTPS for its fantastic 50th-anniversary celebration in 2011 (even before Raymond and I had bought the Manse and I resumed my childhood Queensborough connection), I was a little sad to see that the beautiful library space had been chopped up and turned largely into a computer lab, with a much-reduced library parked in a former classroom. If someone asked me tomorrow to head up a fundraising campaign to support and improve that library and the experience it offers the kids of MTPS, I would accept in a heartbeat. And this from someone (me) who is seriously lacking in free time – but aren’t we all? Hey, what can you do to support our school? Please think about it.

Our community has just received a priceless gift: our school, saved and supported. Let’s pay it forward by doing everything we can to make Madoc Township Public School even better, and in the process ensure a brilliant future for it, our kids and the rural place we are so proud to call home.

Monday, June 12: a rural school, a critical vote, and the future

Madoc Township Public SchoolTomorrow (Monday, June 12, 2017, which may be today depending on when you read this) is a critical day in the life of Madoc Township Public School. It is the day when the student enrolment/school capacity committee of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board meets (at 2 p.m., at board headquarters at 156 Ann St., Belleville) to formulate a recommendation on the future of the only school in rural Madoc Township and environs (including Queensborough). One week later, on Monday, June 19, that recommendation will go to a meeting of the full board (7 p.m., also at board headquarters) for a vote – and the future of MTPS will be decided. If the recommendation approved tomorrow is for the school to be closed, and the final vote supports that recommendation, there is no going back. Madoc Township Public School, an educational gem with an important local heritage in a perfect outdoor setting with a tradition of great teaching, high standards and individual care for all its children – will be gone.

I hope you agree with me that this would be a tragedy for our area. I also hope that, despite the hugely inconvenient time of the meeting in the middle of the workday, you will come to show support for MTPS.

It’s going to be a busy meeting. (The agenda is here.) The elected trustees who sit on the committee are also to prepare final recommendations for two other school areas that have, like the three schools in our part of central Hastings County, been involved in so-called “accommodation reviews” for the past six months or so. For those who’ve spent those past six months on Mars, those accommodation reviews are a process to close and consolidate schools that are suffering from declining student enrolment. In our area, the three schools affected are rural Madoc Township Public School and two schools in the village of Madoc, Madoc Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary School. (You can read about every step in this six-month process by clicking on the “Madoc Township Public School” category on the right side of the screen on this blog’s home page.)

As is common in these situations, the staff who work for the elected officials (trustees) who make up the board have already prepared their final recommendations, and these are the first thing that will go before the trustees. To no one’s surprise, the board staff’s recommendations are unchanged from what they came up with in the last go-round, which was largely unchanged from all the previous go-rounds. Here they are, verbatim, though if you want to be sure, you can find them on the agenda for the meeting here:

Recommendation #1
Moved:
Seconded:
That the Student Enrolment/School Capacity Committee recommend that the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board approve the consolidation of Madoc Township Public School and Madoc Public School at Madoc Public School effective September 2017, as contained in Report No. B-2, dated June 12, 2017.

Recommendation #2
Moved:
Seconded:
That the Student Enrolment/School Capacity Committee recommend that the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board approve the relocation of Grade 7 and 8 students from Madoc Public School to Centre Hastings Secondary School effective September, 2017 creating a Grade 7 – 12 school, as contained in Report No. B-2, dated June 12, 2017.

Recommendation #3
Moved:
Seconded:
That the Student Enrolment/School Capacity Committee recommend that the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board approve the consolidation of Centre Hastings Secondary School and Madoc Public School pending submission of a business case to the Ministry of Education and approval of funding to build a new K-12 school located in the Madoc Area and with consultation with the municipality regarding location options and plans to enhance greenspace for the K-12 school. Should a business case for a new K-12 school not be approved by the Ministry of Education, Madoc Public School be consolidated with Centre Hastings Secondary School as K-12 school pending Ministry of Education approval for an addition and/or renovations at Centre Hastings Secondary School and then demolish Madoc Public School to create green space for the K-12 school as contained in Report No. B-2, dated June 12, 2017.

I have to tell you that I don’t like these pre-prepared recommendations being set up to look like all that’s needed is a mover and seconder for them to sail through. You can see how hard the board’s administration is pushing for its own recommendations, as opposed to any differing ones that the trustees might come up with through their discussions, to be approved.

That said: it is the job of the trustees – the job we elected them to do, and that they are paid (an admittedly modest stipend) to do – to represent the best interests of the communities they serve, and especially the children of those communities. One has to have faith that on Monday, June 12, they will do their job, challenge this prepared set of recommendations, and come up with something better. What do I mean by “better”? I mean a recommendation that will actually serve the best interests of this community and its children. Because that is the one thing that the administration’s recommendations most assuredly do not do.

Here’s what I would say at tomorrow’s meeting if I were one of the trustees:

“The set of recommendations presented by board staff is unacceptable. I will vote against it, and I strongly urge my fellow trustees to do the same.

“It fails to take into account the hard work and final recommendations of the committee set up by this board – the accommodation review committee – to examine the best course of action for the schools in Centre Hastings. In case any of my fellow trustees need reminding: after considerable study, research and discussions with all affected parties, that committee recommended a) that Madoc Township Public School remain open and be expanded to allow students in Grades 7 and 8 from its catchment area to do their Grades 7 and 8 studies there, thus bringing the school to capacity; or b) that the board of education seek Ontario Ministry of Education funding to build a new kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school on a new site, to house students from all three existing schools, for the 2021-22 school year.

“It fails to take into account the tremendously damaging impact that closure of a rural community’s only school would have on that community.

Madoc Township's former schools

A section of the painting that hangs at Madoc Township Public School showing all the one-room schools that it replaced, and that are part of its heritage. Are we really ready to say goodbye to that heritage?

“It fails to take into account the important heritage of this school, the fact that generations of local residents have been educated there and that MTPS and all the community schools that preceded it and formed the foundation for it have played a critically important role in the life and history of Madoc Township and surrounding areas.

“It fails to take into account the promise for future growth and development in Madoc Township and Centre Hastings that an influx of people from Toronto and other urban centres is having in the area. People are leaving the city because of high housing prices and other issues, and are moving to more rural areas. The imminent extension of Highway 407 to just south of Peterborough, making a commute to work in the Toronto area much more feasible, will only increase that migration of young families to this area. School space will be needed.

“It fails to take into account the fact that Madoc Township Public School in in the best physical condition, by far, of the the three local schools. Moving children from a building in good condition to buildings in considerably poorer condition (Madoc Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary) makes no sense – unless it is a cynical strategy to get government money by pleading poor school conditions. How is that good policy for our children?

“It fails to take into account the recent order by Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter that public and Roman Catholic school boards work together to try to resolve school space and enrolment issues. The ministerial document in question says specifically: ‘Prior to commencing with student accommodation changes through closures, it is our government’s strong preference that school board fully explore joint accommodation arrangements with coterminous boards, particularly to maintain a school presence in a rural or isolated community.’ There has been no evidence whatsoever that the administrators of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board have held talks with their counterparts on the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board on sharing facilities, programs, etc.

“It fails to take into account the problem of lack of program choices for students at Centre Hastings Secondary School. Rather than closing the best, and best-performing, school in the area, this board should be looking at adding the programs that will attract student to CHSS, and keep them there.

http://www.hpedsb.on.ca/ec/directorsOffice/arc/documents/RequestforDelegationStudentEnrolment_SchoolCapacityCommittee2.pdf

One section of the five-acre-plus play area/outdoor space at Madoc Township Public School. (Photo by Denise Gray)

“Incomprehensibly, it fails to take into account the outstanding green space/playground area at Madoc Township Public School. Why would we deprive the community’s students – and students from other board schools – of the opportunity to run and play and explore and lean about nature in this outstanding space?

“Finally, and most importantly, it fails to take into account what is best for the children. Throughout this process, board staff have repeatedly cited “Policy 15.” This board policy says that the board’s first commitment is to “student achievement and well-being.” The well-being of the students who attend Madoc Township Public School now, and who would attend it in the future if it remained open, will in no way whatsoever be aided or improved by closing the school. In essence, this recommendation runs counter to the board’s own policy.

“This recommendation fails on every level. It must be defeated. Instead, through vision and creativity and working with all community partners, we can come up with a much better plan for all children in the central Hastings County area. In the meantime, following the recommendation of the accommodation review committee, Madoc Township Public School should remain open as a kindergarten to Grade 8 school.”

That’s what I’d say if I were a trustee. But of course, I’m not. I hope one or more of the people who are trustees will show their courage and their care for the children and the community they serve, and say something similar. And I hope the rest of the board will listen.

If you care about the future of Madoc Township Public School, please join the conversation at the Facebook group Save Madoc Township Public School. One wonderful thread you’ll find there is a series of posts about why people love our school. You’ll also find some examples of messages people have been sending to the trustees to encourage them to vote against the proposal to close MTPS. Even if you’re reading this a few minutes before Monday’s meeting starts, it’s not too late for you to do the same thing! You can find phone numbers and email addresses for all the trustees here.

We all care about our school, our community and our kids, don’t we? Let’s not give up on them – ever. Even if the vote on Monday, June 12, goes against Madoc Township Public School, there will be another week-long period to lobby trustees before the final vote.

Let’s please do everything – everything – we can to save our school.

How do you pack a church? With a worthy project – and music!

Packed church for music night

We’ve had some popular events, notably special anniversary services, at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough in recent years – but never have I seen the sanctuary as full as it was for Music Night last night.

You don’t see packed churches all that often anymore. But last night at St. Andrew’s United right here in Queensborough, every seat (including some extras in the aisles) was filled. What drew so many people to our little country church? An evening of crowd-pleasing music by some well-known local performers, and a good cause to support.

Music at the Church poster

The poster on the church doors that welcomed the crowd to Music Night.

Our small but spirited congregation organized Music at the Church night to raise money to send two Queensborough children to Camp Quin-Mo-Lac this summer. As you can see me explaining at the start of this video of the event made by Terry and Eileen Pigden of Centre Hastings TV, we wanted to undertake a new community outreach project, and sponsoring two children to attend Quin-Mo-Lac – a highly regarded United Church camp on the shores of Moira Lake just a few miles south of us – seemed like a good idea. It seemed like an even better idea when the idea of raising the money by holding a music night came up.

While you see me standing at the front of the church talking at the start of that video that the Pigdens were kind enough to come and make, I can take very little credit for the evening. It was very much an effort of the entire congregation; various people who’ll be embarrassed if I name them took on the jobs of lining up the entertainers, planning the program, handling seat reservations, setting up the church, and of course baking and serving the cookies that were served afterward.

And what a success it was!

Every seat in the church was filled, and some people watched from our overflow space in the church hall. The musicians – all of whom had donated their time and talent, and more on them in just a second – were absolutely wonderful. Throughout the evening the sanctuary resounded with appreciative applause, and at the end the organizers were peppered with a comment repeated over and over: “Do it again!”

Which I think we’ll have to! Because not only did everyone have a splendid time, but we met and slightly surpassed our fundraising goal. In one night, with this one event, our little church raised just a hair under $1,100, and some donations are still expected to arrive. This not only covers the full $990 cost of sending two kids to camp, but will help pay for any camping equipment they might need – and if not, will go into the send-kids-to-camp fund for next year. How do you like that?

We owe a huge, huge thanks to the musicians who were the “draw” for the night. In order of appearance, they were:

  • Katherine Fleming and Don Bailey (accompanied by Bob Watson), who sang haunting ballads, meaningful gospel, and an old-time crowd-pleaser that got the crowd singing and clapping (and broadly smiling) early in the evening. Here’s a taste of that wonderful moment:

  • Elementary-school students and ukelele superstars-in-the-making Morgan Beaton, Brooklyn Gylyktiuk and Fiona Fountain, along with their teacher, Deb Chatreau. What fun it was to hear them play (and in most cases sing) everything from pop standards to classical music. They too got the crowd singing along enthusiastically, with a rousing version of Harry Belafonte’s Jamaica Farewell. You can watch them (and the other musicians) perform on the video the Pigdens shot, Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Deb, Fiona, Brook and Morgan

From left, teacher Deb Chatreau, Fiona Fountain, Brooklyn Gylyktiuk and Morgan Beaton delight the crowd with their music and youthful energy.

  • Finally, there was a group that had just that day had decided to tongue-in-cheek christen themselves The Extended Teenagers: six performers with deep roots and a long musical history in this area. They are Betty McMurray, Jack McMurray, Betty Brinson, Danny Brinson, Doug Mumford and Joe Saunders – and boy, do they know how to please a crowd that loves country and gospel standards! They even included a haunting new song written by Joe Saunders during which, as one person said, you could have heard a pin drop. Here they are in action; please check out the CHTV videos to hear their songs.
The Extended Teenagers at St. Andrew's

The newly named Extended Teenagers: from left, Joe Saunders on lead guitar, Betty Brinson on keyboards, Danny Brinson on guitar, Betty McMurray on dobro, Jack McMurray on bass, and Doug Mumford on guitar. These performers know how to please a crowd!

I think the performers, the organizers at St. Andrew’s, and all the people who came out to enjoy the music and support the cause deserve a round of applause. What a wonderful, encouraging night for the life and work of our small rural church. Thank you, everyone!

Come stand up for your school – a little later than expected

Accommodation review photos from Quinte News

The process by which the school board decides to close schools has the education-jargony name “accommodation review.” In searching for stories on that subject on the website of Belleville’s Quinte News (which has done a good job of covering the process), I was struck by the images and headlines that came up. They don’t paint a particularly happy picture, do they? There is so much worry about our local schools.

Regular readers will probably remember my post two weeks ago in which I issued an appeal to all of you who care about the future of Madoc Township Public School to show up for two critical meetings of the local public school board.

That appeal to come in person to support our wonderful rural school remains as urgent as ever. But: the date of the first of those two meetings has been changed. So please don’t show up at board headquarters in Belleville this Tuesday, May 23 – unless, that is, you’re eager to sit through a regular meeting of the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board just for the heck of it.

May 23 was the long-scheduled date for a meeting at which the trustees who sit on the board’s student enrolment/school capacity committee were to formulate their recommendation on the fate of the three schools in the Madoc/Queensborough area: rural Madoc Township Public School plus two schools within the village of Madoc, Centre Hastings Secondary School and Madoc Public School. That recommendation was to go to a meeting of the full board on Monday, June 19, for a final and deciding vote.

For reasons that remain unclear to all the local residents/taxpayers whom I have spoken to about it, the board’s administration unexpectedly sent out word late last week that this very important meeting would be moved to Monday, June 12. The word came last Thursday, the day before a long weekend. (Friday, May 19, was a professional-development day, so students were not in school on that last day before the Victoria Day holiday.) This sudden and last-minute change of plans seems odd.

The board administration’s official word on the matter, in the press release posted on its website Thursday, said this:

May 18, 2017—A new date has been scheduled for the Student Enrolment/School Capacity Committee to meet to prepare the final recommendation for the Centre Hastings accommodation review.

The new date is Monday, June 12, rescheduled from Tuesday, May 23.

June 12 was already scheduled for final recommendations for the Belleville and Prince Edward County accommodation reviews. This change is being made to allow recommendations for all three areas to be prepared on the same day. It should be noted that the required accommodation review timeline allows for the May 23rd meeting date to be later than May 23rd although not before.

All other timelines remain the same (see below). The final decision by the Board of Trustees will be made on Monday, June 19.

Interestingly, queries about this sudden change that one local MTPS supporter sent to the elected trustees resulted in an emailed response that started thus:

I understand that you have emailed Trustees about the change of date for the Student Enrolment/School Capacity Committee meeting to prepare the final recommendation  for Centre Hastings. I am responding on behalf of the Trustees.

The message, which went on to echo the wording in the above-cited press release, closed with:

I hope this helps.
Thank you
Mandy
Mandy Savery-Whiteway
Director of Education
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board
613-966-1170 ext 2257

As director of education, Ms. Savery-Whiteway is the board’s top administrator. I don’t know about you, but I find myself wondering why the trustees, the people whom we have elected to make decisions on local education matters, did not respond themselves to such a straightforward question. I would not like to think they were told not to by board staff, and I hope that’s not the case.

Perhaps you are thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a date change.” Let me explain why I’m bothered by it. (And I know I am not alone.)

First: People had already made plans and changed their schedules – work, babysitting and otherwise – to be able to attend the long-scheduled May 23 meeting. A bit more notice of the change would have been both professional and polite.

Sign in front of the board office

An “Our Local Schools Matter” sign pitched outside school-board headquarters the last time the trustees were discussing the future of much-loved Madoc Township Public School.

Second: The originally scheduled meeting was to have been exclusively for the committee to consider the future of the three schools in the Madoc area – and there is a lot to consider. As you’ll know if you’ve been following this story (and if you’d like to catch up, just click on the category “Madoc Township Public School” on this blog’s home page), over the past few months there have been many meetings, many concerns, many discoveries of flawed information and problematic conclusions in materials prepared by and for the board’s administrators. The committee set up by the board to look into the initial proposal – to close Madoc Township Public School, send its kids to Madoc Public, and move students in Grades 7 and 8 into the high school – rejected it, and came up with two alternate plans, both of which would be better for local students and for the community as a whole. (Details on those alternate plans here.) So far those alternative proposals have gone nowhere with the board’s administrators. But that could easily change in a forum for the trustees to openly discuss the process and the conclusions – which is what the May 23 meeting was to have been.

Full house at CHSS

The gym at the high school in Madoc has been packed by people worried about our local schools at both public meetings to discuss the school board’s closure/consolidation plan.

Now, that full open discussion can still take place at the meeting on Monday, June 12. But here’s the rub: as the board’s press release and Ms. Savery-Whiteway’s letter note, the June 12 meeting will also see the committee consider two other highly contentious school-closure/consolidation proposals, one for the Belleville area and one for Prince Edward County. That is a lot of important decision-making to cram into one meeting, and I have concerns (and did I mention that I know I’m not alone?) that the hard facts of time limits plus the limits of human attention spans and energy levels will come into play – curbing trustees’ leanings toward challenging board administrators’ proposals and then going through the time-consuming process of discussing and agreeing on wording for motions that differ from those proposals.

I hope I’m wrong about this. I also hope there’s a good supply of strong coffee for the trustees at the June 12 meeting.

My third (I hesitate to say final) concern: There is only one week between the June 12 meeting at which the final recommendation is formulated and the June 19 meeting of the full board at which the recommendation is voted on. Less time between meetings means less time for community members concerned about the final recommendation to hold discussions, contact trustees, lobby and so on. May I be allowed to be suspicious about this newly reduced time frame?

And by the way: you may be as unimpressed as I was to learn that the June 12 meeting is scheduled for 2 to 5 p.m. Which means it will be extremely difficult for anyone to attend if they work during the day and/or have small kids coming home from school mid-afternoon. That’s a large portion of the community ruled out. Now, members of the public are not allowed to speak at or participate in the committee meeting; but it’s still important for them to be able to see their elected trustees in action when those trustees make community-changing decisions on school closures. Does it seem right to you that this session should be scheduled for a time when the majority of the public can’t attend? Me neither.

At any rate, if you were one of the community members who had planned to attend the May 23 meeting to show support for our school, I hope that you can and will revise your schedule to be at school-board headquarters (156 Ann St., Belleville) at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 12.

And between now and then, please don’t hesitate to call, write and/or email your local trustees and all the rest of the trustees (full list with contact information here) to tell them how important Madoc Township Public School is to our children and our community. This process has been long and hard, and I think we’re all feeling a little worn down. Sudden curve balls from the people holding most of the cards don’t help at all. But a united stand and a strong show of support can make all the difference.

Out of the blue, vintage fencing for the Manse

Fenceless Manse 2

Does this Manse need a vintage fence along the front of the property? I think it most certainly does! I have nothing against the front yard being open to the street, but a gorgeous fence from the first half of the last century would be a lovely touch. And it’s coming soon!

A very long time ago – less than a month after I began this blog, way back at the start of 2012 – I asked readers a question: Has anybody seen this fence? It was a plea for information on how a person (i.e. me) could track down vintage fencing of the type that I remember from my childhood here at the Manse in Queensborough: traditional page wire gussied up with decorative small metal maple leaves. To illustrate what I was talking about, I used a photo I’d found of a painting by Robert Bateman. That lovely painting will surely evoke nostalgia in anyone who, like me, grew up in rural Ontario in the middle of the last century. Here it is again:

Robert Bateman Maple Leaf Fence painting

Maple Leaf Fence, by superstar Canadian artist Robert Bateman.

A couple of years after that first mention of the maple-leaf fencing that I longed for, I did another post on the theme, having come upon a 19th-century farmhouse in Hungerford Township (the rural area south of nearby Tweed) that has that exact fencing along its front:

Maple Leaf fence, rural Hastings County

Many’s the time since I wrote the post that I’ve thought about dropping a note into the mailbox at that house, telling the owners that if ever they decided to do away with or replace their fence, to please give me a call and I’d gladly take it off their hands. I never followed through – mainly because the fence is so well-cared-for that I strongly suspect the owners love it as much as I do, and would, sensibly, not want to part with this nice piece of vintage Canadiana.

Maple leaf fence 2

A gate at a farm outside Queensborough that has some of the coveted maple leaves.

My desire for the maple-leaf fence has come up in a few other posts over the years, like here and here. But I was being realistic when I said this in one maple-leaf-fence-themed post:

“Truth be told, vintage fencing is pretty far down the list of priorities for the Manse. (A renovated kitchen to replace the tiny pantry being pretty close to the top. Followed by approximately 38,212 other things.) But as an eternal optimist, I hold out hope that it might happen someday.”

People, “someday” has arrived! I am thrilled to tell you that five-plus years and well over 1,000 blog posts since my first plea for help on finding vintage maple-leaf fencing, I have found my fencing.

Out of the blue a couple of weeks ago I received a brief note via Facebook Messenger:

“Hi Katherine – my name is Debbie and searching for maple leaf fencing on the internet led me to your blog. I have a roll (approx 40-50 ft) for sale. It is very old and I bought it as a project for my house (1832 log cabin) but I changed my mind and decided on cedar rail fencing instead. Would you be interested in purchasing it?”

Wow!

Would I be interested in purchasing it? I most certainly would! Forty to fifty feet is just about exactly the length we need for a fence along the front of the Manse property. Clearly this was meant to be.

Debbie was kind enough to send photos, which only made my heart beat faster:

Debbie's fence 2 Debbie's fence 1

So as you can probably guess, one day very soon Raymond and I are going to climb into his little red truck and take a drive that will end with us bringing home 40 or 50 feet of just the fence I’ve been wanting for the Manse. Life is good!

But I have to confess something. More than five years after I wrote that first plaintive plea for help in finding the fence that would match the one I remember being in front of the Manse in my childhood. I have come to the realization that – wait for it – my memory is almost certainly faulty. Here; you can judge for yourself:

Melanie and me at the Manse, 1965

That’s a photo of me (at right) and my sister, Melanie, in the gateway that once stood at the end of the flagstone path to the Manse’s front door. On either side of the gate is the fence. Which … does not have maple leaves on it. It is a plain page-wire fence.

So that fence memory that I treasure from my childhood must be from somewhere other than the Manse. I feel certain that the maple-leaf fence was somewhere in Queensborough or its immediate area – but I guess it wasn’t at the house I grew up in.

But who cares? The Manse may not have actually had that classic vintage fence once upon a time, but it should have. And now, I am delighted to say, it will.

Better late than never.

No one else can take your place.

Denise distributes the dimes

Making the message real: Denise Gray, a hardworking community activist in the fight to save Madoc Township Public School, hands out a dime to each of the school-board trustees at a recent meeting – to help them remember how little playground space will be available to local schoolchildren if MTPS is closed.

Many people around here have complained about the dizzyingly fast process set up by the local public school board to decide on the fate of several schools, including the one that serves Queensborough and matters most to us: Madoc Township Public School. People have argued persuasively that it’s senseless and unjust to have a public consultation and review process beginning only five months before the board’s final decision is to be made. Likewise, families with children at MTPS, and really the community as a whole, are appalled that the aforementioned final decision is to be made in mid-June, only days before the end of the school year. If that decision goes against the continued life of Madoc Township Public School, forcing its students to be bused into the village of Madoc starting in September, we will have just a few days to say goodbye to a place that has been immeasurably important in the life of our local community. “Cruel” comes to mind as the most appropriate adjective for this process. It’s cruel to the kids to uproot them so suddenly; and it’s cruel to the community to tear its heart out with so little time and thought given to more constructive possibilities.

That all said – and that all being 100-per-cent true – in some ways it’s starting to feel like the process has been a long-drawn-out one. There was a flurry of meetings at the outset, in January, February and March and even into April; but now, according to the schedule prepared by the school board, it’s a bit of a waiting game. Only two more meetings on the subject are scheduled: one on Tuesday, May 23, when a committee of board trustees prepares a final recommendation for the full board to vote on; and the one at which the vote on that recommendation takes place, on Monday, June 19. At neither of those meetings is the public allowed to speak; that ship has sailed. But – and this is a very big but, and the point of this post:

These are public meetings.

This means that you can attend them.

And I’m going to tell you why it’s critical that you do attend them.

Both of the special sessions at which the public was invited to speak on the school-consolidation proposal were well-attended. (For those who are just joining us from Mars, that proposal is:

  • to close Madoc Township Public School this June;
  • to send its students to Madoc Public School, a building in town that is not in nearly as good physical shape as MTPS, and that has an extreme shortage of playground space;
  • and to move all kids in Grades 7 and 8 from both schools’ catchment areas over to the high school in Madoc, Centre Hastings Secondary.)

But attendance at every other meeting that has taken place as part of the process has not been nearly as robust. Part of the reason is doubtless that people don’t necessarily want to sit through a meeting at which they can’t say anything, especially when the topic under discussion is one that means a lot to them and they really want to be able to speak about. Another reason is probably that the small group of people who have been attending and keeping an eye on the process has done a good job of getting the news out to the community, consulting with the community, and working to ensure community concerns are brought forward in any way possible. It is possible that this group is in some ways a victim of its own hard work and dedication: these people are doing such a good job of representing the community as a whole that the community as a whole feels it can stay home.

Well, that may have been true earlier in the process; but it’s not true now. On Tuesday, May 23, and Monday, June 19, you need to show up.

Both meetings take place at the school board’s headquarters, which is at 156 Ann St., Belleville. The time of the meetings has not yet been announced (though the June 19 one will probably be at 7 p.m.); I will keep you posted, or stay tuned to the Save Madoc Township Public School Facebook page.

Sign in front of the board office

I strongly suspect that it was activists working to save Madoc Township Public School who planted “Our Local Schools Matter” signs on the front lawn of the public school board’s Belleville headquarters ahead of a meeting on the school’s future held late last month. Good one!

The most recent demonstration of the impressive work of the volunteers supporting Madoc Township Public School came at a meeting at school-board headquarters in Belleville on Wednesday, April 26. It was a meeting of the trustees who sit on the board’s student enrolment/school capacity committee, and it was the public’s last chance to make presentations on the closure/consolidation proposal. (That same committee is the one that, on May 23, will be formulating the final recommendation that goes to the full 10-trustee board for a vote June 19.) Anyone who wanted to speak had to register five business days ahead of time; there was nothing impromptu about the exercise.

As I sat there and listened to the presentations, I was so proud of the hard work, research, passion and dedication of the speakers. I was impressed and heartened by the fact that the trustees who sit on the committee appeared to be paying very close attention to the points that were being made, with many of them taking notes throughout. This suggests that the decision is not a done deal, and that there is still quite a bit of hope that the trustees will vote against the recommendation made by the administrators who work for them.

But I can tell you this: that ray of hope will be a whole lot wider and brighter if the community shows up in strength on May 23 and June 19.

Let me return to the presentations made at that April 26 meeting. You can read a news report on it here (and see, in the accompanying photo, me furiously taking notes). But I’d like to share a few points from my notes on what was said, to give you a sense of the good work that’s being done by these volunteers to further our children’s education and well-being, and to nurture the growth and health of our rural community by saving our school:

  • Board administrators have offered no proof that the changes will give local children any access to enriched programs – one of the supposed reasons for the change.
  • The board’s own projections show enrolment at Madoc Township Public School (alone among the three local schools) growing, rather than declining.
  • If students in Grades 7 and 8 from Madoc Township and area were allowed to attend MTPS (as was recommended by the very citizens’ committee the board struck to review its administration’s plan), the school would be at or near capacity. (This recommendation was, it was pointed out, ignored by the board’s administration in preparing its final report to the trustees.)
  • Closing a school with relatively low renewal (renovation) needs – like MTPS – and moving students to a school where much more work needs to be done (Madoc Public School and Centre Hastings Secondary) would be a gamble by the board. The hoped-for outcome would be more money overall from the provincial government to repair decaying school facilities; but there is no guarantee that this money will come. In the meantime, a school in good condition (MTPS)  is lost forever.
  • The lack of any dates or timeliness in the final report by the board’s administrators is problematic. Let me explain: the administration’s final report on what is to happen to our local schools varies from its initial one in that it throws out a vague plan to “make a business case” to the provincial government for money to build a new kindergarten-to-Grade 12 school for all local students. MTPS would still be closed this June, and students in Grades 7 and 8 would still go to the high school in September, so nothing would change from Plan A; but the board would ask the government for money for a new school, and if the government said no, it would consolidate MPS and CHSS as a K-to-12 school in the CHSS building. There is no timeline attached to this recommendation; there is no sense that the funding request has any chance of being approved. As one of the presenters on April 26 said: “Is this smart?” And she added: “How can so many uncertainties get our board to a sustainable state?” Another presenter said: “A lack of timelines implies a lack of accountability.”
  • The high school in Madoc is lacking in the kinds of programs and courses that students in 2017 want to take, which means many of them seize the option offered by the local Roman Catholic school board and catch the school bus to attend high school in Belleville. This causes enrolment issues at CHSS – issues that the public board seems to be trying to resolve by closing an excellent rural elementary school. Why not, asked this speaker, address the real issue by adding useful and innovative courses at the high school, like business? Or agriculture? “Bring these subjects and opportunities to the high school and students will go there,” she told the board. I would file this under “thinking creatively when confronted with a problem.”
  • There are notable inaccuracies in the report prepared for the trustees by the board’s administration about the condition of Madoc Township Public School. Improvements and repairs that have recently been done were not included, and the report suggested that a lot more money needs to be spent on the school than is actually the case. One speaker put it well: “The heavy lifting (on renovations) is done at Madoc Township Public School. It is fiscally irresponsible to close it now.” He also called the inaccurate reporting of the school’s condition “pernicious.”
  • (Which reminds me of a question that keeps popping into my head: How many of the trustees who will decide the future of Madoc Township Public School have visited it? I sure hope that by the time they cast their votes on June 19, all 10 of them will have.)
  • Madoc Township Public School green space poster

    Randy Gray with his scale model showing the playground space at Madoc Township Public School (that would be the great big green area) and at Madoc Public School (the tiny dime in the middle).

    And then there is the playground situation: Madoc Township Public School with its more than five acres of green space; Madoc Public School with a fraction of that. How small a fraction? Well, at the April 26 meeting, (grand)parent activist Randy Gray once again brought the show-and-tell display he’d first unveiled at one of the big public meetings: a large piece of green Bristol board representing the space for kids to run and play at MTPS, in the centre of which is a dime, representing the space that kids in junior kindergarten to Grade 3 at MTPS have to play in. And he had a story about visiting that small MPS space with his little grandson, Liam, an avid athlete like his granddad – his Pop – before him. Here’s what Liam had to say when he took a look at the tiny Madoc Public School playground: “Pop, where are we going to play soccer?” And here’s his Pop’s followup question, directed at the school trustees: “What’s the right answer to that?” (As Randy was making his presentation, his wife, Denise, was handing out symbolic dimes to the trustees, to help them keep in mind this playground/greenspace disparity. Brilliant!)

  • Finally, there was an impressive and moving presentation by two members of Madoc Township council. Councillor Randy Rowe asked the trustees why the board would not, rather than close high-performing and greenspace-rich MTPS, make it a model for other schools. That’s a really good question. And Councillor Carrie Smith summoned up her usual quiet eloquence in making a passionate plea for her community, emphasizing again and again that the board administration’s proposal would result in the closure of the only school in that community. A few excerpts:
    • “Closure of a school leaves people with a diminished sense of community and a fear for the municipality’s future … The constant rural restructuring and never-ending school closures are going to alter rural life in Ontario. We are making these decisions on the backs of our rural communities, but what is the impact to our rural residents’ lives? For our rural communities to thrive, students must be supported by high-quality education.”

    • “The urban migration of the younger generation is putting a burden on our rural communities … The government encourages immigration as a way to fill this void. How does a rural municipality encourage the settlement of these individuals without a school to offer?”

    • “We cannot all live in urban areas. Rural Ontario must maintain a working-age population, and we must find a way to attract immigrants to our municipalities, retain our youth or attract new working-age persons. We cannot attract business without these residents. We cannot attract new people or retain people without the basic requirement of a school.”

    • “Should it not be imperative for the board to encourage physical activity, especially at a time that children are experiencing health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles? So many people have stood up during this process and clearly articulated the importance of the playground at Madoc Township Public School. This area is used by our residents as a common green space – a community hub, if you will – after regular school hours. Once we lose this area, it is gone forever for our community.”

    • “Nothing in this proposal as recommended by the board is what is in the best interest of the youth, residents and the community. And I can only recommend that the trustees seriously consider the option that would see the return of Grade 7 and Grade 8 to the Township School.”

    • “The rate of return on the investment in public education in rural Ontario is worth the risk if we give it a chance.”

There’s no way I could say it better.

So here’s the deal, people of the Madoc Township/Queensborough/Tudor and Cashel Township community: it’s important that we show up and show solidarity in this thing. The closing of Madoc Township Public School is not a done deal; the hard work of a small group of dedicated people has seen to that. Please support that work, and your school, and by extension your community’s future, by appearing in quiet solidarity at the meetings on May 23 and June 19. It is a lot harder for an elected official to speak and vote for a school closure if he or she is facing a roomful of people whose families and community will be hurt by that decision. In a near-empty room, it’s a lot easier.

Let’s pack that room.

Please try to book that shift off work; maybe you can switch with a co-worker. Call up the babysitter, or your mother or father-in-law, or a friend, to look after the kids for a few hours. Tear yourself away from whatever TV show you like to watch; you can always PVR it.

We get one shot at this, people. One shot.

A long time ago, a band called Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded a song encouraging people to show up and protest governmental injustice and wrong-headedness in Chicago. The message of the song was essentially this: Just show up. It makes all the difference. “Won’t you please come to Chicago for the help that we can bring?,” they harmonized beautifully. “We can change the world … Won’t you please come to Chicago, show your face? … No one else can take your place.” Hey, what the heck; let’s have a listen:

On Tuesday, May 23, and Monday, June 19, no one else can take your place in that boardroom at 156 Ann St, Belleville. Our community’s school and future are at stake. Please come.

A hibernating bumblebee, and an extraordinary school

Breakfast at MTPS 1

Breakfast is served! Every Tuesday, community volunteers Suzanne and John Paul Copeland, whose children were fortunate enough to attend Madoc Township Public School, give back to the school by cooking a hot breakfast that all students can enjoy.

The bell rang. The front door opened. Children started streaming in. One little girl came up and, before doing anything else, hugged Raymond around the knees, which was as high as she reached. The look on Raymond’s face was priceless – ever so slightly startled, but mainly delighted and touched. This little girl didn’t know us, and we didn’t know her. But she knew that because we were among the teachers and school volunteers waiting to say good morning to her and the other kids, we were her friends.

“I went to Wolfe Island!” a tiny boy, again unknown to us until that moment, shouted up in great excitement. Looking down, I smiled to notice from his mismatched socks that he had clearly been in charge of his own wardrobe that morning. Soon we knew quite a bit more about his adventures over the long Easter weekend that had just ended: “I saw a bumblebee! It had been hibernating! And it woke up! And then it went into my dad’s car! And it hibernated there!”

This was such a momentous happening that the boy felt compelled to share the story with us, and with anyone else within range, several times. He told it a couple of times before he’d got his coat off, and a few times more after that. It was a great story each time. It was a story about discovering a little piece of the magic of the natural world.

St. Andrew's donation 1

Presenting a donation from the members of St. Andrew’s United Church, Queensborough, to support the excellent Food for Learning program at Madoc Township Public School: from left, accepting the donation on behalf of the school, are students Isaac Shanks, Braden Shaffer and Curtis Gunter; in the rear is French-toast chef extraordinaire John Paul Copeland (and, hidden behind Isaac, Suzanne Copeland); beside Curtis is principal Leanne Pond; and then there’s me, looking as terrible as I generally do in photos. But all in a good cause! (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

Raymond and I were at Madoc Township Public School that morning a couple of weeks ago to present a donation from the members of our church, St. Andrew’s United in Queensborough, to the Food for Learning program at the school. Principal Leanne Pond, her staff and the parents and others who volunteer at the school have made it their mission to see that breakfast, lunch and snacks are available for every child who wants to partake. As Food for Learning volunteer Suzanne Copeland (whom I’ll tell you more about in a second) put it in a message to me: “Eliminating/reducing hunger keeps the focus on the learning agenda. With the thoughtful way (Food for Learning) is set up at MPTS, there is no stigma attached to grabbing a bite to eat. Great things are happening at MTPS!”

I’d wanted to visit the school to present the donation on a Tuesday, because that is a special day in the Food for Learning work at Madoc Township Public School. Every Tuesday, Suzanne Copeland and her husband, John Paul, volunteer their time to prepare a hot breakfast that’s waiting for the kids as they arrive. It was Suzanne who first made our church congregation aware of the program and the need, and I wanted to see the kids enjoying the fruits of the Copelands’ culinary labours. We weren’t disappointed: as we entered the tiny and somewhat makeshift kitchen where Suzanne and John Paul were working, the delightful smell of French toast and maple syrup greeted us. By the time the kids started pouring through the door, a long table in the hallway had been set up with plates and utensils and the hot French toast and a big bowl of fresh strawberries, and Suzanne and John Paul were right there to serve it up and pour the syrup. Some kids lined up right away; others went to their classrooms, where we saw their teachers waiting to welcome them, deposited their coats and knapsacks, and hurried back to join the line. As far as Raymond and I could see, almost every kid came for French toast, or strawberries, or both. And John Paul and Suzanne dished it up with friendliness and lots of smiles, making frequent dashes back into the kitchen to replenish supplies.

The atmosphere was so warm and welcoming – not only for us, the visitors, but for every kid who came through that door. Madoc Township is a small school, and everyone knows everyone else. No one slips through the cracks, ever. If there’s a problem, a worry, a meltdown, a fear, it will be noticed by a teacher, a fellow student, the principal, the office administrator, a parent volunteer, a custodian – in all likelihood, by every single one of them. The children evidently know that when they are inside the school’s walls, they are among friends – people who are there to help them be their best. Raymond and I felt honoured beyond description that we were – simply by being there – seen as being among that group of friends, helpers and mentors by the kids who spoke to us, hugged us, told us their story of a hibernating bumblebee, and lined up for that amazing breakfast.

I had tears in my eyes as I watched the morning unfold and saw how happy, loved, safe and looked-after those kids are – and as I thought of the world of possibilities that lay before them thanks to the excellent education and the support they are getting in that small rural school. Perhaps our young bumblebee enthusiast with the mismatched socks will grow up to be a renowned naturalist or conservationist. Perhaps the wee girl who trustingly gave Raymond a hug will herself become a teacher, or a doctor, or a psychologist – someone who looks after the well-being of others.

The school day was beginning, and it was time for us to leave. Our departure was slowed a bit by the sound of the national anthem coming over the loudspeakers. “Raymond!” I whispered urgently as he kept walking. “Stop! You’ve got to stop for O Canada!” (Can’t set a bad example for the kids.) So we stood at attention in the hallway, along with Leanne Pond and a few kids with whom she’d been walking and talking as she made her way back to the office. And I was delighted to hear the national anthem played in both French and English.

As we collected our coats at the office, two students were there doing the morning announcements over the loudspeaker system. I was so impressed with a) how well they read them, and b) how much was going on at the school. We heard about a book fair, a Learn with Lego event, and all kinds of other activities for that day and the days ahead.

Just before I walked out the front door, I stopped to take a photo of the portrait of Florence McCoy, MTPS’s founding principal, that hangs in the entryway:

Florence McCoy

Florence McCoy photo info

Mrs. McCoy was both a force of nature and my first principal, the person who, when I was a tiny, scared kid first walking through the doors of Madoc Township Public School, oversaw a school where every child was warmly welcomed, and known, and helped and encouraged in whatever way he or she needed help and encouragement.

“Some things never change,” I thought to myself. At least at Madoc Township Public School.

Madoc Township's former schools

This charming painting that hangs at Madoc Township Public School shows all the one-room schools that it replaced, and that are thus part of its heritage. Burris School (third from the top on right) stood where MTPS is now.

I also thought about how saddened and disappointed Mrs. McCoy would be if she knew that officials with the local public school board had targeted Madoc Township Public School for closure. How this beautiful little rural school that she had worked so hard to get off the ground back in the early 1960s – a central, modern school replacing all the one-room schoolhouses that were scattered around Madoc Township and surrounding areas, including Queensborough – might close its doors forever in just a little over two months. Of how the children from our community would never again get that warm, special Madoc Township Public School welcome at the start of their day.

Madoc Public School playground

The tiny play area for students in kindergarten to Grade 3 at Madoc Public School, which is where students from Madoc Township Public School will be bused if the plan of the public school board’s administration is passed by the trustees on the board. MPS is a good school; I can say that from personal experience, having attended Grades 7 and 8 there long ago, and visited it and spoken to students in more recent times. But I think we can all agree that this small playground with the chain-link fence around it is not outdoor learning at its best.

I thought too about the devastating loss of what is perhaps Madoc Township Public School’s most important asset: the five-acres-plus playground/green space that surrounds it, where children can run and play and have fun and learn about the natural world to their hearts’ content. I thought about our little bumblebee enthusiast. In the town school where the education officials plan to move the MTPS students, the playground for the kids his age is a tiny space containing an even tinier bit of grass, surrounded by a high chain-link fence. There isn’t going to be much opportunity for the little guy with the mismatched socks to discover bumblebees or caterpillars or grasshoppers or blue jays or jack-in-the-pulpits or trilliums or toads in that play space. That is a terrible loss. Inexcusable, I would argue.

http://www.hpedsb.on.ca/ec/directorsOffice/arc/documents/RequestforDelegationStudentEnrolment_SchoolCapacityCommittee2.pdf

One section of the huge play area/outdoor space at Madoc Township Public School. A bit of a contrast with what students can expect if they are bused into the town school next year. (Photo by Denise Gray)

Raymond and I had come in separate cars; after our visit, he headed home to the Manse, and I headed to work. As my car rounded the bend in Hazzards Road just past the school, I had to brake sharply as a collection of rather gigantic wild turkeys made their way across the road and over a fence. Their size, their colours, their dopiness (getting over the fence was quite the challenge for them) were amazing and delightful. This is the kind of thing – a little piece of the magic of the natural world – that kids at Madoc Township Public School get to experience all the time.

I am 100-per-cent sure that Florence McCoy would echo me (and in fact probably is echoing me, from behind her sturdy principal’s desk up there in heaven) as I ask: Why would this amazing school, this place where children are so supported, fed, cared for, loved, and exposed every day to a vast green space where they can enjoy healthy outdoor activity and learn about the magic of the natural world – why would this outstanding school be closed?

The committee of school and community representatives that the board itself set up to study the school-closure proposal recommended against closing Madoc Township Public School. The committee urged instead that kids from Madoc Township and area who are in Grades 7 and 8 be returned to MTPS, rather than (as is currently the case) being bused into town to attend playground-challenged Madoc Public School. If that were to happen, it would return MTPS to its original mission – back when Florence McCoy was running the show – of educating the local children until they were ready for high school. It would also mean that the MTPS building would be full, and fully used.

And it would also mean that another generation, and hopefully many generations to come, of kids from our beautiful rural area would receive the warm welcome, strong support and excellent education that Madoc Township Public School offers.

If you think that’s a good idea, please call, email or write the 10 elected trustees who will make the final decision on MTPS. You can find their contact information here. The trustees next meet on Tuesday, May 23, to prepare a final recommendation on the fate of our local schools. That recommendation will be voted on, and the final decision made, at a meeting on Monday, June 19. I sure wish that before that day the trustees would pay a visit to MTPS, like Raymond and I did. Perhaps they should be invited to do so.

Time is short. The stakes are high. And our school is unique and precious – as Florence McCoy would be the first to tell you.

Or you could just ask the boy with the bumblebee story.