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Therese Rive - Friend of NDSS

Presentation to the DSBN, Tuesday April 8, 2008

My name is Therese Rive and I'm a parent and resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake. My husband and I have two sons that currently attend Virgil Public School and we as a family feel that it's absolutely necessary to have our own community high school.

NDSS is the school our sons want to attend. We feel it is the responsibility of the DSBN that all attempts are made to accommodate the students of NOTL at their community high school. Students should not be leaving their community to attend high school in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls based on programming.

Every attempt should be made to keep these students at their community schools in NOTL. I do not think that the board has given its full support in this area. I find it inconceivable that the board uses the same policies and programming for our one and only high school as they do for cities for more than one high school. How are other small rural schools funded for programming? To me, it is not acceptable to assume that parents want to send their children out of this community to have their secondary education, however the District School Board has allowed this to become a standard.

What are the parameters for system level programming? Is there an honest effort to provide students in NOTL with any of these programs? Or has it become easier to bus them away?

If a student selects a course that is not available at NDSS, does the simple request allow them to transfer to another school for their entire schooling career? Could a student take home the course not offered at his community school at another and then complete the balance of their academic requirements at their community school?

When does a course not offered become a program? What authority is provided to the Principal to reject a transfer to another school and what backup would they receive from the school board? How are these system level programming requests monitored? Does the DSBN follow-up for these requests to ensure theses students are in fact still enrolled in those programs. If students opted-out of these alternative programs, they should be then require to attend their own home school.

Why would the DSBN want to needlessly bus students? Would that not be a waste of school funds? Is there any consideration of the environmental aspect of all these buses? And do other smaller communities have the busing?

Having attended the ARC meetings and the public meetings and reading the comments and questions on the Parking Lot, there seem to be questions that have vague answers or go continually unanswered. One such questions surrounds the transportation issues and the term courtesy busing. Specifically that would include courtesy busing to Eden Christian School. The question has been asked, How does Eden fall under the system level programming, so that it would then fall under the transportation policy of the board?

There have been other questions surrounding Eden. Who makes up the Eden Advisory Board and what is their authority?

Members of the ARC committee have asked, but have not received a copy of the original agreement between the Public School Board and Eden Christian School. Is there any other publically funded based faith schools in Ontario?

Declining Enrollment

We kept hearing this term throughout the accommodation review. Artificial declining enrollment is the term that I would use to describe what has been happening at NDSS. There are over 700 secondary aged students living in NOTL. Why are they not attending NDSS? Many factors have attributed to the absence of these students.

Imagine to our dismay to learn that the high school principal had been instructed to inform parents and students at the grade eight open house that the school could possibly be closing. Why would the school board want this type of commentary towards prospective students at NDSS? Of course it is going to be detrimental to outs school.

There is the physical neglect of our school. The building does not foster up an image of higher learning. As advocates of NDSS we know better and the success of our students have been phenomenal despite the decrepit surroundings. However we still need to entice the newcomers to our community to want to attend out school.

A school's merit should be measured by their graduation success and the number of those graduates who go on to university, not by the number of students that enroll at a school. NDSS had 65% of its graduates continue on to university. How does this compare to other schools in the DSBN? Is this information being collected and published anywhere? This information would be beneficial for parents and students.

There's a huge black cloud at the District School Board has put on NDSS since the last review. How can you ever expect to increase enrollment at a school when there is impending doom hanging over it, but the constant threat of closure, the neglect and the lack of programming. You can convince people to swim in a pool if you put no water in it. It's not a welcoming building to drive up to, it looks old and tired.

What is the total assessment based revenue the DSBN has received from the town of NOTL over the past 10 years and what percentage was put back into NOTL?

As a tax payer in this community I find it extremely careless of the DSBN to have such disregard for our one and only community High School. They'll put us under review and ask us to come up with solutions. It is school board policy that has contributed to declining enrollment at NDSS. As a community we know what we need. We need our High School, we need our students to stay there and we need the support of the school board and a decent facility to make that happen.

As a family we choose to live in NOTL, because it is a small community, with community schools. This is what we want for our children, this is in their best interest; a school environment where everybody really does know their names and face; where you are accountable to the people around you because they are your neighbour.

If there was no high school in NOTL, we would have choose another small town to move to. We've never had the desire to raise our children in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls. It's unfair that you'd now ask me to school them there.

In the ARC you spoke of what is best for NOTL for students. What is best for my children is to be schooled in their own community. You need to consider how spending two hours a day on a bus effects students, their families and the environment. Who's picking-up these students after school so they can have a part-time job in their community? Who's driving them into the city for school team tryouts in the early morning? How do parents leave from work early in order to pick-up students who choose to take part in after school functions? How are these students supposed to feel a sense of community, when everything that they'd be involved in would be in St. Catharines or Niagara Falls, when their community is NOTL?

The DSBN needs to make adjustments to their policies that will keep our students at our high school and provide them with all the necessary programming and tools. I a resident of NOTL, a separate town from St. Catharines and Niagara Falls and my husband and I want our children to have all of their elementary and secondary schooling here. Our two children want to attend school there, in their own community. Our secondary school is a value to our students and community and our local economy.

As a parent and a community member of NOTL, I encourage the trustees to be creative and provide a solution to our high school, one that is fiscally and environmentally responsible.


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