Concerned about possible school board amalgamations

Letter to the Editor,
The Minister of Education, Laurel Broten, has recently announced that the consultation on school board restructuring and amalgamation is beginning. She also claims that the government wants to protect the gains made in student achievement. Many people involved in small and northern boards do not believe that amalgamation will advance student achievement but will in fact do just the opposite. The process of amalgamation is long, arduous, and unsettling for board employees, parents and communities.
What You Need To Know about the negative impact amalgamation could have on the Rainy River District School Board if, (for example), it was merged with the Keewatin Patricia board:
1) Loss of Special Programs Unique to the Rainy River District School Board
School boards that serve diverse cultures and communities, as do Rainy River and Keewatin Patricia, respond differently to those diversities. To maximize student achievement the RRDSB board implements specialized, need specific programs.
There would definitely be competing priorities from the Keewatin Patricia School Board which could result in the loss of valuable, effective, Rainy River District School Board programs.
2) Loss of Focus on Student Achievement.
The focus of the amalgamated boards will become fuzzy as they are consumed with integrating policies, procedures, collective agreements, staff and environments.
3) Decrease in Parent and Community Engagement .
Alienation and disconnectedness occurs when the school board office and administrative staff are geographically far removed from the communities they are supposed to serve. Parental disengagement and loss of confidence and support for public education will follow.
4) No Cost Savings realized.
Studies have shown that the net savings from school board amalgamations are non-existent. There may be short-term savings from the elimination of senior administrative positions, but these savings are soon lost due to the necessary hiring of more middle management personnel who are needed to serve the wider and more diverse geographical area. In fact, as the increased number of middle managers attempts to serve the much larger (geographic) district travel costs will also increase . The integration processes listed in #2 will eat up cost savings as well..
5) Politics will Take Precedence over Education.
If Rainy River and Keewatin Patricia are seen as target boards for amalgamation, then Dryden. Fort Frances and Kenora will be vying to be the “centre” and power base of the new board. Atikokan, Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Rainy River, Pickle Lake and a vast area of unorganized territory will be left by the wayside. .
Is the government really putting our students first or are they simply trying to save their political behinds in light of the disastrous financial position in which they have put us? Are we going to let them decide what is best for us?
The reality is that the process of consultations regarding amalgamations is beginning. It is up to each and every one of us to pay attention and speak up to preserve superior programs and gains in student achievement that all of us in this district have worked so hard to realize.

–Dianne McCormack,
Stakeholder in Education,
Dawson ON