New principal pledges to bring Stratton school back from the brink
By Ken Johnston
The public asked for it and they got it! A fifth, and likely final, meeting for the Accommodation Review of Our Lady of the Way School (OLWS) in Stratton was held last Wednesday evening.
In June, members of the public attending the fourth meeting asked if another meeting could be held since a new principal, Brendan Hyatt, and a new Director of Education, Richard Boisvert, would be on the job. The Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) agreed and called one more meeting than they were required to by law.
Both Hyatt and Boisvert addressed the approximately 25 people in attendance last Wednesday.
Hyatt said, “I consider myself fortunate to have had my first teaching job here (at OLWS). Later when I was principal from 2005-10 it was flourishing here. It is very difficult to come back and see it struggling.”
The separate school, is a grade school, running up to grade 8. In the past few years it has seen its enrolment drop to 13 last year. According to board officials at previous ARC meetings the school can handle up to 130 kids.
With declining enrolment board administration recommended an ARC process be conducted. While it was disclosed that the board could save over $138,000 a year by closing the school, the ARC also looks at the impact on the students in the area.
“Do I want this school to close? Absolutely not,” said Hyatt. “But I believe we need a minimum of two classrooms. Not one,” added Hyatt.
He said he has spoken to parents who used to send their kids to the school and heard, “They feel their concerns were just dismissed. We need to rebuild relationships with people that consider this their school.”
“I will do what I must to rebuild this school,” said Hyatt who received applause from the audience for his comments.
Boisvert gave a brief introduction of himself. He has had 29 years of experience in Catholic Education and he has had personal involvement in five ARC processes.
Only one formal presentation was made at last week’s ARC meeting. It was in the form of a letter from the region’s Bishop Fred Colli. He expressed his feelings that he would like to see the school remain open.
After the letter was read, ARC chair Anthony Leek polled the committee to see if they would open the meeting up to the floor for any questions from the audience. They agreed to do so.
Bob Sawchuk approached the podium. “Kudos to Brendan (Hyatt) for accepting this huge task of bringing this school back from the brink. It is a travesty that is has reached this point.” Sawchuk also questioned where the board was in this process, noting that the chair of the board was not in attendance nor the majority of trustees. “It is their responsibility to manage the system, not just this school.”
After the meeting last Wednesday the ARC agreed to stay afterwards to begin formulating their recommendations for the school board. Once they reach recommendation(s) they will then present to the Director of Education. Then they must wait 60 days before presenting it to the board. That could be late this fall.
Audience member Kevin Kennedy asked if the public can have anymore input. It was explained to him that anyone can ask to be put on the board’s agenda as a delegation.
Principal Hyatt was asked if the ARC process, which began last winter, has generated any rise in student population. “We have two new students for a total of 15 at this time.”
Other members of the audience suggested that the new principal and director work with the public on ways the school can be saved.
Once the ARC recommendations are finalized they will be made public.