The School District of Mystery Lake has been strong-armed into signing a contract that will keep students of the Division Scolaire Franco Manitoban (DSFM) at Burntwood Elementary School until 2014.
Much to the chagrin of trustees and board chair alike, the province has stepped in to exercise their authority, giving SDML no alternative but to comply. With a space crunch on at Burntwood Elementary School, SDML board members made it abundantly clear that they would not be able to take on any more students from DSFM, and that they needed the space back by the end of the 2012-2013 school year.
SDML officials were left with little wiggle room however, and as a subordinate to the Manitoba Department of Education, were given no choice but to sign a contract, extending DSFM’s stay at Burntwood School for an extra year.
School District of Mystery Lake chair Alexander Ashton was not pleased with the outcome, nor was vice-chair Rob Pellizzaro, who both voiced their opinions at a June 26 board meeting.
“We want this situation to be as short as possible,” said Ashton, “it’s projected that it will be two years but if it could be sooner, that would be best. We need to move on towards long term strategies to increase the success of students in Thompson.”
While the school board has been handcuffed and is out of options, Ashton stated that the public could still come forward on the issue.
The issue of space and keeping the students’ best interests in mind stands at the vanguard, but Pellizzaro says that there is a much bigger issue with democracy and accountability.
“I’m not speaking against DSFM or francophone rights, I believe in a bilingual Canada,” said Pellizzaro, “but I was elected to look after the parents and students of this district and not the interests of a competing school district.”
Pellizzaro went on to state that the SDML are accountable when looking at areas that need improvement, and are up front with areas that they are succeeding, as well as what needs to be done in order to be a better school district.
“We as a school board are in front of you, on camera and in front of the public, we’re elected by you and we’re accountable to you,” said Pellizzaro, “on the other hand, we have the DSFM, they apparently have a school board, they apparently have meetings, does anyone know who’s on that board or what they vote on? And yet this district that has intruded itself within our schools, essentially gets to dictate to us that the contract will be signed and how much space they will receive and we have no say in it and neither does the public, I find that very objectionable and disturbing.”
Democracy has seemingly fallen by the wayside, as the public’s representation has been overrun and pushed around by the mass minority.
“Chairperson Ashton is right in that we can’t do much because the Public Schools Act states that when the minister issues an order we have to comply,” said Pellizzaro, “but it doesn’t mean the public has to be quiet about it, and I think it’s about time that the government heard what the people have to say about them.”