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Parents and residents stand in opposition to the motion to close Thornhill Jr
REPORTING · 9th December 2010
Merv Ritchie
Video of this portion of the School Board meeting attached at the end of this article below the pictures.

The Coast Mountain School District # 82 was the scene of heated emotions and controversy. The division and emotions were also evident within the trustees around the board table.

As the motion to close Thornhill Jr. was read out, some residents stood to demonstrate their displeasure and register their opposition to the motion. Chair Pankhurst had to ask them numerous times to sit down so the debate could get underway. Later, during the debate, he had to ask the parents to not speak as the meeting was being interrupted by objections and comments.

Trustees Art Erasmus, Lynne Newberry, Diana Penner and Raymond Raj all spoke in favour of the closure. Trustees Tanis Kilpatrick and Gary Turner spoke passionately against the closure. Erasmus claimed he was part of the Board process when they were closing schools during the Socred Bill Bennett Government of the 1980’s and this is no different. He claimed he wasn’t happy either but it was a reality of the day, the money is not available. Turner was outraged.

“I wasn’t going to get into this but enough’s enough.” he began, “We just want to make sure we close the right school.” Referring to the previously elected board, which was responsible for the decision to close the schools, “that was a flawed decision you guys made [..] the information was flawed, the procedures were flawed.”

He claimed the board was refusing to listen to the parents and to their own consultative process. He claimed the board was refusing to admit to their own mistakes, at times almost shouting, though restrained, claiming there was no point in consulting and questioned why any parent would participate as the Board ignores it anyways. He went on to question the validity of the decisions being made and the basis of the decisions claiming they were making decisions on financial grounds, not educational grounds.

“If we’re not going to make this decision on educational grounds we might as well all quit,” adding “and let Alana do everything,” referring to the acting Secretary Treasurer Alana Cameron, “she can do it all financially.” Addressing all the formulas the government and the School District uses Turner stated, “it can all be written out for you […] they don’t need us.”

As an example Turner stated Mount Elizabeth School in Kitimat has the capacity to hold every Kitimat student from grade 1 to 12. If they are making decisions on finances their next decision should be to close every school but MESS he claimed.

“Come on people; look at this educationally not financially.”

Trustee Raj asked to speak again on the subject and began with personal attacks on Turner. Chair Pankurst had to stop him three times before Raj quit attacking him.

The motion to close Thornhill Junior was passed for two readings. Every motion like this requires three readings and a final vote. To complete three readings on the one sitting of the Board the third reading needs to be unanimous. Turner registered his opposition and the vote to pass the approval of the closing of the school was stopped.

Pankurst announced the next meeting of the board to vote on the third reading would be as soon as next week, Wednesday, December 15 at 5 pm.

After he announced this, he addressed those gathered and began to explain how this was not the Boards fault it was the fault of the Provincial government. “We’re not the culprits here.” He was quickly interrupted and then he attempted to tell the audience that it wasn’t a debate. “You’re starting it by addressing us,” called out one in the crowd of parents gathered.

Watch a complete video of the exchange by opening the attachment just below the pictures.
Gary Turner, passionately striking the table to accentuate his statements.
Gary Turner, passionately striking the table to accentuate his statements.
Art Erasmus claim they made these same decisions during the funding shortages during the Bennett Government
Art Erasmus claim they made these same decisions during the funding shortages during the Bennett Government
Pankurst, "We're not the culprits here."
Pankurst, "We're not the culprits here."
Ramond Raj, on speaker phone used his last opportunity to speak in a personal attack on Turner.
Ramond Raj, on speaker phone used his last opportunity to speak in a personal attack on Turner.
don't blame the government
Comment by bill braam on 10th December 2010
We have unfortunately arrived at a time where we have to live within our means and use our resources wisely. Blaming the government is not the answer unless everyone would like to be taxed even higher to keep partially filled schools open. Thank you.
Proud of Turner
Comment by A Thornhill Parent on 9th December 2010
I am a Thornhill parent, and I was at the meeting last night, and I stood in protest and I was the one that told Trustee Pankhurst that he couldn't address us and not expect us to respond. I am very proud of Trustee Turner and Kilpatrick. They are not afraid to speak their minds or to go against the grain. I will continue to fight for my children to attend THEIR school as will all the other parents. Thornhill is a community on it's own, we deserve to have our children attend a school in their own community.
Well.....
Comment by Ana on 9th December 2010
wasn't that an interesting little video.

A few observations:

1. I hope everyone who votes in elections watches this - it is a good slice of what happens when you elect people that may or may not be fully informed of all aspects of education and the impacts that their votes have on schools.

2. It is a quick and easy fix to blame the "other guy", though not very productive. It is also easy to sit back and not speak up - uhmmm I see those trustees ducking for cover - really you were elected to speak up - do it!

3. Thornhill is unique of Hazelton - that comparison is so not fair or equal. Apples to oranges. If middle schools are not a sustainable option- why is my child going to be attending one soon based on a vote you did right before this?

4. The residents of Thornhill should be happy with how they are being represented by their trustee. I am impressed how he recognizes that "consultation" is perceived in this district as nothing but talk and no walk.

We have a major problem here which is not just in CMSD. Who is running the show? Is it the District staff, is it the trustees? Is all the information really there for trustees to make a fully, whole hearted decision, the impression from this is no. One speaks on the need for more information, pro -cons, financials, etc. - Information!!! One speaking for the motion also says that there is more information needed - doesn't agree but the process dictates the vote must be yes to close.

The process is flawed. Parents feel ignored, trustees feel defensive (what the heck was that attack from the Kitimat Trustee - REALLY?!)

The process of decision making in Education must be fixed and I love how people insist on collaboration - that is unless you happen to have a differing opinion - then you are confrontational.

I would rather have a rough around the edges advocate of public education that has passion and a thirst for the truth than a smooth talking person who may not really know what they are talking about but manages to say it in a persuasive way.

Keep fighting to have your voices heard Thornhill parents. In the end you are your child's best advocate and you need that tenacity to ensure that you have done everything possible to give your child a good education.

Complacency is not an option.

I have said it before, I will say it again- Special Adviser please. I would like a full efficiency and educational audit to find out what went wrong, how to fix it and how to make sure we never end up here again