ARC process clearly more of a sow's ear
Despite the School Board's best efforts, the old adage "You can't' make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" never rang truer.
However, you have to at least give them credit for trying. Their presentation at last week's "public" ARC meeting did its very best to make the process of putting forward a proposal to close local rural schools look professional and very well thought out.
The chairs and tables were set up at the front of the gym, a scene arranged as orderly and intently visual as that of a United Nations meeting. Beautiful big placards, pointing out the official nature of the representatives that the board has empowered with this task, sat in front of impressive microphones equipped with tiny red lights that illuminated when the speaker used them.
My personal favourite was the video aired to kick off the meeting. An upbeat explanation of why schools needed to be closed, set to a backdrop of soothing elevator music and riddled with repetitive images of happy children and teachers under bright blue skies and surrounded by peaceful earth tones of brown and green. Whoever designed this production certainly did their homework (pun intended) on the psychology projecting emotional ambiance.
Where the wheels fell of the bus (again, pun intended) was when control of the meeting was given over to the handful of speakers allowed to represent the thousands of families affected by this process. (Although billed as a public meeting, there is zero opportunity for individual residents to offer verbal input...nor a time allotted for media questions during the meeting). In this forum the illusions of silk quickly start smelling of pork.
Repetitively those in attendance hear of inaccurate numbers, research facts either overlooked or simply neglected community involvements, initiatives and values not factored into the equations. Over and over again, and again, and again....words echo on after another from speaker to speaker, and from community to community, of a unanimous rejection of proposal perceived presented in haste. On the surface, it would appear that the board did not put the same amount of due diligence into the proposal as well as it did into the video.
The speakers stated their cases, requested more time and more study and the audience, muted by the constraints of the process, voiced their unanimous applause time and time again.
The question, of course, is does the board, its officers and its trustees hear the message that is being sent?
My highest respect goes out to that minority of elected trustees and municipal leaders who are front and center, advocating for their constituents in this battle. By the same token, shame on those who remain hidden on the sidelines, those choosing to take the "this does not affect us" stance.
At the end of the day, this is not a fight for one particular school, one particular municipality or ward. This is a fight for a rural way of life. One we all should hold dearly.