Editorial about GDHS by Marie Williams-Gagnon

“Great things happen in small places.” – Jesse Jackson

Last week’s opening day assembly at Glencoe District High School was inspirational in many ways. It’s only a shame that more weren’t in attendance to hear the testaments to the greatness of GDHS.

Hopefully the students, donned in their new designer shirts, jeans and whiter-than-white sneakers, enveloped the messages shared by the guest speakers who both referred to themselves still as members of the Gael population.

Both addresses by Nicole MacKellar and Neil Johnson challenged students to get involved, to encompass the great things about attending a small school and to appreciate the position they are in.

They corroborated that the pro’s about the level of education that they received and how it helped them not only in their post-secodary education but also in their careers.

Ironically, they felt that coming from a small school gave them a better perspective, something many other graduates will easily agree with. Students at small schools appreciate any additional opportunities and don’t just take them for granted.

In the case of both of the speakers, GDHS gave them the opportunity to get involved in countless teams and clubs, something that may not have been available elsewhere.

The sentiments were cherished by staff who go above and beyond to coach numerous teams, lead clubs and monitor extra activities.

Regardless of the flattery it’s always a challenge for small schools, whether elementary or secondary, and the battle to keep the doors of any local school open could re-ignite at some point in time.

But, no different than the wind towers that are spreading like leaves, there needs to be study and consultation on the effects of each. Whether the wind towers will truly present problems with stray voltage or shadow flicker can only be seen over time and with careful consultation. In the case of a school, however, the effects of a closure on a community and on students need to be taken in to account.

The challenges schools like GDHS face multiply once there is any concern about closure, with some prospective students opting to attend other schools to avoid a shutdown. Supporting local schools through attendance is imperative. No different than not supporting a local business and then reminiscing about missing the convenience, the loss of a school has a more far-reaching impact.

Unfortunately, as the Caradoc South and Metcalfe communities found, ebbing the tide of small school closures can only happen with the assistance of the province in the form of a moratorium. School boards facing financial woes will make whatever cuts they see as being easiest. Quite frankly, closing schools gets much more press than trimming back administrative salaries and gives the illusion of a board working to stay within its means despite the displeasure of the communities it serves.

On Tuesday, a historic letter of agreement was signed at the County of Middlesex buildings, establishing a precedent setting communication protocol between the municipalities and the School Board.

Hopefully, it will prompt banter between officials, illuminate the challenges both face and open minds to alternatives.

South of the border, for instance, school reform advocates are excited about a new study showing that New York City’s small high schools are outperforming larger schools significantly, narrowing the graduation-rate gap that exists between the white and minority students across the city.

The study supports the small school policies of New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration which has shut down 20 large, failing high schools and replaced them with 200 small schools, about half of which were the focus of this study.

Some of the larger, factory-style schools, each with enrollments of 3,000 or more, had graduation rates under 40 per cent. Having had the opportunity to poke around one of the largest secondary schools in the City of London this past week left little doubt that students there could easily fall between the cracks.

Much like GDHS, the new smaller schools in New York City offer a personalized approach to education with teachers responsible for keeping close tabs on the performance of their students.

It was found that the graduation rates for students in small schools was already nearly 69 per cent, erasing about a third of the 20-point graduation-rate gap that currently exists between white students and “students of colour” in New York City.

They found this particulary encouraging, given that the majority of students entered the small high schools reading below grade level.

No different than the supersized French fries that can ultimately lead to health problems, the supersized educational facilities can lead to the death of a small community without the support of its schools.

-30-

Marie Williams-Gagnon

Editor

Transcript & Free Press

Glencoe, Ontario

519-287-2615

tranfree@xcelco.on.ca

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Filed under G.D.H.S. News, GDHS History

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