6 Worthwhile Lessons The Public School Board Is Teaching My Kids

Hey remember that 10-year plan the Regina Public School Board had that listed a whole bunch of  schools that needed to be torn down because they didn’t have the enrollment to sustain them? Remember how Davin and/or Connaught (preferably Connaught) was slated for closure because Cathedral just didn’t have enough kids? And remember how Real Renewal came together to oppose all those school closures saying they felt small, walkable community schools were worth keeping and that up-to-date demographics showed that neighbourhoods like Cathedral were getting more kids and needed all their schools intact? And then remember how more recent demographics have shown that Real Renewal was by and large right about that?

Well, even though Connaught had the enrollment numbers to save it from the wrecking ball, it came crashing down right on schedule according to that 10-year plan. It’s almost like the enrollment justification was a ruse and secretly the board just wanted to be rid of the thing all along. I guess it just goes to show that even if you’re wrong about something you can still get what you want if you have all the power and money.

That’s a good lesson you just learned from the Regina Public School Board. Here are five more…

1. EVERYTHING IS DISPOSABLE! Oh sure, they have a “unit” on “sustainability” somewhere in the school curriculum. I think I remember my kid bringing home a blue papier-mâché globe she made on Earth Day or something. I threw that shit out.

But we all know the three Rs — Reduce, Reuse and Recycle — can’t power a fossil fuel economy. Neither can words like “sustainability” or “the environment.” And we’re within spitting distance of the epicentre of our fossil fuel economy (if you could spit on Alberta from Regina, that is). So we have to support the fossil fuel economy. It’s our patriotic duty.

If we don’t, who will?

And that’s why I’m glad the school board is doing an end run around those socialist Rs and setting a strong example in the three Cs: Combustion, Construction and Consumption.

Tearing down Connaught is a win on ALL THREE!!

Kids, you know all those plastic juice bottles you put in the blue bin because it’s good for the environment? Your school board has more than offset all that work you did by throwing the bulk of a two-storey building in the dump and then busing all of Connaught across town for three or more years. You could start composting the crusts off your jam sandwiches too and it wouldn’t amount to a hill of organic soy beans at this point! And that’s good, because this is all human nature. We build buildings, we use them for some years, we tear them down then build another in a fresh field of green. It’s like a flower that’s grown in California then cut from its stem and shipped to your Safeway so it can wilt in your dining room until your mom throws it in the garbage then drives to the Safeway to buy a new floral arrangement.

It’s the cycle of life!

Remember kids, saving the environment is pointless because grown-ups don’t care. So don’t bother trying. Just study hard and think about football!

2. TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS ISN’T FUN! So why exactly is the Public School Board tearing down Connaught? Because the building was not maintained adequately. Because renovation work that was done on the foundation exacerbated problems. Because heritage elements have already been removed from the building.

When Connaught kids graduate to high school, they’ll learn that these are all examples of the passive voice. That’s a way of playing with verbs that skilled wordsmiths employ to hide who actually did a thing.

In this case, it means no one ever has to say, “The Regina Public School Board and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education did not maintain Connaught and did renovation work that exacerbated foundation problems and removed heritage elements from the building.”

With the passive voice, it looks like absolutely no one did any of this. And that means no one ever has to take responsibility for what happens, no one ever has to say “Sorry,” and no one ever has to learn anything. And that means the Regina Public School Board can keep doing the same thing over and over. And that’s good. Because doing the same thing is always the cheapest option.

Unless it’s Lakeview School, in which case you get on that preventative maintenance like you’re filming a season of This Old House. Those Lakeview people are LOADED. You want to piss them off?

3. DEMOCRACY MEANS SAYING YES! Listen people, you vote for your elected representatives every four years. In between that time, you can ignore them. That’s why we went to all the expense of having an election. So other people can make decisions. Let them do their jobs for chrissakes. Showing up to public meetings to express your views or to try and pressure your elected representatives to do something other than what they want to do already just makes those meetings drag and elected representatives will get justifiably snippy.

But if you choose to ignore this advice, then you deserve every condescending editorial written in the press about you. And every snarky comment on social media written by a board chair. And when the head of the school board administration says that, by organizing opposition to a board decision like tearing down Connaught, you and your group are putting provincial funding for a new school in jeopardy, that’s all your fault. Elected representatives and their duly appointed administrators are not only doing a hard job, they are also petty and vengeful like stone age gods. Do not provoke them.

Remember, meddling with democracy imperils funding. Funding is everything. Get with the program! Join Team Democracy!

4. HERITAGE IS A LIST, FULLSTOP! There are going to be some people who say a building like Connaught is a heritage building by virtue of having a long, storied relationship with the community in which it resides — that a building’s heritage value is defined by the people who see and use it everyday and that such buildings have value because their presence tells part of a community’s story.

Hogwash! There is a “Heritage List.” That’s where the word “heritage” comes from, duh.

If a building is on a heritage list it gets protected because it’s heritage. If it isn’t on that list, it doesn’t because it has nothing to do with heritage! If it did, it would be on the heritage list.

Now, a building gets on a heritage list if an owner wants it there for some reason. And if an owner wants to take a building off that list because it’d be inconvenient to keep it there, who’re you to stop them? You don’t own the building. Why should you get any say over what list it’s on? Buildings aren’t about you. They’re about who owns them.

Therefore, schools are about school boards. They’re not about students or parents or communities or what any of those people might think or … eugggh!… “feel” about them. You want to save a school? Buy it.

Except you can’t buy Connaught. We tore that shit down.

5. CARING ABOUT HERITAGE MEANS YOU HATE CHILDREN! Listen, heritage buildings are, by definition, old. And old things fall down. Just ask grandma about her hip. Therefore, if you want to keep heritage buildings around you are just begging to have them fall down on children. Why do you hate children so much? Is it because they’re so new and their eyes so full of hope? Maybe if we dressed them up like they’re old — greyed their hair and dressed them in garish floral prints — you’d try to save them because they’re “heritage people.”

You say you want to invest in the maintenance of these heritage buildings so they won’t fall down and they’ll stay up? Shhhhhh. Old things fall down. And we already established that you hate children. Haven’t you done enough?

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

24 thoughts on “6 Worthwhile Lessons The Public School Board Is Teaching My Kids”

  1. Yes, indeed, Paul D, every cloud has a silver lining and lessons learned! Here is my list of gratitudes:

    1. Thank you to the five trustees who saved us from the Cathedral Area’s own trustee, who actually had children attending Connaught and obviously wanted them killed by falling bricks – and writers such as Paul Dechene, who also planned a gruesome end for his children. We need more people who do not have children involved to tell us how to properly raise them. Worked for the nuns, right?

    2. Thank you to the Saskatchewan Waste Council for declaring that putting “fill on landfill” is an acceptable form of brick recycling. We can now celebrate that Connaught will be 100% recycled! Go LEEDS!

    3. Thank you to the eight City Councillors who obviously knew so much more about heritage value than the City’s Heritage Advisory Committee, and were able to correct those mere architects and heritage experts, who foolishly thought Regina’s oldest public school, designed by the same folks who brought you the Albert Street Bridge and Legislative Building, might be of some value to students and the city.

    4. And, of course, thanks also to the above for saving Ward 3 residents from their own representative, who obviously knows nothing about what matters to residents of his ward.

    5. Thanks, school board, for whipping teachers into voting against citizens who showed up at their very own Electors’ AGM to ask for an inspection of the building by heritage conservators. Because engineers and conservators who renovate heritage buildings for a living would obviously not have any advice worth considering, and it is always better to have less information than more when making decisions!

    6. Thanks, provincial government, for answering reports about needed structural repairs for Legislative Building with millions of dollars, ensuring you will have somewhere nice to hide out when people come knocking about their ill-maintained schools.

    7. Thanks also, school board, for keeping reports on the condition of Wascana School out of the public eye, thereby saving parents from unnecessary alarm about that failed support column, the cracked floor slabs, the leaking sewage, and other items that might make Connaught look better in comparison, and then make us feel sad about money being pumped into a different school instead of our own.

    8. Thanks for showing off that one crack in a cloakroom wall at Connaught. It’s famous! One City Councillor even said the wall fell down! And thanks to the brave board employee who put his hand into a hole that had been made for a duct, thereby proving there were holes in the walls. It made for great TV.

    9. Thanks for consulting with the community. We love to be consulted, especially when you take pictures of us playing with sticky notes and coloured bits of paper, which you can include in the reports that explain how well you consulted.

    10. Thanks for alerting the Saskatchewan School Board Association about the building not being worthy of insurance, and then refusing to publicly divulge any documentation about this matter, steadfastly defending such sensitive and obviously private information from parents’ nosey lawyers and Freedom of Information legislation. Because reading stuff on paper just hurts peoples’ eyes.

    11. Thanks for revealing that Heritage Regina, the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee, Save Our Connaught, the Connaught SCC, RealRenewal, Canadian Heritage, and many hundreds of folks who donated money, wrote letters and signed petitions, are “an interest group” and therefore should be ignored. Because, presumably, they are interested in education and schools, and it is better to be led by people who are above all that.

    12. Thanks for destroying the community-built playground, soccer pitch and skateboard area, and for ridding our neighbourhood of a few more 80-year-old elms, which really are just a dime a dozen – we can buy replacements at WalMart, right?

    13. Speaking of WalMart, thanks for destroying the building before replacement funding was in place. Because we might need a WalMart in the neighbourhood, or at least some condos.

    14. School board, you always believed bigger is better, so thanks for not ever mentioning the 10 Year Plan to combine Connaught and Davin into one building—which was supposed to start (coincidentally I’m sure) with one of the two schools being demolished this year.

    15. I’m sure we’d all far rather believe the suddenly urgent need to close Connaught was just an unforeseen, unavoidable surprise to the people in charge, because to believe otherwise would shake our faith in the great bureaucratic system to which we hand over our children daily. So thanks for that!

  2. I’d like to turn this into a discussion about the Separate school systems. We can all use our rational logical brains to understand that having two school systems is wasteful. More schools, smaller class sizes, AND money savings, all while taking away religious discrimination that’s currently allowable under our provincial Education Act.

  3. Grumpy, we knew from the blueprints and architect’s description that there was steel reinforcing in the floor slabs. The question was whether it was smooth or ribbed steel – which could have been quickly settled if the conservators were allowed to bring in their radar equipment. In any case, there are now relatively inexpensive mesh reinforcing techniques capable of bringing floors up to code if required. These options were not considered, sadly.

  4. Paul, I normally consider myself a like-minded individual to many people close to this battle but I am really having trouble with this particular case.

    At one point in my career, I knew the city schools very well from the inside (I was working closely with their facilities people). Connaught was in bad shape, and nothing had been done in the many years since I left that role. It was not in worse shape or less important to the community than the largely unmourned Benson, Al Pickard, Dover, Ken Jenkins, or McNab. There was a pattern of bad judgement and poor process in this system for many years, and if you want me to condemn the leadership in this city for that, I agree with you.

    But Connaught? I can’t say I’m happy about the demolition, but I can say I don’t think this facility was worth preserving and frankly I feel like some activists decided to use this particular action as a proxy battle against a broader development agenda which lacks accountability and transparency and politicians which those activists just generally don’t like. The community will get a new hub, and this more than can be said of some of the communities which used to host the schools I mentioned earlier. I’m supportive of electing better politicians but I think life goes on here.

    I’m going to bring in a bit of a class issue here too – had Connaught been located a few blocks north, I don’t think this would have been a hot topic of conversation. For the record, my first elementary school was leveled for townhouses decades ago. Where was the outcry then?

  5. Hey REP, sorry to be a dick about this but…

    “… nothing had been done in the many years…”

    “There was a pattern of bad judgement and poor process…”

    That’d be more passive voice there.

    Based on your later comment about condemning leadership, I suspect you might be okay with these suggested edits…

    “… the public school board and ministry of education had done nothing in the many years…”

    “The public school board and ministry of education demonstrated a pattern of bad judgement and poor process…”

    There, much punchier!

  6. That’s fine. Let me practice this style of writing by saying the following. The Ministry of Education and School Boards would fail process audits in many areas of their operations.

    Voters allow this.

  7. You’re right, Indy. No point discussing this any more because the school board is never going to close down a school or tear down a building ever again.

    Awesome! I’ll just forget all about this!

  8. Perhaps the Public School Board would get the message if people in the Cathedral area sent their children to a separate school. We did it, best move we ever made. As a bonus my children received a better education also. Give it some serious thought parents!

  9. As a huge downside, religious indoctrination.
    I can’t advocate supporting the Separate school system because I value separation of church and state, but what about only one school system that doesn’t involve indoctrination of a preferred faith, and then everyone wins with better education, lower taxes, and smaller class sizing?

  10. Religious indoctrination, hmmm, I`ve raised my children to be freethinkers, to make their own choices when it comes to such things. Whatever choice they make is….. yep you guessed it, their choice. Find children exposed to one way of thinking are very narrow minded. Sorry, a little off topic.

  11. Too many people today equate “freethinking” with the contradicting of obvious, creditable, researched experts sources. It’s the damaging Fox News attitude to “freethinking” – We Report, You Decide. Too much “freethinking” these days involves no research and no effort. That’s not “freethinking”, it’s lazy ethnocentrism. Oh, but yes, I get it: Western liberal secular thought has driven the notion of educated freethinking for the last century or so, so this is the backlash we’re forced to endure: “Uh, I don;t believe in global warming just cuz…”

  12. I meant from the schools, not from you Indy. Also, the forced Christian Ethics class in High School and Religion class in Elementary school is wasting valuable education time.

  13. Wow…so much I could say to this, but I’ll keep it simple.

    I just feel the need to ask a question. Could the Public School Board have put more money into keeping up its properties over the years? The answer is of course they could have. So what were you all planning to cut to manage this?

    If you think that you can get money from a stone might I suggest the administration costs as that was only 3.1% of next year’s budget…or perhaps all the kids can walk and you get rid of all the buses which would save you another 3.86%. So what’s left after that? 17% goes to keeping up the buildings and the other 76% is instruction. It becomes fairly obvious to keep the building you need to cut instruction.

    So how big of classrooms are you willing to accept in order to keep one building? If you assume a nice extra $500,000 in maintenance to keep up the building over the years how good is the education going to be with about five less teachers in the building (assuming $100,000 per FTE)? How good is your education outcomes at that point?

    I know I would pick the teachers over the building, but I suppose others would pick differently.

  14. What ticks me off a bit about this whole Connaught School deal is the school board is building a new school to replace the old, are they not? When my kids school met the wrecking ball (Benson) no new school was built to replace the old. The kids were bussed to other schools. Connaught parents should count themselves lucky.

  15. Wow, Tim and Indy, could you possibly set the bar lower for what we should consider good governance of public assets?

    And, yes, I get that the school board’s budget is tight. That’s why the ministry is included in the critique above. But… if the problems with Connaught and all the other rapidly deteriorating schools in the system are as old as everyone keeps saying, then they started back when the board still had taxing power.

    (And yes — to head off an inevitable retort — I get that these problems predate the Sask Party.)

    Also, Tim, your numbers do not fill me with much hope as they indicate that all these new schools we’re adding to the system are also being built to be disposable. (See lesson #1.)

    Except, tellingly, in the case of Lakeview. (See this post, which has the best headline I’ve ever written: http://www.prairiedogmag.com/bulldoze-connaught-ship-the-kids-to-wascana/)

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