PARRY SOUND – "I don't know" just didn't cut for a group of parents concerned about their children's education Tuesday.
Facing the crowd.
Principal of Parry Sound High School, Andy Gagne, responds to questions during Tuesday night's School Advisory Council meeting. Roughly 100 parents used the meeting as a chance to ask questions and air grievances regarding a recent school board decision to make the high school a grade 7 to 12 school.
The afternoon School Advisory Council meeting attracted close to 100 parents to the cafeteria of Parry Sound High School. They came to get answers and express concerns after a sudden school board decision to move Grade 7 and 8 students from several area schools into the high school next year, but at the end of the night, many left frustrated.
At its last meeting, the Near North District School Board voted to move Grade 7 and 8 students from William Beatty School, Nobel School and McDougall School to Parry Sound High School as of September 2013. The decision has been widely criticized for a perceived lack of communication from the board to those affected both before and after the decision was made.
Tuesday night's meeting was the first formal venue parents had to express their unhappiness with the decision. Officials present included Parry Sound High School principal Andy Gagne, local board member James Beatty, First Nation board representative Linda Williams and a number of principals from local elementary schools.
During the meeting parents expressed frustration that additional board trustees and board executives were not present, as those in attendance were not able to address every concern
Bobbi-Jo Henry, a parent in attendance, seemed to express the feelings of many in the audience when she took to the microphone and spoke to Gagne and all those assembled.
"I see cop cars here on a regular basis, and I know they're working with you and trying to make things better. Implementing 11 and 12-year-olds into this atmosphere is not wise. I'm sorry, I know it's not you who made the decision. I do feel that the social ramifications to this far outweigh any academic benefits, and I think most of the people in this room feel that way," said Henry, who received a loud applause for her remarks.
Near the close of the meeting many parents talked about their plans going forward, including organizing a trip to the next school board meeting and plans for a letter-writing campaign. Read more about the meeting in this week's Beacon Star.