Viewpoint: Cutting trees, schools and CK staff

Feb 19 • ViewpointNo Comments on Viewpoint: Cutting trees, schools and CK staff

Perhaps it’s the time of the year, perhaps it’s the howling snow and wind outside my window as I write this, but there isn’t a lot to be optimistic about this week.

The council members who voted against a woodlot clear cut moratorium earlier this month have got to be feeling like they were sold a super-sized bottle of snake oil, judging by some of the local photos I’ve received.

In making its decision, council heard from a number of people who said the issue of a woodlot management bylaw didn’t even need to be discussed due to the fact that woodlot owners are a responsible group.

Council also heard from others who said waiting would only give clear cutters a chance to cut everything they could.

Looks like the “others” were right. I personally haven’t travelled to each of the sites shown on these photos so I won’t mention the property owners but I do believe the images have a high probability of being accurate.

It will be interesting (and potentially heartbreaking) to see how many acres have been cut in the six months it takes staff to come back to begin discussing woodlot management in earnest.

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Speaking of council’s six-month solution approach, within six months council will have a report discussing how to cut of 25 full-time equivalency staff positions six months after that.

Reorganizing and attrition will be the chief tools used although the skeptic in me says the most effective method would be to offer a number of packages.

If staff realizes there may be greater workload placed on their shoulders (although 25 is just a drop in the bucket) it may prompt some to leave if they have financial incentive to do so.

It’s not the solution to CK staffing issues. Anyone who believes this can be a one-and-done effort isn’t paying attention.

In terms of attitude, however, it is a major step considering many ratepayers believe working for Chatham-Kent a guarantee of lifetime employment regardless of economic conditions.

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Once upon a time, say a decade ago, the possibility of closing schools was met with shock, anger and disbelief. Think of the angry mobs with pitchforks and torches in the old Frankenstein movies.

Today, not so much.

The Accommodation Review Committee (I guess school closing committee sounds too evil) is looking at A.A. Wright Public School, Wallaceburg District Secondary School, D.A. Gordon Public School, Riverview Central School and H.W Burgess Public School (that’s all of them if you’re keeping score) with an eye to which will be closed/consolidated.

The committee, comprised of local residents, is in the process of finalizing its decision.

It’s likely that at least one and possibly two elementary schools will close. It’s a good possibility some senior students (grades seven and eight) will end up at WDSS.

The Grades 7-12 model has worked elsewhere (Ridgetown for example).

It’s nothing personal as they say. There aren’t enough students to justify the expense of operating smaller schools.

Once the committee has made its recommendation, the board and province will finalize things. Expect a decision within, you guessed it, the next six months.

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