Usher High School Defends Its Existence

Terri Sleeva’s notes from the Regina Public School Board’s “Renewal” meeting at Usher High School document a number of issues which the Regina Board of Education has failed to address in the plan for closing Usher and other Regina schools.

It is essential, I believe, that the valid questions raised here and elsewhere be addressed before any closures go ahead.  What is at stake is the quality of education of Regina’s children.  The RBE has not taken this into account in their plan for renewal.

Here’s Terri’s report:

Usher Closure Meeting with Board of Education Trustees/January 17, 2008

School renewal process

 

Nov, 2007 – Pass recommendation of 3 school closures

Final decision March 11, 2008

 

Cindy Anderson

  • Addressed students mainly because Usher is about their kids
  • 587 students when opened in 1979
  • Is a community and not an institution
  • Any child removed from the school due to economic status is one too many
  • Many concerns as a community
  • As a community we think of the issues of students terrified to go to another school, having problems with participating in extra curricular activities, violence, social rejection, money for gas, teacher rejection, transportation, being able to afford bus passes and lunch money.
  • Thom Collegiate has had no response towards taking in Usher students
  • Top three academically in math and English
  • Putting one or two children in a high school is minor; placing 200 in a high school is a tsunami
  • Children do adapt, teenage adults do not.
  • Money is not being wasted, but being used to increase education
  • 357 students
  • Lowest vandalism
  • Only high school in 25 years to receive a standing ovation from the Mayor of Regina
  • If you have to work to bring the students into another community or school, then you should be able to work to bring children into this community

 

Transportation and Safety – Kim Anderson

How am I going to get to school?

  • Many students walk to school
  • A big obstacle for low income families because bus passes are $42.00 a month.
  • Regina Transit is not very accommodating. Students will have to wait for buses as early as 7:15am and with travel time of up to 68 minutes. Many buses have short arrival times, leaving students with as much as 3 minutes to get to class. To compensate for this, children will have to take a bus 40 minutes earlier.
  • After 6:15pm buses only run once every hour, which makes it impossible to do extra curricular activity
  • Choir programs run early in the morning so students would have to go earlier then normal
  • Transferring buses downtown is a major concern
  • To Thom, with service only in Uplands area with a ride of 15 minutes

 

Safety – Kim Anderson

  • Resource officers states that 5% of the students are considered to be bad apples
  • Comments from other high school students – “Usher students are too gangster and it will cause fights.”

 

Small Schools – Val Dodman

  • Smaller classroom sizes are the best for learning because it gives more one on one time for learning
  • By cramming as many students as you can into one room you are ignoring what the school system is made for – to give the best education possible to students. In actuality the school board’s responsibility is to build more facilities to get the best education possible.

· Why are smaller schools better:

· greater success in smaller schools

· larger graduation rates

· smaller student-teacher ratio means students can get help to understand better

· allow extra curricular activities (all kids who register get to participate, which boosts confidence)

· can identify more emotional and educational problems among children

· less vandalism

· give children a chance to walk or cycle to school and be more active

· allows children to go home right after school or at lunch to look after younger siblings.

 

Real Renewal for the Public School Board – Karen Wilke & Patricia Elliott

Karen Wilke

  • Lead best when we lead by example
  • Seek out office space in schools that are experiencing low enrollment
  • Advantages:

“You will demonstrate all though change is hard, chaotic, and disturbing, that you have not asked young children, staff or families to do anything that you yourselves are not willing to do.”

  • By moving to different buildings you will be prolonging the building use, and helping the school to stay open.
  • Opportunity to work with school and staff
  • You will experience the lives of the students

Patricia Elliott

  • Parents are not just nostalgic and emotional.
  • They care because educational standards are about to be lowered.
  • This plan is a replay of similar plans developed in the U.S. in the past 20 years that have since proven to be disastrous for students and communities. U.S. school districts are not trying to rebuild their small neighbourhood schools.
  • The School Board has done little or no research into the potential impacts of school closures, relying on a single literature review done hastily in Toronto.
  • The Board should not be so worried about whether their decision will be unpopular – of course it will be – but should rather be worried about whether their decision will be deeply flawed. It seems you are planning to spend a lot of money to make things worse.

 

Community – Donna Dubasov

· Not enough time for students to show other schools how great they really are

 

Economics – Karen Zibreski

· Average house amount in area of school is $119,000

· Average house amount surrounding Thom is $166,000

· Average house amount surrounding Winston Knoll $232,000

· Can all of the community afford to send their children to a school out of the community?

 

Government Issues and Interaction of Usher students with Elementary – Bill Trenaman

  • Elementary schools always use Usher for their grade 8 graduations and for other big functions

 

 Vocational Education – Rick Knibbs & Tyler Stewart

  • Easy to make friends at Robert Usher
  • What will happen to all of the stuff inside of the school if it is closed (trophies etc.)?
  • Usher has so much to offer and so much to give
  • If we lose one because of drops outs and drugs, it’s one too many

 

Seniors’ Presentation – Cel Shtuka, Agnes Moldenhauer, Elfrieda Wolfe & Joyce Anderson

  • On a limited budget, I am able to enjoy the school’s functions and productions for a small price
  • Study at a large school in Toronto found that:

57% carry knives

42% carry hand guns

12% sexually assaulted in school

  • Results showing that small schools are more safer

 

Student Representative Council

  • Many school achievements in both academics and athletics

 

Questions that are voiced by students:

  • Will a plan be developed to transport students to other schools?
  • This building is in good shape, why close it?
  • Have they thought about how to keep Usher sustainable rather then close it?
  • Have they considered the effects that closing will have on the community?
  • Why were we only giving 4 months when other schools have 3 to 4 years?
  • Why is only school size being considered?
  • What will they do with the building, will they sell it? Where will the money go if the property is sold?
  • What will happen to the local businesses?
  • Will I be safe at a new school? Will I be accepted?
  • How will we be sure that students are comfortable?
  • What will be done to prevent violence at a new school?
  • What if we can not afford to take the city bus?
  • Fear of rejection from other students?
  • What happens to Usher’s banners, graduation pictures etc. that we have taken so much pride in?
  • How do we deal with the negative image that other students have of Usher students?
  • Are we not going to have the opportunity to be the SRC president, Valedictorian, or team captain?
  • What are our chances of getting scholarships at a large school?
  • If you participate in after school activities, how will you get home if you rely on the bus?

 

What does Usher mean to you? (students)

  • Like my second home, I am here more then my own home
  • Everyone I know is here
  • Opportunities for scholarships in a small school
  • Chance for opportunities in music program, yearbook club, sports teams, etc.
  • Family
  • Friendly people
  • Get along with anybody (no little cliques)
  • Welcomed with open arms
  • Love going to school, knowing that you are going to have a great day
  • It means going to school and seeing happy faces
  • Know everyone and have many close friends
  • Lots of fun while learning
  • Sense of security and safety

 

Necessity

  • The very big size that the other schools may become
  • Solutions:

Distance education

Tutorial program

Fine arts programs

Adult campus that runs (you give them a second chance, so give our children one chance)

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3 Comments

  1. Timebandit

     /  January 29, 2008

    If the enrollment is 357 students, then, IIRC, Usher is a mere 43 students under the *magic number* in the so-called renewal plan. Beside the issues of sustainability and community, this is a paltry reason to close this school down, especially if it is a school with a higher proportion of economically disadvantaged students.

    Reply
  2. We would like to share our vision, as a community, of what makes an excellent school. This vision has developed over the years with the time spent discussing and sharing with the students, seniors and parents in our Usher area. A good school for us is a place where everyone is teaching and everyone is learning simultaneously, students teaching, students learning, teachers learning, teachers teaching, parents and community teaching and learning and offering a sound foundation of support. A community of learners in which the principles of continuous improvement are critical.

    A good school is one that respects differences. RESPECT is a huge word in our vocabulary and one of crucial values for what we represent a value that must be nurtured in every student. It has been said for many generations that Respect is earned. Make no mistakes, the large society claims that the youth of today lack respect; but we at Usher will prove them wrong.

    Our vision of an excellent school is also one that is active in taking risks and in doing so we may succeed and celebrate, or we may fail and require support; but in no way will criticize or ridicule our failures. We will persevere guided by the learning experiences behind us. Challenges are not only about winning and losing but rather the experiences gained through the journey along the way which far outweighs the initial feeling of victory. We would like to be a part of a school and community in which a great deal is made of humor. Humor is strongly associated with learning and the development of intelligence, not to mention its importance to the quality of life. We believe humor can be the glue that binds an assorted group of individuals into a cohesive community.

    The characteristics of the vision may somewhat resemble the dynamics of a family. Yes, exactly. When you enter the halls of Usher we are one, united in support of our schools goals and our community’s mission. Robert Usher Collegiate is a safe haven for many, a community of caring, compassionate individuals who reach out to one another in good times and in bad. It is those who endure and share the tough times that are truly committed to the cause of keeping the family united.

    This vision does not include enrolment numbers, delivery models, deficits, or financial statements. Learning children should never have to worry about the schools finances and the stability of the careers of their teachers. This is wrong in so many ways and has been in the past. Usher students have had to deal with this in their day to day lives; some have dealt with this most of their learning careers; yet they have persevered. We feel we are the Regina Public School Board’s beautiful hidden secret, we offer a community of learners and opportunity for all; be it extracurricular or core programs. We welcome all new students and offer a brave little school with an experienced committed community behind it.
    I, myself personally feel that adding one program to our school; Arts, French immersion or continuing the Cree program from our elementary feeder schools would definitely bolster enrollment to the perfect delivery models, unfortunately we have just suffered a slow dismantling of our school. “A simple question-What programs can we offer to help Usher stay viable?” would have been the first step. There was no warning that according to the school board administration that our numbers were not in their delivery models, they just want to close us- déjà vu 2005. Definite action needs to be done regarding the power of our School Boards across Saskatchewan-The Ministry of Ontario Guidelines would be a good place to start. Thank you. Cindy Anderson Chair for Committee of Community Renewal.

    Reply
  1. Abandoned Stuff by Saskboy » Blog Archive » Because Children Are Sardines - Usher School and more are closing

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