Further to my open letter to #RBE, another open letter to @PremierBradWall

the regina mom attended a public meeting with representatives of the Regina Board of Education regarding Ecole Connaught Community School.  The following open letter to the Premier follows the open letter to the RBE published in the Regina Leader Post earlier this week.

Dear Mr. Premier,

No doubt my constant challenges and snide remarks on Twitter are annoying to you and your staff.  That’s kind of the point, you know.  It was always tit-for-tat in my family of origin.  Yes, I do try to be a better person now, but sometimes I fall back into old patterns.

It seems the Regina Board of Education (RBE) is also falling back into old patterns.  Yet again, they’re trying to dupe the Cathedral community.  Through years of neglect, the RBE has created a crisis at Ecole Connaught Community School.  Two construction firms with which the RBE conducts regular business have declared the school to be in such terrible shape that the cost to fix it is prohibitive.  Yet, neither of those firms are known as experts in the area of heritage buildings.  In fact, both P3 Architects and J.C. Kenyon are known for their involvement in new builds in the province.  Are there no conflict of interest guidelines within the Ministries of Education or Highways & Infrastructure for local school boards to follow?

And so, based on questionable data, the RBE decided that a rebuild is the only option and will proceed to convince you and your government to fund it.  This is in direct opposition to what residents and the school community have requested.  The RBE has furthermore refused to work with the community and allow heritage conservationists, funded by private citizens, into the school to conduct tests and to provide expert opinions on the matter.  I therefore hold to what I stated in a March 2013 letter to you regarding this matter,

As a 25-year resident of the area I draw on my fundamental human right, as guaranteed by the United Nations, to insist you preserve the building. The real value of Connaught has not been properly assessed. The non-market aesthetic, cultural and other values of a refurbished school have not been properly accounted for. Furthermore, the environmental, social, and economic cost-benefit analysis of alternatives requested in public consultation meetings have not been addressed – in essence, the impacts of redevelopment on our community, our property values, our local businesses, our environment and other amenities such as the Connaught library have not been properly assessed nor communicated to local residents.

It is time for the Province of Saskatchewan to insist that the Regina Board of Education take its fiduciary responsibility seriously.  But to do so, the Province must take seriously its role as Steward of a nationally-recognized historic school.

Really, Mr. Premier, there is an easy fix for this.  Send the RBE back to the drawing board.  Otherwise, according to the rumblings I heard tonight, you’d best be prepared for lawsuits.  And, quite possibly, for me to fall back into old habits.

Sincerely,

B. L. Wagner
Regina SK

cc: Minister of Education
Deputy Minister of Education
Minister of Highways & Infrastructure
Deputy Minister of Highways & Infrastructure
Regina Board of Education Trustees
Regina Leader Post
Prairie Dog
Metro News
Save Our Connaught
Real Renewal

An Open Letter to Premier Brad Wall Regarding Connaught School

As you are aware, dear Reader, the regina mom is not impressed with the Regina Public Schools Board of Education and their decision to tear down a 100 year-old school without benefit of a second opinion.  So, the regina mom, being who she is, sent a letter to the Premier and copied it far and wide.*

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Here’s the letter:

An Open Letter to Premier Brad Wall Regarding Connaught School March 16, 2013

Dear Premier Wall:

I understand that your government has received a request from the Regina Board of Education (RBE) to replace Connaught School. For a variety of reasons, I request that you deny it.

Before you is the opportunity to make a reckless decision or to invest in an integral piece of our history as a city and a province, as housed in that building. As a 25-year resident of the area I draw on my fundamental human right, as guaranteed by the United Nations, to insist you preserve the building. The real value of Connaught has not been properly assessed. The non-market aesthetic, cultural and other values of a refurbished school have not been properly accounted for. Furthermore, the environmental, social, and economic cost-benefit analysis of alternatives requested in public consultation meetings have not been addressed – in essence, the impacts of redevelopment on our community, our property values, our local businesses, our environment and other amenities such as the Connaught library have not been properly assessed nor communicated to local residents.

As well, the RBE’s renovation options as presented to the Ministry of Education appear to be over-costed and under-researched. Some RBE documents contain basic arithmetic errors in the thousands of dollars! A recommended investigation of the building’s structure was, to my knowledge, not completed, except for a basic visual assessment. In discussions with the Heritage community, I learned that the RBE made absolutely no effort to obtain the advice of experts in the assessment and repair of older buildings. Nor has an embodied energy study been conducted. Neither has the RBE requested comparable estimates, despite the Chair’s recent statement that the consultant’s report is a second opinion to her staff’s. In effect, the RBE has one estimate, provided by a company that specializes in new construction. Hard facts, then, do not underly the cost estimates.

RBE has done a less than impressive job of assessing redevelopment. The community consultation process was seriously flawed, conducted by a private firm that will likely bid on the new build. The recommendations in no way serve the school community, my Cathedral community, the residents of Regina or the people of Saskatchewan. The community input we gave through the consultation process has been disregarded and disparaged. This is in direct contravention of our community’s right to appropriate development strategies and equitable participation in decisions affecting heritage, as guaranteed under the ICOMOS Stockholm Charter, signed by Canada.

To demolish Connaught is to miss an exceptional opportunity to preserve our history. It is a cornerstone of the Cathedral Village and holds significant cultural and aesthetic value, a source of pride to past and current students, to residents and to all who pass by or enter its halls. That it be sent to the landfill is a disgrace and should be the absolute last resort of any administration!

I therefore support the demands, as articulated by the Save Our Connaught Committee which came into being on the March 3, 2013, that your government agree to the following:

  • An independent second opinion by experts in the field on the renovation versus new build option for Connaught School, based on thorough research, recommended studies and detailed unit costs. ‘Best guesses’ are a slap to the face of our joint cultural heritage.
  • A full and independent consideration of the environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of redevelopment options which includes proper consideration of the relative value of a new building versus a refurbished historic school must inform the decision.
  • The Ministry of Education and the Province of Saskatchewan must apply a more fiscally responsible, community-sensitive approach to school renovation in our community.
  • The Province must understand, acknowledge and take seriously its role as Steward of a nationally recognized historic school, on behalf of citizens of Saskatchewan and Canada.

I trust you will do the right thing. Thank you for your time and immediate attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Bernadette L. Wagner

Regina SK

cc: Ms. Katherine Gagne, Chair, Regina Public Schools Board of Education

Honourable Kevin Doherty, Minister Responsible for Parks, Culture & Sport

Honourable Russ Marchuk, Minister Responsible for Education

Mr. Cam Broten, Leader of the Opposition

Mr. David Forbes, NDP critic for Education

Ms. Danielle Chartiere, NDP critic for Culture

Hon. John Nilson, MLA for Regina Lakeview

Save Our Connaught

Real Renewal

Regina Leader-Post

Prairie Dog Magazine

Metro News

CKTV

Global News

CBC-TV

CBC Radio

Radio Canada

Rawlco Radio

MBN Radio

Accidental Deliberations

Saskboy’s Abandoned Stuff

.

* Email addresses should you care to follow suit:  citydesk@leaderpost.com, ckck@ctv.ca, globalnews.reg@globaltv.com, Jacob.Zehr@globalnews.ca, Jdedekker@leaderpost.com, direction@accesscomm.ca, mwood@rawlco.com, news@620ckrm.com, news@mbcradio.com, ponops@hotmail.com, regina@metronews.ca, saskboy@gmail.com, sasknews@cbc.ca, sheila.coles@cbc.ca, tjsask@radio-canada.ca, kdoherty@mla.legassembly.sk.ca, rmarchuk@mla.legassembly.sk.ca, cbroten.mla@sasktel.net, dforbesmla@sasktel.net, saskatoonriversdale@ndpcaucus.sk.ca, gagne@accesscomm.ca, saveourconnaught@gmail.com, realrenewal@gmail.com,<j.nilson.mla@sasktel.net>, greg@gregfingas.com, <carlabeck@sasktel.net>

Too much politics all at once

Really, the regina mom thinks she should take up juggling.  She’d be good at it, given her propensity to deal with many things at once.  Oh, sure, the kids have moved out and she’s not juggling their lives in with hers as much as she used to, but it seems that other things have moved into her life and she’s throwing them around, too.

Last week, this ridiculous idea of a Public-Private Partnership (P3) that the HarperCons have set up to help their friends make more money municipalities deal with infrastructure issues, in this case Regina’s wastewater issues came to the fore.  In an email conversation with City Councillor Wade Murray, the regina mom learned that Councillor Murray doesn’t much like public involvement in such issues.  From that conversation:

I am open to dialog and learning of the alternatives, for until the moment the question is called, I reserve my decision. It’s unfortunate that people only get involved just before the decision is to be made. We have been discussing this for 2 years, it was a topic through the election, but no one really seemed to care at that time, all of a sudden it’s time to get involved.

the regina mom really doesn’t remember a single Councillor making an issue of this during the campaign, do you, dear Reader?  And now, at tonight’s Council meeting, they approved going ahead with it. Unanimously.

At close of business on Friday the Regina Board of Education announced via its Agenda for the Tuesday, February 26 meeting that it’s considering the wrecking ball for Ecole Connaught Community School, the oldest school in Regina that’s still used as a school.  the regina mom‘s kids attended there, as did her 86 year-old mother-in-law! The irony is that at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Connaught Centennial Committee and the kids who put on a spectacular array of events to celebrate the school’s 100th anniversary last year, received a Municipal Heritage Award.

Real Renewal, the group that came together a few years ago when school closures were all the rage has come forward to speak out against this ridiculous plan.  The group has raised questions in 13 different areas and, being the helpful political activist she is, the regina mom started a petition on Avaaz which you are welcome to sign.  At last look, there were 661 signatories on the petition requesting

That the Regina Board of Education delay the decision to demolish or retrofit Ecole Connaught Community School until the recommended studies and thorough and proper community consultation can be carried out.

It’s a long shot but here’s hoping that one of the oldest buildings in the city stands for many years to come.

And then there’s the Saskatchewan NDP Leadership contest, heading into the homestretch.  We on the Ryan Meili/Erin Weir team are working hard to GOTV, contacting hundreds of voters who have not yet cast their ballots.  It’s going to be close and thus, interesting, come the March 9 convention in Saskatoon.  We’ll either have the same-old New Democratic Party or we’ll have a New Democratic Party that will change the conversation in Saskatchewan politics.

On top of the political work the regina mom does, there’s her volunteer work with the Sage Hill Writing Experience and the Cathedral Village Arts Festival.  Oh, and her writing career!

Going Green Begins @ Home

I got the first-born moved into residence at the University of Ottawa.  The husband is back to work.  The second-born is back to school.  The leaves are changing their colour.  The rodents  are eating my garden. And I’m revelling in some time at home all by myself!

Instead of using my time to rant, I thought I’d let you know about the good work the Cathedral Area Community Association is up to:

For immediate release                     September 8, 2009

Cathedral Village showcases green living

“Changing the world starts at home.” That’s the idea behind the Green Home Show, a sustainable living event presented by the Cathedral Area Community Association on Sept. 14.

In its second year, the Green Home Show is an open house where eco-minded home owners and renters will sample options to shrink their ecological footprint.

“Our inaugural event was such a success, we’ve had to grow,” says CACA board member Paul Dechene. “There’ll be more time, more exhibitors, a new venue, but the focus is still the same: clearing away the confusion around how to go green. We want people to go home with concrete solutions, things they can put into action right away.”

This year, the show will be expanding to embrace all aspects of green living. In addition to companies such as Regina Geothermal and Solar, Garbage Delight, the Regina Car Share Co-op and Energuide, the 2009 Green Home Show will feature the Prairie Sky School and sustainable fashions by Verve.

Plus, there will be an eco-café with food and coffee from Body Fuel Organics, Eat Healthy Foods, Evolution Catering, and Nature’s Best Grocery. Returning this year is the Silent Eco-Auction.

The event takes place at the Italian Club of Regina, 2148 Connaught Street from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14. Admission is free.

(-30-)

For information:
Paul Dechene, CACA Community Engagement Committee, 757-9849
www.greenhomeregina.com