The following is a letter I have sent to Harold Windsor, Halifax and region's one-man school board:Dear Mr. Windsor
I loved the title Imagine for of the School Board’s school reform process. I’d like to accept your invitation to imagine, in the hope that it’s not too late.
Imagine school as the heart of community
Imagine that the school is the heart of a community, kind of like St. Catherine’s: where since I moved to Halifax 5 years ago, I’ve met most of the people I know; where over 150 parents volunteer each year to create a richer school life school for their kids; where the school, through its PTA, feeds the children who come to school hungry through a snack and hot lunch program; where parents offer extra-curricular programs ranging from a skipping rope program to an enriched creative writing program to a theatre production of the Wizard of Oz; where families come together to raise all kinds of money for the school and to have fun. I could go on. St. Catherine’s is special to me and my family, in the way I’m sure other schools are to their neighbourhoods.
Now imagine a city with a lot of schools that no longer have students to fill all of their classrooms. And imagine the communities of all of the schools coming together to look at how to keep those schools at the heart of their communities.
Imagine a process led by a community development resource person who could bring all interested parties – the school board, the school staff, the parents, city planners, elected officials, and other community members – together as a community. Imagine this resource bringing all parties together in a way that inspired their imaginations, building on their strengths, encouraging them to leave their preconceived conclusions at the door so they could entertain any and all opportunities and think creatively. Imagine this resource facilitating a process that avoided setting up an us-and-them situation. Imagine… organizing community as the means to achieve accountable and sustainable school reform.
Imagine expanding our notion of schools into community centers that not only educated our kids, but also provided all kinds of other services, services defined by communities according to their needs and interests. Imagine schools that could offer life-long learning classes, like crafts and art classes, cooking, tango dancing, second language training, fitness classes, a place where people of all ages could go to play sports, meditate, rent space for a studio or to meet and organize around community issues, a place where other agencies could provide services such as literacy programs, early childhood development or Head Start, counseling and mental health, health education, tutoring and mentoring for children and youth. Imagine a school naturally interactive with its community, helping children, families, community capacity, and social capital grow. Imagine schools as a vibrant resource to their low-income neighbourhoods. Imagine considering this demographic as the reason to keep a community’s school open and its student population small. Imagine a maximum number of children walking to school on this peninsula and all the cars we’d take off the road and the little bit that would contribute to battling climate change. I could go on…
Imagine what all our voices set free could really imagine.
By Camille Fouillard