We’re not homogeneous

Dear editor:
I clearly understand that every school board administration has a responsibility, and an obligation, to make recommendations to the trustees that are in the best interests of the population served by the board.
I have lived, and continue to live, that reality.
However, the question sometimes arises, “Who exactly is that population?” Is it the taxpayer, the parents, the administration itself, the trustees, or is it the students and the community in which those students live?
For me, that is the fundamental question each of the trustees for the Rainy River District School should have asked themselves before they rushed to support a recommendation from school board administration—that the board should eliminate the bus that has been such an integral part of so many classroom and extra-curricular programs at Atikokan High School for the past 35 years.
Why was it that the trustees were so anxious to take this step? It did not save the board money, although there now seems to be some convenient backtracking on that issue.
It does not decrease, in any way, the risk and liability issues that arise on a daily basis in the operation of any school throughout the province.
It apparently comes down to “philosophy.” It appears that because we all belong to one school board, we should, therefore, all be homogeneous and should conform.
Nonsense! Atikokan High School is unique—and it needs to continue to be unique. That is the least it can expect from those elected officials who represent the communities of the Rainy River District School: recognition of its uniqueness and support for that uniqueness.
To most people who have not been a student, or a parent, associated with Atikokan High School, the bus issue may seem trivial and not worth much thought in the whole scheme of things. To those people who have been, and who still are, directly involved with programs and activities at AHS, this action by the school board is a lethal blow to that uniqueness.
We did not get to be unique by letting others do our thinking and acting for us. Atikokanites always have taken action, always spoken out, and always supported values that have contributed to the continuation of our community and its spirit.
When the province threatened to close the thermal generating plant, that action was seen as an obvious threat to the life and continuance of this community. The community responded and protested loudly and clearly.
When the CBC decided to have a “Hockeyville” competition, a group of young women AHS graduates stepped up and made the community proud.
The removal of a “school bus” may not have the same immediate obvious impact upon the community as a plant closure, but it will have a similar impact as if a few coal cars at a time, on each delivery of fuel, were to be cut from the coal trains that provide the fuel for the generating station.
The fire and passion in the school gradually will be extinguished.
Atikokan High School is being told by the elected officials, who are responsible to the electorate of Rainy River District, that its uniqueness is to be curtailed—and it should be quiet about it.
That’s a great way to set an example for this particular generation of teenagers who will not get to benefit from some of the unique opportunities that the availability of a bus has helped to provide to the students who have gone through AHS since 1972.
Uniqueness and differences in culture within the Rainy River District School Board’s jurisdiction should be celebrated and not destroyed in the name of uniformity.
Last Wednesday (March 21), members of the parent council of Atikokan High School held a public meeting to outline the issue, and to enlist the support of the community to implore the trustees to re-consider this issue.
Trustees and administration from the Rainy River District School Board were invited to attend by both the mayor and the parent council.
Their absence spoke volumes!
Respectfully submitted,
Michael Lewis
Atikokan, Ont.