Politician rips public school board brass amid vocational school furor

The public school board’s handling of B. Davison secondary school in London is part of a larger problem with senior administration, a local politician charges.

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The public school board’s handling of B. Davison secondary school in London is part of a larger problem with its senior administration, a local politician charges.

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“There’s this continuous trend that senior administration is doing whatever they want. The board of trustees are being left in the dark and their decisions aren’t being respected by the administration,” Thames Centre deputy mayor Kelly Elliott said Friday. “From a bigger standpoint, that’s a larger issue that needs to be tackled.”

The B. Davison issue is just one of many examples of senior Thames Valley administration ignoring the will of trustees over the past year, Elliott said, citing the shutdown of a rural schools task force that she has strongly supported and staff refusing to implement a trustees’ vote requiring masks in schools.

Elliott doesn’t expect the public will get much say in the matter Tuesday at a special meeting called by the Thames Valley District school board about B. Davison, a vocational school whose future has been in the spotlight amid a series of Free Press stories from those concerned it may close.

“My gut feeling is just it’s going to be staff telling the trustees what they’ve told the media this week,” Elliott said. “The agenda doesn’t really explain anything. And the public doesn’t ever get any reports till the day of the meeting.”

The only way the public could get official standing was to appear before a board committee a month ago, she said. “There’s no way for a delegation to get approved.”

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But organizers of a campaign to save the school’s programs are still calling on members of the public to come in force on Tuesday. Close to 600 people have signed an online petition in support of the school, according to the group’s Facebook page, Keep Davison Secondary School Open.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the Thames Valley education centre at 1250 Dundas St. The only item on the agenda is B. Davison secondary school.

As reported first in The Free Press a week ago, parents and supporters are worried about the board’s plans for the vocational programs at the school. Several sources have told The Free Press that the Thames Valley administration stopped accepting students into Grade 9 programs two years ago.

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Thames Valley education director Mark Fisher denies acceptances have stopped.

But Elliott said she’s been working behind the scenes on the issue for several months and has heard from three parents and two teachers that that is the case.

In a recent Free Press interview, Fisher said the B. Davison model of education is stalling the progress of its students, who can now choose similar programs at their local secondary schools. The school isn’t going to close, but it might offer different programs, including alternative education, he said.

“I would love to see the metrics on how they’re defining success at B. Davidson, because it’s not like any other school,” Elliott said Friday.

“The stories that are coming out from graduates of Davison’s programs show that is a successful program, there’s a need for it. To just put it as simply as the school isn’t successful because, on paper, they don’t meet these metrics, I think is really unfair to both the students and the staff there.”

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Parents and former students have contacted media in London with similar stories of how B. Davison turned their lives around by offering a place where they felt comfortable to learn.

B. Davison school opened in September 2014 from the amalgamation of the former Sir George Ross and Thames secondary vocational schools, at the site of the Thames school on Trafalgar Street.

The school offers workplace courses in hospitality, welding, construction, auto mechanics, horticulture and cosmetology as well as co-op and some academic courses. Many of the courses help students enter the workplace directly after graduation.

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