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Director search begins

The public school board is looking for input from parents as it hunts for someone to fill its top staff administration position. The current Simcoe County District School Board director of education, Gordon Campbell, announced in January that he is retiring at the end of this school year. Trustees have now begun the lengthy process of finding a replacement. The director search committee chair, Trustee Mary Anne Wilson, said the role is a difficult and complex one, which involves managing the board’s finances and being responsible for the roughly 5,000 employees working for the board. "It’s important to understand that the director is the individual that is accountable to the board of trustees," she said. "It’s a lot of people to manage, it’s a very large organization. We have more than 50,000 students." The board has posted a call for public input on its website, and is asking parents to answer questions such as what barriers and challenges they believe the new director will have, and what type of background and skills are required to tackle them. "One of the first things we need to determine as a board is what would be the mandate and the profile for the person we would like to see as a director of education," Wilson said. The search committee also wants to know what goals parents would like to see accomplished by the new director within a year of hiring. The board is taking written answers via e-mail until 5 p.m. March 25. Responses can be e-mailed to [email protected]. For more information, including the full list of questions, go to www.scdsb.on.ca, or call 705-728-7570.


No answers on MP’s election promise

The numbers are in for Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis’ 2008 election campaign, but so far it’s unclear if the final tally includes the cost of a riding householder delivered in September, after the writ had dropped for the fall election as promised by Guergis and her campaign team. At the time Guergis said the four-page householder was the same as the four-page newsletter she sends out each year before the fall session of Parliament. Although she said the newsletter was ready for a month and a half before it was actually sent out, information on the front page of it carried an update from the Beijing Olympics. By having the Canadian medal count for the Olympics, which ended Aug. 24, Guergis contradicted her statement that the mailer had been ready for over a month. A letter to The Alliston Herald – The Sun’s sister paper – from Guergis’ campaign manager Andy Beaudoin just before the election, also confirmed that the householders would be paid for by the campaign budget and not taxpayer’s dollars. When the Herald contacted Guergis’ riding office to speak with her about where the expense was listed, spokesperson Val Knight said the question should be directed to Beaudoin. Messages for Beaudoin were not returned. The Herald made further attempts to reach Guergis directly, but Knight said she didn’t know when that would be possible. "Because it’s International Women’s Week she’s really busy," said Knight. An e-mail from Knight after the conversation confirmed Guergis would not be speaking to the local media. "Helena is currently in meetings and is leaving shortly for the UN where, as Minister of State (Status of Women), she will be leading the Canadian delegation for International Women’s Week. I know Helena will address this at a later date," said Knight in the e-mail. Guergis has been in the riding since the expenses have been released, but she has not responded to any of the Herald’s requests to speak with her. For Guergis’ campaign, Beaudoin received three cheques totalling $13,314, with one for $3,000 included in the ‘other’ advertising expenses, where the householder cost should be included. Also included in Guergis’ advertising expenses is $226 to mom Linda Guergis, $525 to Backbone, $741.71 to C.C. Tatham and Associates, a group of engineers, site planners and landscape architects, $8,758.91 to consultants Callaghan and Associates, and $6,000 to Eleftherios Sklavos. It is not clear which, if any, assumed the cost of the printing and postage for the householders in question. Guergis also paid $20,000 for RMG to do elections surveys and research. Her personal expenses submitted for the campaign were $2,417. Of the six Simcoe-Grey candidates, five have had their expenses made public with Elections Canada. Information for Liberal candidate Andrea Matrosovs is not yet available from Elections Canada online. Matrosovs, who is currently out of the country, was given an extension to submit her expenses, according to campaign manager Leo Losereit. He said the auditor was slow in getting back to the local Liberal campaign for the Feb. 13 deadline and that they had until March 16 to submit their costs. Unofficially, Losereit said the cost for Matrosovs’ campaign is $36,800, and she had $31,459 in contributions. Guergis’ contributions totalled $30,560.76 from 108 people. NDP candidate Katy Austin raised $7,575.60 from 34 donations and the Green Party’s Peter Ellis raised $942. The Christian Heritage Party of Canada candidate Peter Vander Zaag raised $4,710 from 22 donations and Libertarian Party of Canada candidate Caley McKibbin had two donations, raised $230. Of the $94,126 candidates were permitted to spend on the campaign, Guergis spent $71,239, the most of all the Simcoe-Grey candidates whose returns have been made public so far. Austin spent $6,076, Ellis spent $9,0146, Vander Zaag $4,175 and McKibbin spent $200. The deadline for filing campaign expenses is four months after election day, or in this case Feb. 14. Extensions are permitted in extreme circumstances.


The Door has a home

Stayner Youth For Christ is getting is ready to open a drop-in centre called The Door. “It will be a safe place for kids age 13 to 18 to go. We’re very excited to finally have a spot,” said Rev. Gerry Hunt, a member of the Stayner Youth For Christ committee. The drop-in centre will be located in a space at the plaza across from Reinhart Foods on King Street North. “There will be adult supervision and games for the kids. We’ll have some snacks available, probably for a small fee – it will be a place where the youth in our community can hang out,” Hunt said. The centre will be open Fridays and Saturdays, from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., starting sometime in May. Hunt said the exact date is still being finalized. Youth For Christ volunteers have been working for about two years to get The Door up and running, including fundraising to cover operational costs. “We looked at four different locations, three of which were on Main Street,” Hunt said. “We liked this one because it’s off the Main Street, there is better parking and the space is a little bigger.” He noted it will cost the organization approximately $950 each month to rent the 1,200-square-foot location. The focus now is on renovations to the space, he said. “We need to add a bathroom – there is one there now. A sink is needed, a fridge, some comfortable chairs. We’re working on pulling it all together,” Hunt said. People wanting to donate items to The Door can contact the organization at 428-3733, he said.   An official open house is set for Thurs., April 30, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. “It will be a chance for people to look around and check out the space,” Hunt said. He said Youth For Christ has operated in the community since 2000 – running various youth programs. He said officials with the organization made a decision two years ago to start a drop-in centre, adding the concept has proven successful in other communities. Stayner Youth For Christ is a satellite of Highlands Youth For Christ in Orangeville, which oversees Youth For Christ ministries and drop-in centres in several other communities, including Collingwood. To handle operations at The Door in Stayner, Hunt said Youth For Christ has hired local resident Jennifer Gerrior. Gerrior has worked with several community organizations over the years, including the Stayner Fall Fair, the Stayner Pumpkin Festival and the Stayner Heritage Society. “She is really passionate about kids and that’s something we obviously want,” Hunt said. Gerrior will be responsible for organizing fundraising efforts to support The Door, along with program development and outreach. In an e-mail interview, Gerrior said she is looking forward to her new role. “I love working with children and youth,” she said. “Their energy and passion for life is contagious. I love to watch as new ideas brew and questions form as they explore their community and their world.” Gerrior noted many people have asked why she’s taking on the position with The Door and said her answer is simple. “I am here because The Door drop-in centres are one of the most inspirational things I have ever witnessed,” she explained. “While visiting other centres I have seen the way the staff and volunteers can make a lasting difference in the lives of today’s youth. I knew I wanted to be a part of the positive difference The Door can make.” Hunt said Youth For Christ has about half a dozen volunteers to supervise The Door but added that more are welcome. He explained volunteers will be required to go through a training session handled by Highlands Youth For Christ. Working with youth can be a rewarding experience, he added. People can also help The Door by donating money to help offset costs. Donated snacks would be welcome as well, Hunt said. To help cover costs, Youth For Christ is hosting a dinner theatre on Fri., May 29 at Centennial United Church on William Street. The performance is called On The Streets and it will be presented by a traveling troupe from The Door in Orangeville, Hunt said. “It’s a play about youth and their needs,” he noted. Tickets to the fundraiser are $25 each and can be reserved by calling Ellen Craig at 428-2323 or Jessica Rawn at 428-3659.


No tax break for business

Simcoe County councillors opted not to give employers a tax break this year for fear of the impact on homeowners. Instead, county councillors will contemplate how to reduce the tax burden for business and industry at a strategic planning session. And they’ll have a year to consider how to implement any ideas that may emerge as the county sets tax ratios – how to allocate the tax levy among the various property classes, such as residential, commercial, farm, pipeline and industrial. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier urged the mayors and deputy mayors of the county’s 16 member municipalities to give business extra care this year, as the recession stresses companies. He said the county has room to move to make its tax ratios more fair, as businesses bear more than their fair share of not only the municipal tax, but even six to 10 times more than a residential taxpayer in education taxes. “We have significant employers looking toward all levels of government to offer stimulus and be more fair,” he said Tuesday. “We’re a long, long way from the (provincially-recommended) range of fairness. What I’m asking is the moving forward of the bylaw (setting taxes) be held off, until we collectively discuss this.” His motion, however, failed, and county councillors set the new taxes. "I’m not opposed to what Coun. Carrier is suggesting (but) we really need to see the actual effect on a number of municipalities. My community is 95-per-cent residential,” said Tiny Township Mayor Peggy Breckenridge. “It’s probably not too bad, but without the numbers, how can we move forward?” Switching the ratio slightly would mean a few dollars more for residents, while sparing companies with higher assessments much more. It would impact municipalities differently, depending on their make up. Collingwood, with its diverse employment and industrial base, would benefit, while Tiny, which is largely residential, would see its support to the county rise. Two weeks ago, Essa Township Mayor David Guergis highlighted a Barrie company that was poised to build two plants in Essa, but which went to the United States instead, where taxes were lower and municipal regulations fewer.


Howard steals Brier win

There won’t be a police investigation, but Glenn Howard was guilty of theft on Thursday morning in Calgary. Facing yet another possible loss at the Tim Hortons Brier Men’s Curling Championships, Howard and his Coldwater and District Curling Club foursome made out like bandits against the Mark Dacey rink from Nova Scotia. With the game tied at 6-6 after eight ends and Dacey holding last rock advantage in the ninth, Dacey missed on his final shot of the end, thereby delivering three points to Howard, the three-time world champion. Holding the three-point cushion, Howard and teammates Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill ran Dacey’s rink out of rocks in the final end and registered the 9-6 win. The victory over Dacey improved Ontario’s record at the Brier to 9-1 in round-robin play. With Dacey scheduled to take on Kevin Martin’s Alberta rink on Thursday afternoon, Howard needed the win to keep pace with Martin, who was at 9-0. A win over Martin in Thursday evening’s showdown and the Howard rink can still claim first place in the standings and the all-important last-rock advantage in the weekend playoffs. Howard’s battle with Dacey was a seesaw affair throughout, with the lead changing numerous times. As he has been doing in recent games at the Brier, Howard and his Coldwater foursome fell behind early, 2-0 to Dacey after one end, but rebounded with two points of their own in the second end. Dacey then jumped back out to a 3-2 lead in the third end, before Howard responded with one point of his own in the fourth end to tie the game at 3-3. Dacey grabbed a single point in the fifth end to retake the lead at 4-3, before Howard countered with two points of his own to pull into a 5-4 lead after six ends. In the seventh end, Dacey scored two to pull in front 6-5, followed by a single point from Howard in the eighth end to tie the game at 6-6. That set the stage for the three-point steal by Howard for the win. Ontario and Alberta have secured playoff berths for the weekend action, while teams including Newfound/Labrador and New Brunswick continued to fight it out for the remaining playoff berths on Thursday afternoon.


Teen dies after fall at local ski hill

A 17-year-old girl who died as a result of a skiing accident was remembered by friends as an exceptional student and athlete with a ready smile, and dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Elisabeth Reurink was on a school trip from London, Ont., at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood. She was near the bottom of a hill rated as intermediate when she skied off to the side of the open slope yesterday at about 10:50 a.m., police said. "At the bottom of the run she collided with a tree," said Const. Theresa Van Boven of the Collingwood OPP. Police had an area of the hill taped off while they conducted their investigation. Reurink, who was wearing a helmet, was taken to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The accident was the third fatality on Ontario slopes in two weeks. At the time of the accident, weather and snow conditions were good. Friend Christina Chehade remembered Reurink, a student at London’s Catholic Central High School, as a rosy-cheeked young woman with a bright future. "She was an amazing student … achieved high rankings in both cross-country (running) and wrestling, an amazing friend, always had a smile on her face and would laugh no matter how lame my jokes were," she said yesterday. Reurink maintained a 90-plus average, she said. In 2005, Reurink received a Spirit Award, presented to students who "exemplify the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations," according to the London District Catholic School Board website. Last Sunday, a 45-year-old Toronto man died at Beaver Valley Ski Club, about 30 kilometres southwest of Collingwood. John Zsolt, described as a skilled snowboarder, fell and crashed into a tree. He was also wearing a helmet. On Feb. 18, "James" Boo Sung Moon, a 13-year-old Korean visa student at Richmond Hill’s Trillium Woods Public School, was killed after he lost control and hit a tree on a beginner hill at Snow Valley. He was not wearing a helmet, which prompted Premier Dalton McGuinty, an avid skier, to buy one himself and urge others to don one on the slopes. Torstar News Service 


Survey says: Residents love Simcoe County

Lakes and beaches are what most Simcoe County residents identify as local icons and landmarks, but when it comes to challenges, garbage tops their list. An Ipsos Reid survey conducted last fall revealed the good and bad in Simcoe County, from the perspective of 1,601 residents. "Satisfaction with the County of Simcoe as a place to live is very high and the percentage of residents rating their satisfaction as very satisfied … has increased from 79 per cent to 81 per cent," said county clerk Glen Knox. Residents "like it here," the Ipsos Reid key findings indicated. Growth is shaping opinion, as more and more people surveyed are more-recent arrivals; fewer people surveyed grew up here. As a result, previously accepted landmarks, such as the Martyrs’ Shrine, are listed as the top icons; the percentage of people citing that fell to six per cent, from eight three years ago. Lakes are tops with 21 per cent, followed by beaches (at 14 per cent). Both are up significantly over 2005. Nearly twice as many residents – 12 per cent, up from six per cent three years ago – said they didn’t know what the recognizable landmarks in the county are. One-third of residents couldn’t name one. In terms of challenges, however, 20 per cent of residents said waste management was tops, followed by taxes, at 10 per cent, and land use planning at 10 per cent. Significantly fewer mentioned road repair – 11 per cent, down from 21 per cent three years ago – as a concern. In its investigation, Ipsos Reid found the Site 41 controversy played a key role. Mentions of the site rose to 15 per cent, up from six per cent three years ago. In 2008, three times as many residents called the county regarding garbage – 15 per cent, up from five per cent – three years before.