The Bluewater District School Board announced this week that they will host a public meeting as part of its outreach plan to work on the board’s communication and accountability. The Board will meet at West Hill Secondary School in Owen Sound on May 20 from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and again on June 1 at Walkerton District Secondary School in Walkerton at the same times. According to a press release from the board, the meetings will focus on obtaining feedback on three themes – communication, responsiveness to complaints and public satisfaction. The board also recently released a discussion guide, available on their website, at Bluewater school offices and at the public meetings. The seven-page document focuses on the three themes identified by the board with a survey for each and a space for general comments. "The public should view the guide as a means of prompting discussion, not limiting it," said Chair Jennifer Yenssen. "To be responsive to the public, we need to hear from them. We need to know how well the board is doing and where and how to improve." Suggestions and comments from the public will be used to prepare a preliminary report for the board proposing concrete changes and improvements, according to a May 8 news release. The guide, and the board announcements are available at www.bwdsb.on.ca.
More than 140 students from across the Georgian Triangle participated in the seventh annual intermediate United Nations at Collingwood Collegiate. Grade 7 and 8 students from Collingwood, Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township represented 68 different countries as part of the exercise. There were three major topics up for discussion: international copyright laws, a resolution that would see countries with large supply of freshwater giving some to countries with very little and a resolution about more aid for Africa. "We do it to give kids a chance to do some research on international issues," said CCI teacher Scott McFarlane. "It’s a good way to introduce kids in Grades 7 and 8 to CCI." Nottawa Elementary School student Anne Marie Marsden was representing Cuba. She said the session is fun and informative. "You get to research your country and debate with others," she said. "I like when we go into smaller discussion groups." Marsden said she researched her issues by looking at speeches from the president of Cuba and the national website. "We have to get a lot of opinions from different sources," she said. She said the most pressing on the table for her was water. "Our country doesn’t have a lot of water," she said.
The 26 students in Georgian College’s new golf management degree program have worked hard this year at the business of playing. The program, which began in September, has just sent its very first class off to their summer co-op. Meanwhile, program co-ordinator Brad Doey prepares the courses for their second year while working to make improvements to the first-year curriculum. “When you launch a program like this you have great expectations of the quality of students, the level of instruction and how engaged the professors are in the process,” he reflects. “We promised our students we’d deliver a world-class program.” To monitor their satisfaction levels, Doey asked them to complete weekly report cards to describe what they like and don’t like. “They showed we were exceeding their expectations,” Doey reports. “So we’re really happy about that.” The course work for this four-year program includes traditionally formatted classroom work (where they learn law, management and accounting, for example), mixed with a great deal of practical instruction. “One of the courses in the program is called Golf Etiquette and Game Improvement,” Doey says. This class sends students to the tees. “We have playing privileges at several courses in the area. Playing well is important. “They command a certain amount of respect among their fellow workers, club members, their pros and management – we recognize that.” There is also an advanced version of the course. Off-site field trips are also a regular part of the curriculum. The class visited the Canadian Golf Superintendent Association conference and trade show where Toronto Maple Leaf general manager Brian Burke addressed the crowd with an inspirational keynote speech. They also attended an irrigation seminar at Turf Care Products in Newmarket, a topic that supports their first co-op. “We don’t just pull these things out of our hat,” says Doey, who has structured the program’s tuition fees to support an enhanced educational experience. One of the report cards did suggest that such outings be more contained within scheduled class hours to ensure time for other pursuits. Students happily gave up their spring reading week, however, for a whirlwind trip to Florida where they got a clubhouse tour of TPC Sawgrass – home of the Players Championship, a major PGA tournament. “The general manager also took us into the champion’s locker room,” recalls Doey. The normally off-bounds room was a special awe-inspiring addition to the visit. But if brushing shoulders with the ghosts of legends past got their attention, an unexpected chat with Golden Bear himself was astounding. While visiting Nicklaus Design, the renowned golf course design firm founded by Jack Nicklaus, the man walked into the meeting in person and greeted the group. Doey was thrilled not only to receive an invitation to return to the firm, but also to have the next group of students play a round on Nicklaus’ private golf course. “You don’t get to see a legend like that up close very often,” says the college professor. “A lot of students walked out of there dumbfounded, saying it doesn’t get any better than that. And that was day two so we knew we were on the right track.” When the group reached their fourth year of instruction, the large trip is a pilgrimage to the cradle of golf itself in St. Andrew’s, Scotland, says Doey. But for now, he’s in the middle of the selection process for the new crop of future industry leaders. He was pleased to note there were five female applicants in the group. This year’s class has a single woman in its ranks. Although there’s a lot of room for improvement, he recognizes the higher number as a starting point. “That’s not a bad number – for now.” For more information about the program, call the collage at 728-1968.
An outpouring of grief followed news that TeleTech plans to lay off about 470 staff at its Orillia call centre by the end of July due to the loss of its main client. “Some people were beside themselves,” recalled employee Brenda Capsticks. “Some people were having anxiety attacks, some people were breaking down crying.” Other staff approached by Orillia Today declined to speak on the record, but acknowledged the Tuesday announcement had come as a blow. “It’s an emotional time,” said one during a smoke break. “A shock,” was how another described the news. Still others refused to comment, waving away a reporter while heading to their cars. “I’m not going to answer any questions,” one individual said bluntly. “You’ll have to talk to the site director.” Mayor Ron Stevens learned of the coming job cuts during a call from the company’s Denver, Co. headquarters on Tuesday morning. He said that, as of the end of July, the call centre would no longer be fielding calls on behalf of its current client, which “will be leaving and relocated. “They have also informed us that they have a temporary client in there for awhile to pick up some of the slack, and they are hoping to expand it into a much longer contract,” he said. TeleTech is in talks with a large company in the hope of securing new work for the Orillia operation, he said. “Hopefully, they are successful in their negotiations,” Stevens added. “If they are, that client will be moved into that Orillia centre.” Stevens said he was told 472 people would lose their jobs at the end of July. “There will be roughly 140 left,” he said. Capsticks said she was one of a group of employees who in February began answering calls on behalf of the temporary client referred to by Stevens. “I am very optimistic they will renew their contract for another six months,” she said, noting that the company avoided earlier layoffs by securing the temporary client. Capsticks is equally hopeful that management will secure more work and avoid the massive layoff currently planned. “I have every faith that (the site director) will get another client in TeleTech by the 31st of July,” she added. Site director Trevor Forrester said staff were “very supportive” upon learning of the coming job losses and the effort to recruit a new client. He said the company is “aggressively” pursuing clients in the hope of retaining jobs at the facility on Hunter Valley Road. “I am glad that (staff) have a lot of hope, and I have a lot of hope as well,” he said. “I know that the corporate team is looking out for our interests and planning on keeping us open (by attracting another client).” The company’s sales team would present potential clients, with Forrester helping to determine whether “they fit in with the timeline. “(Can they start) soon enough?” he said. A hundred employees are currently working for the temporary client, and company officials say that figure could double by the end of this month. “Those numbers are fluid,” Forrester said. Added Stevens: “They have every intention of trying to keep that centre open. They have a very high opinion of the people who work there. It is just an unfortunate situation that they are hoping to be able to resolve by having another client. They feel very hopeful that they can make this happen.” Stevens attributed the coming job losses to the economic downturn. “Like any other corporation, their client is an American-based company, and their economy is in pretty dire straits,” he added. Stevens said he does not regret council’s decision to give TeleTech a break on leasing costs for the city-owned building that houses the local operation. “Absolutely not,” he added. “I am not going to say that is the end of TeleTech in Orillia. I am very hopeful they will be able to negotiate this thing.”
By Michael Gennings Staff Local potter Mike Leishman is playing a role in Jubilee Presbyterian Church’s 150th anniversary. Leishman, a Sunnidale-area resident and well-known craftsman, has developed a line of commemorative products for the Stayner church. The church is selling the items to people who want a keepsake. The items are also being used as gifts for guests taking part in anniversary celebrations, which are happening throughout the year. He said the church contacted him last September about developing a 150th anniversary product. He said he was happy to take part. "The church has always been kind of good to me. I’ve done some different projects with churches. It’s rewarding to be a part of something that means so much to people," Leishman said. Members of the church’s anniversary committee and Leishman bandied about several ideas and in January he started developing some "test product". The committee subsequently settled on a white and black glazed line, comprised of a mug, small dish and trivet. "The main thing was we wanted something different than the traditional plate, with gold trim, that you see in people’s cupboards and at auction sales," said anniversary committee member Judy Robbinson, when asked why Leishman was approached. "We wanted something local and we wanted something that was functional." To date Leishman has made about 150 pieces. Each piece contains the name of the church and decorative elements significant to Jubilee. For example, the trivet has an image of the church, located on Main Street. The image is from a pen and ink sketch that Leishman did and had turned into a stamp by a company in London, Ont. The company made other decorative stamps that Leishman used on the project as well. To make items such as the trivet, Leishman said he rolls clay until it’s flat. He then cuts the clay to the desired shape, stamps it, signs it and allows it to dry over a four to five-day period. To make other shapes, such as mugs, he uses his potter’s wheel. The pieces then go into the kiln for a 24-hour period, with the temperature reaching 1,800 F. The kiln is used to take the water out of the clay, he said. Once done in the kiln, the glaze is applied to the items and they are then returned to the kiln for a 35-hour period, with the temperature reaching 2,300 F. The process seals the object so that once it’s used, water can’t get into the clay. All of the work is done in the basement of the red brick schoolhouse, built in 1913, where he and his wife Connie live, just south of Sunnidale Corners on County Road 10. "I’ve kind of perfected the whole process over the years," Leishman said, while giving a tour of his workspace. He noted his daughter, Ivy, a potter herself, and his wife help produce the items. Leishman learned his trade while attending the Ontario College of Art in Toronto for three years from 1969 to 1971. With some prodding, Leishman humbly confesses he had a natural ability. He then studied fine arts at the University of Guelph for two years before heading off to earn a living. He owned and operated Cobalt Pottery in Cobalt, Ontario, for four years before relocating in 1979 to his current location – a move that Leishman said brought them closer to the Toronto market, where he began wholesaling his product. People across the country and around the globe now own pottery he’s made at the schoolhouse, which includes a storefront. Robbinson said the mugs Leishman made for Jubilee sell for $25; the trivets go for $30 and the small dishes for $20. They can be purchased by contacting Robbinson at 428-2479.
Huronia Historical Parks maintenance staff recently planted 230 white pine and white spruce trees on the shoreline areas of Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons and Discovery Harbour. The trees were provided by the Severn Sound Environmental Association as part of its tributary rehabilitation and natural shorelines programs. Participating staff members include Amanda Jagos, left, Ryanne Ziegler, Caitlin Wilson, David Kearney, Paul Jagos, Pamela Corey and Evan Rogerson.
County Road 56 is going to be closed for six months starting next Fri., May 1. The road will be closed between County Road 21 and he 10th Sideroad to allow for the construction of a new bridge over Thornton Creek, just north of Drysdale’s Tree Farm. The road will only be closed to through traffic. Access to homeowners will still be available. The closure will remain in effect until Oct. 2. Traffic will be detoured down the 8th Line. The road is a popular route for some Alliston Honda plant workers travelling to and from their homes in Barrie.
The Municipality of Grey Highlands has its first application for a wind energy project. Council at its regular meeting on April 27 received a lengthy report from municipal planner Lorelie Spencer about the municipality’s first wind energy application. The application is called the Plateau Wind Farm. The proposal would locate a total of ten 1.5 MW large-scale wind turbines at various locations. Nine of the turbines would be in the Municipality of Grey Highlands. The proposal also includes: transmission lines, a meteorological tower and a switching station. The application is the first test of the alternative energy planning policies adopted by Grey Highlands council. Council did not review the actual planning application at the April 27 meeting. Council took a look at Spencer’s formal comments about the project’s draft Environmental Screening Report/Environmental Assessment Report. Spencer’s report was quite lengthy – 12 pages – and pointed a number of areas of the report that were incomplete or insufficient for the project to continue forward. Spencer highlighted a number of deficiencies in the ESR/EIS that need to be addressed before the application can move forward. They include: • Planning Justification Report – scope is inconsistent with local policies • Visual Impact Assessment – not submitted • Ice Throw Report – not submitted • Noise report – scope is inconsistent with local policies • Management Plan – committed to during pre-consultation with the municipality, but not submitted • Site Plan – not considered to be of sufficient detail to fulfill the site plan requirements contained in the local Official Plan • Evidence of no electromagnetic interference – insufficient During her presentation to council, Spencer significantly reduced the size of her report. Several members of council questioned why the municipality is reducing the number of concerns it has about the reports that have been submitted. Spencer explained to members of council that her report was shortened for a number of reasons. She said all of the concerns raised in the initial report would be communicated to the proponents of the application. She said in light of the province’s proposed Green Energy Act (Bill 150) she didn’t want the report to appear to be "onerous" with regards to this initial application. Members of council discussed the report at length. Councillor Paul McQueen said he was concerned the report didn’t include a map showing where the wind towers are being proposed. The reaction of the public to the application was clearly on the minds of councillors. Earlier in the meeting council faced questions from several residents about wind energy projects in the municipality. Council also received a lengthy presentation and report about potential adverse health affects of wind towers from local resident Lorrie Gillis. With the discussion and comments starting to veer off course into the details of the actual planning application – Mayor Brian Mullin had to steer council back on course. "These are comments about a draft ESR/EIS report. These are not comments about the application itself," said Mullin, pointing out that the formal Official Plan and zoning bylaw applications will go through a vigorous public process. Mullin repeatedly warned members of council that they were approving Spencer’s comments about the ESR/EIS report – not the actual planning application. No date has been set when council will hear the formal application for a wind energy project.