School board chair quits, Miller speaks out, Board denies complaints

Bluewater District School Board trustees were to appoint a new chair at their regular meeting Tuesday after Rick Galbraith abruptly quit on Friday as controversy over a letter from MP Larry Miller continued. Galbraith, who is the trustee for Meaford and The Blue Mountains, quit suddenly after originally defending the board and its administration after federal Conservative MP Larry Miller publicly spoke out against the BWDSB, saying he had received several complaints from his constituents, parents and teachers alike, who told him their issues were ignored by the board. "Over my five years as an MP, I’ve had dozens and dozens of calls and emails from individuals who, every time they’ve had an issue with the board, basically, they were brushed off," said Miller in a phone interview from Ottawa on Monday. He said some teachers, who have raised issues in the board claim to be "black balled" by the board and are unable to become principals in the Bluewater region. Miller said he heard that Galbraith resigned, and called the situation unfortunate. "From what I can gather about him, he is a very good guy. We need people in the system like him to stand up and say, ‘what’s going on here – this isn’t right,’" he said. Miller acknowledged that education is provincially funded, but he said he’s speaking out because his constituents have asked him to. Galbraith could not be reached for comment on this story before press time. "This isn’t a provincial issue, it’s a Bluewater board issue," he said. "I believe some people at the top have their own agenda, and that agenda isn’t about the best thing for the children, the students of the BWDSB … Larry Miller might have brought this forth, but I can tell you it came from people behind the scenes that are scared." He hopes that some parents and teachers, who have asked for anonymity, will now come forward to make their complaints public. Miller committed to supporting those people in the case of any repercussions. "This kind of behind-the-scenes bullying has to stop," he said. Miller was clear to say that there were great teachers and principals in the board. "It’s not about them, it’s about the system they have to work in," he said. BWDSB Director of Education, Mary Anne Alton, said Galbraith informed her he was resigning on Friday, March 20. She said she was "very disappointed" to hear that Galbraith was resigning, and said he was a great "advocate for students and a positive voice for public education." As for Miller’s comments, Alton said, though she has heard from him in the past on issues his constituents have raised, she has not had communication with him recently. "I’m perplexed by Mr. Miller’s comments," she said, adding that he was a federal representative and education is part of the provincial government’s mandate. "I’m really not sure what the issues are that Miller is talking about." Alton maintained that all communication the board receives gets a response. "Nobody has been ignored," she said. "Certainly nobody has been bullied by our staff. The fact that people don’t get the outcome they’re looking for doesn’t mean their issue hasn’t been dealt with," said Alton. "It’s not possible with 18,000 students and 2,000 teachers for all issues to receive the desired outcome, but that doesn’t mean the issue’s been ignored." Galbraith was elected as the Meaford and The Blue Mountains trustee last year, and as chair of the board this January.


Local public servants make sunshine list

Seventeen local public sector employees made the 2009 Sunshine list. The list is published annually by the Ministry of Finance and includes public sector employees who earn more than $100,000 in salary and taxable benefits. The 2009 list is for the 2008 year. In Collingwood, CAO Gordon Norris earned $129,210 in salary and $1,065 in taxable benefits. Former fire chief Sandy Cunningham earned $115,901 in salary and $890.85 in benefits. Peter Dunbar, director of leisure services made $115,562 in salary and $2,676 in benefits while Donald Green, manager of environmental services made $106,782 in salary and $416 in benefits. Treasurer Marjory Leonard ($104,784 and $958), director of library services Kerri Robinson ($104,848 and $461) and director of planning Gord Russell ($103, 936 and $955) made the list. In the Town of the Blue Mountains, CAO John Paul Graham ($128,788 and $9,876), director of engineering and public Reg Russwurm ($113,176 and $761) and director of building and bylaw David Finbow ($104,535 and $530) made the list. In Wasaga Beach, CAO George Vadeboncoeur earned $147,247 and $1,287 in benefits and Jim McIntosh, director of public works made $116,157 and $1,059 in benefits. Clearview Township CAO Sue McKenzie made the list with a salary of $105,275 and benefits of $772. Four employees at Collingwood General & Marine Hospital made the list, with CEO Linda Davis topping the list at $189,220 in salary and $558 in benefits. Linda Macleod, vice president of patient services, earned $120,510 and $381 in benefits. Also, registered nurses Deb Foubert ($106,563) and Denise Young ($106,449 and $199.59).


In memory of Brandon

Dale Kramp and the staff of Salon Solace present Angelika Crisp with a $4,000 donation from the Salon Solace Cut-a-Thon last month. The money raised by the Salon will go toward the Brandon Crisp Fund in partnership with the Canadian Tire Jump-Start program to help underprivileged children play organized sports. So far, $65,000 has been raised in Brandon Crisp’s name. The Crisp family continues to support this cause into the spring season with the first-annual Brandon Crisp Memorial Golf Tournament at National Pines May 22. Corporate sponsorships are still available. For more information, visit www.brandoncrisp.ca.


Holy Family School honoured with award

Alliston’s Holy Family School is among the top elementary schools in Ontario. Last Tuesday, Holy Family was recognized as a School of Distinction in the Improvement in Academics category at the annual Garfield Weston Awards for Excellence in Education dinner. Although Holy Family wasn’t in the top three schools, it was among the top 30 in the province. "It’s just a matter of everyone working towards the same goal, which is having everyone realize their full potential," said Holy Family principal Deb Cinelli. The distinction is for schools that have experienced the fastest, most consistent improvement in their academic performance over the past five years. The awards are based on the Ministry of Education’s student results of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) tests in reading, writing and mathematics written by elementary students in grades 3 and 6 each year. The top one per cent of schools in each category were invited to the awards ceremony. "The teachers, support staff, and administrators from Holy Family School are pathfinders who continually find new ways to help their students achieve more in school. We are delighted to honour their hard work and achievement," said Peter Cowley, director of school performance studies at the Fraser Institute. This year’s standardized testing is coming up at the end of May and early June. While Cinelli is proud of the school’s achievement this year, she wants the school to continue climbing. She is has her sights on the top category of the Garfield Weston awards, the Overall Academic Achievement, for schools whose students achieve remarkable, ongoing success for five years. For now Cinelli is letting students enjoy this week’s success though. The distinction was brought around to the classrooms and students got to take a break and enjoy a snack while celebrating the success of their provincial testing scores. The Garfield Weston awards are handed out by the private sector, but the Ontario government also recognizes the school’s achievements. Cinelli said Holy Family is one of the province’s Schools on the Move, for schools that are making sustained progress in student achievement. Cinelli said the school’s programming is responsible for the recognitions. She said there is uniformity in the way lessons are taught so students can move between grades with ease. The school also has a strong early intervention program, which Cinelli said helps pinpoint students who might struggle with areas such as reading or writing early on and provide them with the support they need.


Pressure on Liberal budget to deliver

Ontario’s Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan, will deliver his government’s much-anticipated provincial budget on Thursday and area officials will be watching closely to see what goodies it contains. Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson told The Stayner Sun he will be looking for the Liberals to deliver several key things for Ontarians, who are struggling to survive the economic downturn. For starters, Wilson said the government should implement a three-month sales tax holiday for the purchase of new cars. He said the move would help people wanting to buy a new vehicle and aid the automotive industry. Continuing on the vehicle theme, Wilson said the government should introduce an incentive to get old cars off the road. He suggested a $2,000 rebate towards the purchase or lease of a new car, when an older vehicle – say 10 years or more – is turned in. He said the move would stimulate the economy and help the environment. As well, the Conservative MPP said the government should "implement broad-based relief to Ontario businesses, including, but not limited to, moving the corporate tax rate down from 14 per cent to 10 per cent. Doing so means all provinces in Canada have the same rate, which would result in Canada having the lowest corporate taxes in the G8. Other provinces are doing it. We should too." The Liberals would also be wise to implement a retail sales tax holiday on hotels and attractions to promote Ontario tourism, a move that would benefit everywhere, Wilson said. Another smart move the government could make would be to introduce a "five per cent annual cap on property assessment increases and send MPAC assessors back into the field immediately to bring assessments inline with actual property values," Wilson said. In other areas, Wilson said he would like to see the government fast track the Highway 26 redevelopment and start planning for the highway to be redeveloped all the way to Barrie. He also wants to see the government "introduce an initiative to immediately begin [building] new long-term care beds throughout Simcoe and Grey counties to bring the exceptionally high waiting lists down." Clearview Township Mayor Ken Ferguson said he wants the budget to provide funding for municipal infrastructure but also for other areas. "There are bigger things than just infrastructure [money] for municipalities," he told The Stayner Sun. "Farmers, entrepreneurs, small business owners – they all need help right now. All of these groups interest me." Despite wanting the Liberal government to loosen its purse strings, Ferguson said he questions whether such a move will have any long-term impact on the struggling economy, a thought he said many others are mulling over. "You can throw money at a lot of things but what if it doesn’t work? What about next year and the year after that?" Ferguson said that whatever funding the government does announce with Thursday’s budget, it needs to make sure the details are communicated. "Show people how you’re going to do things. Tell them. Don’t dribble out announcement after announcement after the budget for the next four or six weeks," he said. "Whatever you’re doing, get the information out on the street fast so people can start accessing things." He said Clearview has lots of projects on which it could spend provincial dollars. He said funds could be put towards improving another bridge in the municipality. Also, funds could be used to rebuild Nottawasaga Concession 10, to County Road 91 – a project that Ferguson said will cost $3-million to $4-million. Clearview could also use money to help pay for the new emergency centre hub – a facility that will house the fire department, police and ambulance – on the eastern edge of Stayner. And, he said, funding could also be put towards the new library branch that’s needed in Stayner. "We have lots of spots where we can spend money," the mayor said. Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Monday that his government will spend $27.5-billion on roads, schools, hospitals and public transit over the next two years in an effort to create 300,000 new jobs. McGuinty said the huge infrastructure investment – which he said will be detailed in Thursday’s budget – will be topped up with another $5-bilion from the federal government. Finance Minister Duncan has indicated that this week’s budget will include a deficit of about $18-billion over two years. Doug Mills is on Clearview Township’s economic development committee. He said he expects the Liberal budget to focus on helping the automotive industry because of its huge presence in Ontario. "Help for small and medium size business – I’m not holding my breath. You’ve got to remember tax revenues are down," Mills said. He added that with more Ontarians out of work and an aging population, the government might focus attention on health care and education. Debbie Kesheshian is the executive director of the United Way of South Georgian Bay, an agency that helps fund various social organizations and programs. She said the budget should include funding for an array of social programs, in particular the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy. "It’s fine to have these strategies but they need to be funded," she said. The strategy, announced in 2008, aims to reduce youth poverty by 25 per cent in five years, Kesheshian said. She said the Liberals should present a budget that does more to help the disabled and unemployed. And the budget should include stipulations that allow for more tax benefits for people and corporations that are donating to charities. The Liberals should also invest in proven charitable organizations. Kesheshian said charitable organizations can often deliver services and programs far more cost effectively than government. A budget that included more Ontario child benefits and an increased minimum wage would also be helpful, she said.


Feds help local seniors groups

The federal government has earmarked $45,000 to improve the facilities and equipment of three local seniors organizations. “The Government of Canada is proud to support seniors in building and strengthening communities,” Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton stated in a press release. “These projects will enable the continuation of programs and activities … that allow seniors to stay involved in their communities.” Le Club de l’age d’or de Lafontaine and the Askennonia Senior Centre in Midland will each receive $10,000, while La Clé d’la Baie in Penetanguishene will get $25,000. The funding comes from the capital assistance component of the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which helps organizations that support seniors to replace outdated equipment or undertake needed renovations. Since its beginning, the program has funded more than 5,000 projects in hundreds of communities across Canada. For more information, visit www.hrsdc.gc.ca/seniors.


Ross Beattie joining hall of fame

Clearview Township’s Ross Beattie will be inducted into the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame in June, the organization announced last week. The hall of fame said that Beattie will be recognized for his work in rural youth development, beef cattle marketing, Belgian horse breed improvement and rural economic development. The well-respected local man is one of five who will be inducted during a special ceremony at Country Heritage Park in Milton on June 14. “I only recently found out it was confirmed,” the 84-year-old said in an interview from his home, just west of Stayner. “You never know what to expect when you get to be my age.” His wife of 58 years, Marjorie, echoed similar remarks. “Over the years all the things you do just kind of accumulate and you don’t expect to get this kind of recognition,” she said. Local dairy farmer Burton Somerville nominated Beattie last year. Helping prepare the nomination paperwork was Somerville’s wife, Fran, and another local resident, Cathy Dunlop. “We’ve attended the induction ceremony for a number of years because people we know have been inducted and Burton always said that Ross should be in the hall of fame because he’s done so many things,” Fran Somerville said in a telephone interview. “So last year we finally decided to get on it. We talked to Marjorie and other family members to get information on everything that Ross has done. Burton has always admired Ross. He’s been so forward thinking.” The Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association, a not-for-profit organization, said that to qualify for induction a person “must have demonstrated visionary leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship in the advancement of agriculture in Ontario.” And Beattie has done just that. The hall of fame association says that in 1944 Beattie became a director of the newly formed Ontario Junior Farmers’ Association (OJFA). Four years later, he became the association’s president and according to hall of fame officials was “instrumental in organizing leadership training schools and the very first leadership training camp,” for OJFA members. The hall of fame says Beattie went on to promote OJFA exchange programs between Canadian provinces and the United States – programs that gave many rural youth the background needed to create successful careers. In the 1960s, the association says that Beattie became president of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association and that during his tenure he was key in getting the Beef Cattle Marketing Act established. He later was a founding member of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and as president – from 1967 to 1968 – he worked to improve grading and livestock transportation systems. The hall of fame association says that in the 1970s Beattie turned his hand to Belgian horses. He’s been a breeder of champion Belgian horses, president of the Ontario Belgian Horse Association and a judge at Canadian and American horse shows. And he was a founding director of the Georgian Triangle Economic Development Centre (GTEDC) in Collingwood, serving the organization from 1985 to 1989. The association noted that in his role as chair of the GTEDC’s investment review committee he helped businesses with such things as start-up loans and strategic planning. The association said one of the most notable organizations to receive funding was Miss Vickie’s Chips, which at the time was based in New Lowell. Beattie, who still lives on the family farm where he was born, said that he’s enjoyed his career in agriculture. He said that when he and his brother, Irvine, took over the farm they had just a couple hundred acres, but kept adding land to grow the operation. In 1962, he said, they bought Stayner Feed, the mill that’s on Gideon Street. Today, he said Beattie Brothers has 1,300 acres, on which they grow corn, soybean, and wheat and raise beef cattle. He said his son, John, and his brother’s son, Les, now oversee the operation, adding he began easing into retirement about 20 years ago. His brother, Irvine, he said died about eight years ago. Beattie said that he and his wife will be at the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association’s induction ceremony in June and that friends and family have indicated they want to attend as well. “We’re just delighted that he got accepted,” Fran Somerville said. “He’s just so deserving.” Also being inducted is Watford’s Ralph Ferguson, a farmer who co-found the Lambton Pork Producers Association. He also helped develop Canadian agricultural policy and in 1980 was elected to the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament for Lambton-Middlesex, serving briefly in 1984 as Prime Minister John Turner’s agriculture minister. He retired from federal politics in 1993. Three others will be inducted into the hall of fame posthumously. They are London’s John Hughes (1879 to 1949), Guelph’s Gintarius (Ginty) Jocius (1946 to 2008) and Ilderton’s Peter Lewington (1923 to 1992).


Shooting decoy costs $1,500 bucks

A Mississauga man has been fined $1,500 for charges related to careless hunting. Zlatko Lemut, 60, was convicted of careless hunting, discharging a firearm from a vehicle, discharging a firearm across a roadway, and trespassing to hunt. He is prohibited from hunting for one year and must successfully complete the hunter education course. His rifle was confiscated and will be returned once the fines are paid. Court heard that on November 5, 2008, Lemut fired four shots at a deer decoy that had been placed on private property by Ministry of Natural Resources conservation officers. The decoy had been placed there in response to public complaints about people shooting from vehicles and trespassing. Lemut was sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle at the 7B Sideroad, Municipality of Grey Highlands, when the shots were fired. Justice of the Peace David Stafford heard the case in Ontario Court of Justice, Owen Sound, on February 23, 2009.