Director of education won’t ‘respond through the media’ on SCITS issues

Jim Costello says he will comment on process in his Final Report, which will be posted on Board website

A City report suggests that the closure of SCITS would, in many ways, be detrimental to the quality of life in the area. A better choice for closure would be St. Clair Secondary School.

The director of education for the Lambton Kent District School Board has said he “will not respond through the media” after receiving an e-mail correspondence from the leader of a group that is fighting to keep Sarnia Collegiate Institute & Technical School open.

Jim Costello responded to Lambton Shield’s request for comment on Wednesday, several days after the report was published (last Friday).

“My comments on our process and the data involved will be articulated in my Final Staff Report to our Board which will be presented to the Board and posted on our website,” Costello wrote in an e-mail.

The full story that first appeared on Lambton Shield is below (with references to the request for comment from Costello now deleted):


A group that is arguing against Lambton Kent District School Board plans to close Sarnia Collegiate Institute & Technical School and keep open the St. Clair Secondary School has asked the school board to correct what it says are significant errors to a report on the issue prior to trustees making a final decision on May 10.

Susan Mackenzie
Susan Mackenzie

Susan Mackenzie, who is a member of the group, has written Jim Costello, director of education, pointing out what she says is a “misrepresentation of information.” She is also asking Costello for an apology.

“An apology may be humiliating in the short term,” she wrote in an email made available to media on Friday, “but will build trust in the long term. My intention is not to humiliate but rather allow you the opportunity to demonstrate accountability to the public and our trustees.”

Mackenzie outlined several areas where she says amendments are needed, referencing the school board’s regulations No. R-AD-106-15.

They include:

—an updated School Information Profile (SIP) that should include the “value to the student” and “value to the school board.” The information, she says, is not included in the current SIP.

Mackenzie pointed to two contradictory statements, one of which calls for the Final Report to the school board to include compiled feedback from the public delegations when making its final decision. She said in her letter to Costello that the reference to the feedback should stand according to Ministry guidelines, which says “the final staff report MUST include a Community Consultation section that contains feedback from the Accommodation Review Committee and any public consultations as well as any relevant information obtained from municipalities and other community partners prior to and during the pupil accommodation review.”

Mackenzie also told Costello that the Facility Condition Index (FCI) for both schools is not accurate.

She said St. Clair Secondary School is listed with a statement that indicates it has a lower FCI score, but the information being used is not consistent with guidelines.

Mackenzie contends that SCITS is below the 35% threshold that is used in considering a school for closure. The SCITS number, she says, should be 21.99%, not the 59.91% that is indicated in the current report. The St. Clair FCI number shown is 40.64%; Mackenzie contends an accurate number is 39.75%.

She points out as a “side note” that the Ministry of Education does not consider green space to be an asset.

Mackenzie argues that using a higher FCI for SCITS (which is untrue, she contends) was done to better the chances of a grant application being approved.

“The grant application score for moving all the students into SCITS was favourable but not as favourable a score as moving all the students into SCSS,” was a board answer to a question from a member of the public that Mackenzie quoted in her letter to Costello. “The consolidation of students at SCITS meets the Ministry’s base line matrix but does not score as high as a consolidation at St. Clair.”

Mackenzie told Costello that the question of which school should be closed “needs to be answered truthfully.

“St. Clair was chosen to consolidate students because it offers the (school board) the opportunity to secure more public money,” she wrote. “This is money that will not necessarily be used for (St. Clair), therefore affecting the learning environment of all students.”

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