Tonight Georgetown needs a friend

Tonight my Twitter feed exploded with news I had been dreading: Georgetown Elementary School recommended for closure!

This is devastating news for my proud hometown and is being treated as such by parents, students and community members. The media is reporting that one female Georgetonian told the trustees where to go, and how to get there…without parsing her words for political correctness. While the social media world has judged this action rather harshly, it does indicate just how emotional and divisive this issue has become.

When people feel their community is under attack they get emotional. They get angry. Tonight my hometown is sad, mad, disappointed and disgusted. But only because they love their school.

Georgetown is proud with a rich history. And yes the town is struggling right now, but we’ve been down before. We have bounced back because we are resilient. We have embraced our reality but we don’t feel that we have to be strangled by it. We have the proper mindset. We have the determination.

But Georgetown can’t do it alone. They need some help. They need a few assets and tools to help us along in our journey. The school is one of the biggest assets. That is why they have been fighting so hard to keep it.

There will be those who will suggest that the unelected, government-appointed trustees found a reasonable compromise by closing one Charlottetown school and one rural school, while maintaining Belfast and the two western schools. Many have already suggested that the board, through a flawed and disjointed process, did their best to put reason above emotion. And perhaps those who make those suggestions may well be right.

Tonight that is cold comfort for Georgetown. From the moment the school appeared (this is the 3rd time Georgetown was slated for closure) on the kill list, residents knew they were playing a weak hand.

Georgetown knew they needed a friend.

They knew, we all knew, if the current board, and by extension the Department of Education/Public School Board, wouldn’t emphasize rezoning first, that their hand would only be weakened. They didn’t rezone first.

They knew, we all knew, that politics wasn’t in their favour, having sent a PC MLA to Charlottetown every election since 1996(when the first school closure effort surfaced). MLA Steven Myers was vocal, strong, supportive and fierce in his fight to help, but he in the end, he doesn’t sit in cabinet.

They knew, we all knew, that people from the city would say things like “you can’t have a school with 50 kids” and “schools aren’t economic structures”. It was said over and over.

Weakened as it was, they played the hand they had and they played it with grace, convinction, heart and passion.

They demonstrated why they were special and why they needed someone to care about them as much as they care about each other.

They showed their students were learning well, performing well and benefiting from their small town community culture. While experts pointed out things the students were missing, nobody seemed interested in seeing just what the Georgetown students are getting or how beneficial it can be to walk home for lunch, or how small class sizes are actually good for students.

They tried to show them that they weren’t just the host community of both Georgetown Conferences – highlighting the importance of working together, revitalizing, building on our assets – they were actually taking it to heart. They are doing new and exciting things.

They tried to show them that although the trends have been working against them, they were in it for the long haul. They refused to be defined by the current status. They were determined to turn it around.

They knew that when a government closes a school, they stay closed forever. They never get re-opened.

They knew that even though they would play their hand and play it well, they weren’t likely to successfully convince the board to change their minds.

Deep down they knew, from the very start, they needed a friend.

Someone who believed in them.

Someone who might see what we can be; someone who might work with them, cheer for them and help them along in the journey.

Someone who might be willing to bet on them, see the potential, match the enthusiasm, believe in the vision and invest in the future.

The final decision falls to one person. That person has deep roots in Georgetown. His father remains a legend and an icon in Georgetown
This person was the founder amd co-chair of the Georgetown Conference. That person is our Premier.

Tonight, around the kitchen tables in the homes of my proud hometown, over sips of tea, in between the tears of sadness and the outbursts of anger , they cling to a faint flicker of hope.

They are looking for a friend.

6 thoughts on “Tonight Georgetown needs a friend

  1. My heart goes out to the people ( the spirit) of Georgetown. I do hope with every vibe I can conjure up that Georgetown School remains open. Also, that a long term agreement and commitment can be agreed upon. This business of living under a constant threat of closing is a killer. I hope you all succeed in that endeavour. It will be so worth it.

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    1. I grew up on the last house on the pavement, on PEI. Doesn’t matter where that it is – it’s rural, and a lot more rural than Georgetown (where you have neighbours). I have raised my children in that dreaded place you call ‘the city”. Why must you put down anyone and any ideas that don’t mesh with yours as ‘the city’ which has become synonymous with being just wrong. That no one could possibly understand Georgetown unless you lived there, because no one from Sherwood could possibly relate to you, all the while, you have shown you have no interest in showing any understanding of those who live in Sherwood (just choosing it, I don’t live there either). We are all Islanders, why must you put down our population with such hostility and shall I say arrogance? Why do you think because of my address that I can’t feel your pain? Or that you can’t feel mine?

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      1. Dave….. Good Grief ” Get Over It ”

        You are literally standing beside the fact that if the school closes it will have a tremendously horrific affect on the capital of kings county and you can’t seem to identify it. While I will admit that there is a very small number of students at the school one must also recognize the fact of the type of especially high education those students are receiving. In ratio they are getting more one-on-one time than probably any other students on the island perhaps even Canada ? I could only dream of such an education for my child.
        From a financial standpoint I have sat back and watched the government give away tens ( if not hundreds) of millions of dollars on bad investments and scams to line the pockets of their friends and investors which in return ends up putting a big cushion on their own financial status. I for one don’t think there should be a price tag associated with the future of our children ( within reason of course ) but when it comes down to the nuts and bolts in the bag of reality I understand why you may feel the way you do but I heavily disagree as well. I think the only thing people who would want to see this school close, should be trying to “get over” is themselves! I’ve heard people say that you have to take the emotion out of it and in most business decisions I agree with that statement but when it comes to the future of our children, the families involved and a community with, as much if not more spirit and fight than any like it. I think what needs to be taken out of the equation is the financial aspect of putting a price on our children’s education and future. Especially when one is considering the millions and millions of dollars the government has thrown away on bad decisions and scams. I can only imagine it would be enough to keep every school on the island open for the next 25 years. I’m going out on a limb here but I would have to imagine your views would be a little more palpable to most of us if you were in direct fire of it.

        If I may be candid for a second I’m sorry if my words seem harsh but to be honest…. you really pissed me off !!! So for no other reason other than to suit myself I decided to let you know it.
        “Heart over wallet” …..in the end of all decisions this is ALWAYS the best choice.

        Also…, Thank you Dennis for being the voice of reason.

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  2. Get over it! There are too few kids attending this school
    And there are too few tax dollars around to support this excess. Where did practical go? Are you guys still complaining about high taxes? Isn’t too bad there Is a nearby school with capacity? And another one in Montague, etc, etc.
    Come on folks,not every village with a 100 people can have a “cornerstone” of a community like a school.
    Let me ask a question: How many of employees of your community school live in that community? And a supplementry question, who or what organization regularly uses the school in that community? Yes I know the Lions do so in Belfast, but what others do? If you have difficulty answering this question, perhaps you should review your position on this issue?

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  3. so well said Den, now that we know tonight Tuesday we did receive that friend,,,,,,,,and I just want to say I believe God was that friend…..we will acknowledge miracles as small and mighty as they are ……….love your stories and perspective Den keep up the great work and look forward to seeing the Four Tellers again this summer…………..now back to the fight to make sure no schools ever close on PEI…We Are Rural We are Strong can I get an Amen

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