Patchett says central Mountain school closure decisions defy sense
Mike Patchett says he’d never considered running for Ward 7 public school trustee until the evening he pitched his alternative to a staff proposal to close up to four central Mountain elementary schools, including the one attended by his daughters.
Ironically, incumbent Lillian Orban “planted the seed” when she turned to a parent member of the accommodation review committee after he finished speaking and said, “He’s really good. He should work for the board.”
Another parent piped up and said, “That’s a great idea, Mike, you should run for trustee,” he recalls.
Patchett, one of a persistent group of parents who helped convinced staff to back off of a recommendation to close Queensdale school, says he sloughed off the idea at the time but decided to take the plunge because Orban still hasn’t registered to run again this fall.
Marlon Picken, who ran against the 23-year incumbent last time and took nearly 40 per cent of the vote in a two-way race, is also registered.
A regular observer at board meetings, Patchett says he’s running because many of the decisions he’s seen, like building a new south Mountain high school to replace Hill Park, Barton and Mountain, don’t make sense to him.
He says he felt particularly “blind-sided” by the shuttering of Hill Park because he bought his house in an area that would allow his daughters to walk there once they graduated from the elementary schools also within walking distance.
The proposal he pitched favoured converting Hill Park into a JK to 8 school, which he says would preserve a building that is in good shape, has a theatre and is located next to a recreation centre.
Other elements of his plan sought to minimize busing, including by building a new JK-8 school south of the Lincoln Alexander Parkway.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to think outside the box,” says Patchett, 35, a lifelong Ward 7 resident and Hill Park grad. “I think we should be making better use of the schools we have,” he says.
“Hill Park and Barton were both listed in fairly decent condition during their ARC, and yet we’re keeping open Sherwood that needs $30-plus million in repairs, which is more than the cost of a new school.”
This is the first run at elected office for Patchett, who owns a carpentry business and is co-owner of Climbing Gravity Gym.
“I know what it’s like to make hard decisions, whether it’s at my gym or on a jobsite. I deal with it all the time: you have this much budget to work with but you really want this and you’ve got to find some middle ground where it’s still the best bang for the buck.”