Building Stronger Communities – School Boards Should be More Involved

Last week there was a great announcement in our school neighbourhood. The City of Ottawa, Ottawa Community Housing and surprisingly, the French Public School Board of Eastern Ontario have joined together to develop a 7-acre piece of land right in the heart of Ottawa. The project will include affordable housing, a new French public school, single-family homes, and businesses to support the new community. The development has the potential to stretch into a 15-acre project if an additional piece of land adjacent to this section can be brought in.

The new development is called Gladstone Village and it has the potential to transform this neighbourhood in some really important ways. In my opinion, the most significant aspect will be the addition of good, affordable housing for families that live in this community.

I have worked in this community for three years as a principal of a local school and now as a community volunteer.

One of the saddest parts of my job as a principal was to say goodbye to families who could no longer afford to live in this wonderful community. Housing prices have been going up steadily in the area, forcing lower income families to move to other parts of the city that generally are not as well set up to offer important social services to these families.

Hopefully, with the building of Gladstone Villiage, this trend can be reversed.

What is especially gratifying is to see a public school board take an active role in the partnership that will construct the new village. This is unusual. School boards traditionally do not get overly involved in community development. As traditional institutions, they see their primary role as educators of children, not community developers.

The French Public Board is showing that things can change and school boards can take an active role in developing and enriching the communities that surround them. What school boards will find once they start looking to get more involved is that there are lots of organizations out there that would love to work with them.

While I was principal of St. Anthony School – close to the new village – we developed some incredible partnerships with organizations like the Aviva Community Fund, TD Friends of the Environment, (@TDFEF), Evergreen Canada, the City of Ottawa and the wonderful local Italian community. Together, these groups helped us to raise over $165,000.00 in less than two years to transform our dilapidated school yard.

the new yard – the shrubs, fencing, grass and stone paving are all part of the renovation 

Evergreen consulted all the students and developed the first plan for the yard. The Italian community got interested and held a huge fundraising dinner for the school – over 400 people attended and we made over $20,000 in one night. We entered the Aviva Community Fund competition and with the help of a huge on-line community, won $100,000. The Ottawa Community Foundation also made a very significant contribution allowing us to complete the renovation of the yard.

Along with Gladstone Village, this is a great example of partners coming together to reshape and build a new community.

Education institutions like our school and the Eastern Ontario French Public Board illustrate the importance of reaching out into the community to create something better for our families.

It is no longer acceptable to sit back and wait for the students to show up. This passive approach misses many opportunities to engage actively in the community.

We could have done more. We could have opened adult literacy classes for parents at night or during the day so that they could stay close to their children. We could have constructed a computer room with free wifi so that parents could access the internet – something many of them could not do from their homes. We could have offered space in our building for community agencies to connect more readily with the families they served.

All of these ideas were discussed and unfortunately, none were ever implemented.

That is too bad. This has to change.

School Boards need to start to realize that their buildings do not belong to them, they are community assets that need to be shared. The community can not be blocked out of these spaces, they need to be welcomed in. Education really needs to become public in a much wider sense. To ignore our larger public responsibility is to retreat back into the 19th century – we simply can’t do that.

Congratulations to the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario.

 

Many hands on the way to Kilimanjaro

Tomorrow we leave for Kilimanjaro. There are 30 climbers in the group and up to 70 others who will be guiding us up the mountain starting on Sunday.

Start at the Machame Gate (1,490 m/4,890 ft) where the group will register and begin climbing to Machame Camp (2,980 m/9,780 ft). Hiking time: 7 hours Distance: About 18 km Rainforest Zone

As I climb up Kilimanjaro, I will be thinking of the team we have all left behind, all those who raised money for us, supported us, cheered us on and said ‘yes’ to the entire experience.

In particular, I will be thinking and giving thanks to my wonderful wife, Heather. Without her love and support this venture would never have happened. Apart from running a really successful fundraiser, she has been with me every step of the way, right from the moment we decided that to do this properly, I had to retire at Christmas so I could focus on training for the climb. She has been my wonderful emotional support every day since this venture started. Retirement was a really good idea!

I will be thinking of my family and all the work and support they have given me throughout the fall and winter, right up to today when my son Liam spent an hour working with me to set up the right ESRI Story Maps to allow for live tracking during our climb.

Liam’s new map that will show Tweets from the mountain along with waypoints recorded by my InReach GPS. Liam’s map is best found at this link: http://arcg.is/2oaUoYc

Then there are so many people who have sent notes of encouragement and who have helped sustain an incredible fundraising campaign that is almost at $10,000 at this point – twice the amount I was expecting to make. What an incredible community of support.

The best thing I can do now is climb well. For Heather, my family and all of you who have helped so much. I am humbled and blessed to have such a beautiful community of support.

Dream Mountains gets ready for Mt. Kilimanjaro

arcgis-wolf-trail-with-route-outlined

We leave for Mt. Kilimanjaro in 31 days.

This has been a very intense experience on many levels.  First, the physical training has been incredible.  Stair climbing, now as many as 4200 stairs over a two-hour period has been gruelling.

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Every second week we do a trek on the Wolf Trail – a good 2-hour hike up one of the ridges in the Gatineau near Ottawa.  Each of these treks is an opportunity to try out new equipment, new food types and most importantly, a chance to get to know the people you will be climbing with and depending on during the climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – 5,888 metres (19,318 ft).

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Physical training aside, the next great challenge is raising money for the group we have been assigned to support throughout this entire journey.

For me, this is what makes the Dream Mountains experience unique.  It’s not about you and your own bucket list.  It’s more about the fundraising each of the group members is doing for a great collection of local and national charities.

Our current fundraising totals
Our current fundraising totals

I don’t think I would be doing this if it weren’t for the community connection that has been created between ourselves and the groups we are working to support.  What really would be the point?

For me, another important part of the preparation has been my attempts to explore various communication tools that will allow people to follow the climb while we are in Africa.  I have taken my inspiration for this part of the planning from Elia Saikaly who is a master at telling adventure stories using social media. There is no way I can do what he does during one of his expeditions, but I am doing what I can.

My main tool is one that Elia has used – the ESRI Story Map, a wonderful media tool that has allowed me to tell our story from our early training climbs right up to treks along Wolf Trail.  With incredible help from the ESRI team, I have been able to improve my story map and have learned how to add waypoints from my tracking tools – InReach and Suunto to the Wolf Trail base map.  I am really hoping that I will be able to add points during our climb to a 3D map of Kilimanjaro I have added to the story map.

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The money I am raising is going to Rec Link a group here in Ottawa that is doing so much to help the families and children I used to work with while I was principal at St. Anthony School.

 

our-canadian-kilimanjaro-journey-clipular It is such a privilege to be able to give back to a group that has done so my for our kids and I have the coordinator of Dream Mountains Shawn Dawson to thanks for this. Shawn is a truly selfless individual who has an incredible commitment to give back to the community while supporting over 20 novice climbers in our long journey to Kilimanjaro.  It is such a joy to work with someone who is so positive and supportive and is willing to give so much of himself for others – a very rare commodity in my experience.

Finally, none of this would be possible without the great group of family and friends who have supported my fundraising efforts. It has been truly humbling that so many people would donate so much to help me reach my funding goal.  At this point, I have raised more than $8000.00 for Rec Link and have received wonderful support from my wife and family – without them, this would never have happened.

 

I hope people follow us up the mountain.  I hope the technology works.  I hope we have all trained hard enough.  Whatever happens, this already has been a truly unique and wonderful experience and I am happy to part of this great group.

Great Projects call for Great Communities Blog Post # 10

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To make a big climb and a wonderful fundraising project work you need lots of help.  You also have to acknowledge the people who are making this happen – after a great night last night, I have lots to be thankful for.
Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to our fundraiser last night.  It was great to see so many good friends and I feel truly honoured to have your support.
Thanks to long distance travellers like Patti Walker (Oakville), Joe Ferracuti (Montreal) and Bob and Karen Kennedy (Brockville).
Thanks to all those who made this happen – Shawn Dawson – our fearless Dream Mountains leader, Jenny, the wonderful Fatboys manager, First Bass – the amazing band (who we want to hear again!), my wonderful family – Heather Swail – who worked so hard to make this happen, Liam McGuire, Mairi McGuire – our artist – Colleen McGuire and Claire Maultsaid.  Also, thanks to Dream Mountains members Virginia Gluska, Julie Baird and her husband who did so much to run the silent auction and 50/50 draw.  Also to Harry Binks, Augustina Dean and Byron Johnson who came out to our event.
What a community effort!!
We are now approaching the $7000.00 mark in our fundraising efforts for Rec Link and we will keep on going to see how we all can assist this great organization.  We will continue to take donations, so let’s see how much we can raise for Rec LINK!!
Many are asking how best to follow the climb so I am adding the sites I will be using here. If you know of anyone who wants to follow and is not getting these notes, please let me know and I will add them here.
The sites:
ESRI Story Map:  Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey http://arcg.is/2hwfHR3
Sutori Story Board: https://www.sutori.com/story/our-kilimanjaro-journey Our Kilimanjaro Journey
Kuula – a growing collection of 360-degree photos – many more to come!

My fundraising page:  http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible

Thanks again – this is a great venture and I am very happy to have all of you on board!!
Paul

Hello everyone!

Thanks to everyone who was able to come out to our fundraiser last night. It was great to see so many good friends and I feel truly honoured to have your support.

Thanks to long distance travellers like Patti Walker (Oakville), Joe Ferracuti (Montreal) and Bob and Karen Kennedy (Brockville).

Thanks to all those who made this happen – Shawn Dawson – our fearless Dream Mountains leader, Jenny, the wonderful Fatboys manager, First Bass – the amazing band (who we want to hear again!), my wonderful family – Heather Swail – who worked so hard to make this happen, Liam McGuire, Mairi McGuire – our artist – Colleen McGuire and Claire Maultsaid. Also, thanks to Dream Mountains members Virginia Gluska, Julie Baird and her husband who did so much to run the silent auction and 50/50 draw. Also to Harry Binks, Augustina Dean and Byron Johnson who came out to our event.

What a community effort!!

We are now approaching the $7000.00 mark in our fundraising efforts for Rec Link and we will keep on going to see how we all can assist this great organization. We will continue to take donations, so let’s see how much we can raise for Rec LINK!!

Many are asking how best to follow the climb so I am adding the sites I will be using here. If you know of anyone who wants to follow and is not getting these notes, please let me know and I will add them here.

The sites:

My Blog: https://paulmcguire1.com/

ESRI Story Map: Our Canadian Kilimanjaro Journey http://arcg.is/2hwfHR3

Sutori Story Board: https://www.sutori.com/story/our-kilimanjaro-journey Our Kilimanjaro Journey

Kuula – a growing collection of 360 degree photos – many more to come!

My fundraising page: http://bit.ly/2bKfFkk – all donations are tax deductible

Thanks again – this is a great venture and I am very happy to have all of you on board!!

Paul

https://kuula.co/share/7ft6s