Campaign calls for Dundas trustee’s resignation

Dundas County trustee Jeremy Armer (left) opposed rescinding the Upper Canada District School Board's closure plan, Oct. 12.

A new Facebook group calling for the resignation of Dundas Trustee Jeremy Armer overlays his portrait with a prohibited symbol.

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

SOUTH MOUNTAIN — Dundas County Trustee Jeremy Armer faces some pressure to step down in light of his support for a review that threatens to shut two schools in his constituency — Seaway District High School and Morrisburg Public School.

‘Resign UCDSB Trustee Jeremy Armer!’ declares the Facebook page that went up early on Friday, Oct. 14, garnering more than 30 members by day’s end. The page featured only three posts as of Saturday morning (Oct. 15) but the membership roll does include some names associated with individual campaigns to save the targeted schools in Dundas County.

Armer, a resident of South Mountain, was acclaimed to the trustee position in the 2014 election. He succeeded Chesterville’s Greg Pietersma, former chair of the Upper Canada District School Board, who opted not to let his name stand for another term.

The potential closure of local schools was not a burning issue in the election — although senior staff at the UCDSB would have been acutely aware of the demographic and funding challenges faced by the board in the coming term.

Barely two years later, staff have proposed the closure of up to 29 named schools — 13 of them at the end of the end of this school year. Armer voted Sept. 28 with the majority of trustees to kick off the ‘Pupil Accommodation Review’ that will lead to a March 23 vote on actual closures. Last week, the Dundas trustee voted against a motion from trustee John McAllister — a former Iroquois reeve and former long-time teacher at Iroquois-based Seaway — to stop the process.

“Jeremy Armer does not respect the wishes of parents in Dundas County. He did not vote to support rescinding the UCDSB proposal to close schools in South Dundas. He does not listen to the parents of Dundas county. He needs to resign,” asserts Alex Munson, founder of the Facebook page that calls for the trustee’s resignation, in a post on the page.

Munson complains in another post that Armer hasn’t responded to parents’ emails and calls “and does not represent the wishes of the parents in Dundas County.”

Armer spoke with Nation Valley News late last week and reiterated that he voted against the McAllister motion because of uncertainty over a five-year timeout that applies to closing schools if those schools survive a Pupil Accommodation Review. Does the timeout apply if the board pulled the plug on the process now? UCDSB Director of Education Stephen Sliwa didn’t entirely rule out that possibility during the live-streamed Oct. 12 board meeting in Brockville, explaining there was no Ontario precedent on that question.

Armer did not immediately return Nation Valley News’s subsequent request for comment on pressure for his resignation.

Nation Valley News has also sent a message to Munson requesting comment on his newly mounted campaign to oust the trustee.

The ‘Save our Seaway’ Facebook group has posted information that Armer is set to address a Tuesday, Oct. 18, meeting of the Dundas County Association of School Councils, 6:30 p.m. at Winchester Public School. It’s the latest date on the radar screen of the Seaway group, who had planned to participate in a Cornwall rally yesterday (Oct. 14) coinciding with the expected presence of trustees and other board officials at the official opening of a public school in the city. But the board called off the ceremony, putting the kibosh on the protest opportunity.

The Save our Seaway group is redoubling its efforts following its Oct. 12 public meeting attended by about 150 people. MPP Jim McDonell, South Dundas Mayor Evonne Delegarde and other municipal politicians were among those on hand. Armer did not attend.

A similar meeting is set for 7 p.m. this Monday, Oct. 17, at Rothwell-Osnabruck School, one of two South Stormont Township schools targeted for closure at the end of the school year. (R-O would lose its high school students but carry on as an elementary school, under the UCDSB proposal.) The trustee for that area, Wendy MacPherson of Stormont and Glengarry, opposes the school closure plan.

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