Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

Clashing fundraisers open old divisions at Great Lakes

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The ongoing effort to harmoniously bring two student bodies together under one roof at Great Lakes Secondary School has hit a sour note.

The variety show known as The Revue and staged by the former SCITS high school for the past 95 years is sharing the school facilities with a new basketball fundraiser.

Some people see that as a conflict.

The Revue is scheduled for three nights March 2, 3 and 4 in the auditorium and could attract 2,500 people if it sells out, which it generally does.

The basketball show featuring slam dunk superstar Jordan Kilganon takes place March 3 in the gym, and organizers hope to draw as many as 800 spectators.

Slam Dunk spokesman Ron RealeSmith said he doesn’t believe two events on the same night is a problem. Kilganon is a professional athlete donating his time and can’t come any other date, he said.

“Besides, for 30 years until 1996, basketball finals were held at SCITS during the Revue and there was no issue.”

But Susan MacKenzie, one of the strongest voices behind the unsuccessful Save SCITS lobby, said scheduling a basketball fundraiser during the Revue shows a lack of respect and takes away from a tradition that is nearly 100 years old.

“The board assured us that both schools’ traditions would be upheld,” said MacKenzie.

“This is a sensitive issue since the merger took place. The history of both schools needs to be honoured.”

SCITS, which opened in 1922, and St. Clair, which turned 50 in 2011, amalgamated last year. Students at St. Clair have temporarily transferred to the former SCITS building while renovations are completed at the St. Clair building on Murphy Road.

The combined school has been named Great Lakes Secondary and students are doing their best to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“I’ve received some good feedback that students are enjoying it,” said MacKenzie, who is also the founder of the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures. But she’s received complaints from a few teachers and students about the scheduling conflict with The Revue.

A conversation MacKenzie had with RealeSmith in an effort to change the basketball venue or the date was “really unpleasant,” she said.

“It’s very evident Susan MacKenzie has an axe to grind,” said RealeSmith. “That’s fair. She has an agenda. But I feel like she’s being divisive and bringing up old wounds.”

The basketball venue can’t change because no elementary school is large enough and the fundraiser is for the Great Lakes basketball program, RealeSmith said.

Earlier this month, MacKenzie wrote a letter to Great Lakes principal Paul Weirsma complaining that The Revue was being “marginalized.”

“I am a fan of basketball, but not this time,” she wrote.

MacKenzie received a brief written response from Gary Girardi, superintendent of capital planning and accommodation at the Lambton Kent District School Board.

“As a large and complex school that supports a diverse student community, Great Lakes Secondary School feels that the school can handle these two events,” Girardi wrote in part. “We support the school and the students involved.”

Girardi later told The Journal: “It’s unfortunate but it was never the intent to upset people.”

Meanwhile, about $15 million has been approved for capital upgrades at the former St. Clair site and design work is underway. Construction should start this summer with students moving into the amalgamated school in September 2018, Girardi said.

The upgrades include a new auditorium with a theatre and seating for 500 to 600 people, he said.



More like this