Thursday, May 23, 2013

Educational Learning Moments...

In a time when the media is full of stories about the challenges being faced by our education system, it is heartening to find a shining example where the true heart of our education system – the people in it – is proven to be beating and very much alive and capable of creating priceless opportunities for “learning moments".

Such was the case at a Riverside School concert this past Wednesday evening.  Grade 3-6 students demonstrated their talent in an evening of Newfoundland and Labrador song and dance.  
There were many outstanding acts, but two acts in particular became "learning moments".

One act had a talented young man doing his rendition of Terra Nova National Park’s folk hero Clayton, (AKA Dave Saunders) doing the “moves” to “I’m Clayton and I know it” (You can see Clayton’s original and hilarious video below).  Unbeknownst to the young performer, “Clayton” was in the audience and he joined the young man on stage!  A unexpected and awesome surprise!   

Later, a group of young performers came to the stage to sing one of NL’s  “Other” provincial anthems – Salt Water Joys.  As if the first cameo performance wasn’t enough to stir the crowd, Buddy Wasisname & the Other Fellers' Wayne Chalk, who penned Salt Water Joys, unexpected climbed on the stage and accompanied the children in singing this powerful song.  Faces lit up!    

In a time of cutbacks, an absolute focus on budgets, teacher layoffs, and classroom overcrowding it is nice to see that the people who make our system what it is – the students, teachers, parents and the volunteers in our community, are still there doing their jobs to the very best of their abilities.   Surprise and delight are powerful learning tools  – Thanks Dave and Wayne for helping provide an “ educational extra” and a  priceless learning moment that will not soon be forgotten.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Community of Distraction

This article appeared in this week's edition of the Packet ( and again in the Weekend Telegram (

Maybe it's the appeal of the opportunity to be featured on TV or maybe it's the name of the series, but Council seems to have been seriously struck by the "opportunity" to have Clarenville, and maybe themselves,  featured in an american based TV segment called "Communities of Distinction" for the low-low price of $25,000. ($24,800 to be exact).

As is usually the case, this proposal came to Clarenville Council with only limited detail, and rightfully it was sent back for more consideration.  Communities of Distinction is relatively new but is seen largely in US markets. There is a website for Communities of Distinction  as well as a Facebook Page (58 followers) and a Twitter account (39 followers).

In a press release issued in April, they describe the show as:

Communities of Distinction TV ( is pleased to present a series about the best in America which will explore the bonding taking place in neighborhoods across the nation. When tragedy strikes, people band together to rebuild and strengthen the ribbons of camaraderie. The engaging show will air throughout the year and air on regional and national cable television networks. (click to see full release)

Click this link to bring you to sample shows of Communities of Distinction
While I have no doubt that this might be an opportunity for some,  I would argue that it is not an opportunity for Clarenville.    If their sample shows are of any indication, they are effectively offering to produce and show (for a fee) a promotional video for our town.  If their social media numbers are any indication of their reach, few are likely to see it and of those who do see it, most will be in the United States.  Is that our target market?   

There are lots of opportunities to communicate the benefits of living in our town and we (Council in particular) must evaluate the merits of this opportunity relative to the merits of other communication options of equivalent value.  We also need a clear message developed that we can ensure gets communicated.  This has not been done and needs to be done first.  (if we don't know what we want we will almost assuredly not like what we get)

We know we can do a lot for $25,000 and we know that using a proactive approach we can better target the key message that we want to get out. Communities of Distinction will squander this opportunity - it is a simple distraction from what needs to be done and what needs to be done right.

Marketing is like hunting - to be successful you need a decent quality gun (that can be expensive), you need to identify your target, you need to aim, and then you need to shoot at that target.  You're unlikely to hit anything if you don't get each of these steps right, and in the right order.  We're being asked to buy a untested gun here and shot it into the sky - don't expect a feed of moose. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Garbage In - Garbage Out: Head in the sand politics at Council

In this week’s Council Meeting the issue of waste management came up yet again when it was revealed that the conversion of Clarenville’s dump to a “Transfer Station” is coming quickly – possibly within two months. 

By way of background, about 6 years ago the Province decided that it would reduce the number of dumps in NL.  All garbage from Clarenville east would be shipped to Robin Hood Bay in St. John’s.  A “Transfer Station” was to be established in Clarenville to act as a central collection point. Essentially, our Town’s dump would be converted from a “final resting place” to a temporary holding place.

Shipping heavy garbage is expensive and you, the taxpayer, are the one who will pay for it. The transfer station means that your taxes will go up to cover this costs of shipping – by about 10% or $180 a year – depending on the amount of garbage shipped.

To minimize costs to taxpayers, Government has encouraged municipalities to separate garbage into recyclables, compostables, building waste, and whatever garbage was left.  Ideally only the garbage that was left would be sent to the so-called Super-dump in Robin Hood bay.

No plans exits in Clarenville

The ensuing Council discussion that came from Tuesday’s revelation clearly demonstrates that Council has adopted a "head in the sand" approach to this topic.  For the past number of years municipalities were encouraged to develop and implement a waste diversion strategy to separate garbage and thereby reduce their shipping costs. Clearly Clarenville has not done that nor has it developed any plan to do that.   

The more we ship to St. John's the more it will cost us. Based on our current practices, that cost will likely be high.  

This situation is yet another example of the need for better planning capacity within our growing town.  The costs of NOT planning may not show up on the Town's financial statements but the ramifications and costs are all too visible. 

In politics, timing is everything

Note that if this planned schedule holds true, it will be just in time for September's municipal elections.  It’s unlikely that you will have anyone to blame for your new tax bill and it's equally unlikely that there will be a plan to minimize it.  


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mr. Roboto - Our Schools are on the Cutting Edge

This past weekend Clarenville was well represented at the annual MATE underwater robotics challenege held at Memorial University's Marine Institute.  Clarenville's Riverside Elementary displayed a Micro-ROV, Clarenville Middle School competed in an ROV challenge, and Clarenville High School vied for a third year as provincial champions.

A lot of kids were involved in these projects and their collective success and the application of engineering and design principles was a testament to the skill and dedication of their teachers.

We have a solid base of future talent in this field!

Riverside School

CMS Poster Board
CHS Robotics caputured third place this year - The winning team: Heritage Collegiate who will represent our province at the international competition in Seattle.