Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fred Fedorak: Letter to School District 67 Trustees

The following letter was sent to the trustees for School District 67. It was also reprinted in the Herald on 11 April, 2007.

Dear School District No. 67 Trustee,

I was very disappointed to learn that the School Board, although extending the deadline for a plan to save the auditorium, is not interested at all in the future of the Pen Hi gymnasium. Why bring forth a deadline to save one and not the other?

I am requesting the Board reconsider this decision and take a very serious look at how the loss of the gym will impact the community. Please consider the community as a whole on this matter and not just the position of the School District. Local residents pay taxes that go into school, as well as municipal, coffers. So in a sense the community has a vested interest in those buildings.

I am well aware of the Board’s decision to provide an excellent double sized new gym complete with weight room and in accordance with the Ministry of Education regulations. You are to be commended for your decision and the numerous hours that you have spent going over the plans for the new facility. However, this new gym is primarily for student use. The community in all probability will not have access to this facility because during the winter months it is fully scheduled for student activities. At the present time I understand that the Community Centre gym is overused during this same high season period. As a result of the planned demolitions, the community as a whole will be hard pressed to provide spaces for recreational activities and performing arts.

I believe that with some creativity the parking and bus loading areas can be reconfigured to accommodate your safety concerns. Where there is a will there is a way! We are not studying buildings that are past their usefulness and ready for the landfill, as they have several years of productive use left in them.

Project to the future and visualize the negative impact that the demolition of these two buildings will have on the community of Penticton. Visualize also the positive impact for the local citizens by turning them over to the City of Penticton to operate. With the present financial situation of City Council I cannot see enough funds being made available for the replacement of the aforesaid facilities in the next decade. We really won’t know what we have lost until these buildings have disappeared.

Respectfully submitted,
Fred Fedorak

Update: A FAQ has been posted

We have created a "frequently asked questions" (FAQ) document for new supporters of S.O.N.G. There is a link to the FAQ in the section called "important documents" on the right of this page. Or you can click here.

The point of the FAQ is to bring everyone who is interested in S.O.N.G. up to speed. Members of S.O.N.G. have already met several times since early March and have had numerous consultations with representatives from the City of Penticton, School District 67, and the performing arts community. We will use the FAQ as a concise summary of what we have learned along the way. Please let me know if you encounter any errors or omissions.

Rosemarie Fulbrook: Losing auditorium would be a blow to the community

The following appeared in the 11 April, 2007, edition of the Penticton Western News:

The fate of the Pen High auditorium has been on my mind for some time and I feel compelled to add my voice to those who are encouraging School District 67 and the City of Penticton to do “due diligence” in determining its future. I must first state that I am writing from one vantage only — and that is as an audience member.

On moving here from Vancouver in the mid ‘90s, I was delighted to find a theatre with such amazing acoustics. Years of studying music and many more years working “front-of-house” at the Civic Theatres (Queen Elizabeth Theatre, the Orpheum and the Playhouse — all facilities owned and managed by the City of Vancouver), have tuned my ears somewhat and I thought Penticton was blessed to have such an excellent facility.

I felt a certain reluctance to lose the Pen High auditorium when the Penticton and District Performing Arts Facility Society needs assessment recommended a “state-of-the-art performance facility” to be built for Penticton’s 2008 centennial. But, I shrugged the feeling off as “too bad, such a shame” as the report indicated that the aging auditorium could not, cost effectively, be modified to meet current physical and technical performance needs.

Over the past few months, however, it has become increasingly clear that the South Okanagan Event Centre will usurp all the financial resources needed to construct such a state-of-the-art performance facility. It has also become increasingly clear that the City of Penticton had no intention of halting the wrecking ball until the citizens of Penticton and surrounding districts raised their voices in a concerted protest.

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear the Vancouver Chamber Choir in a concert presented by the Penticton Secondary music department. Seated near the back of the almost full 737-seat auditorium, the sound was as intimate and clear as if I’d been sitting in the third row.

Afterwards I thought that this type of concert — professional musicians, students learning about music, the performance arts, and fundraising via an exceptional concert for the community, was probably exactly what the school district and the city had in mind when the facility was constructed in the 1950s.

It may not be state of the art, but it’s what we’ve got and I’d greatly prefer it if Joni Mitchell’s lyric lines, “And don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” didn’t play through my head every time I walked past the parking lot that used to be the Pen High auditorium.

Rosemarie Fulbrook