Friday, April 20, 2018


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At the end of this year, Sydenham Community School will be merged with Bayview Public School and relocated to the former OSCVI building.  My husband and I are supporting an effort to have our new school in Owen Sound named after Tom Thomson.  We feel it’s a great name given Tom's local heritage and also a great story for the community, especially in the midst of the negatives surrounding school closures and ARC reviews. 

Here’s our pitch:

Owen Sound’s new school should be named in honour of Tom Thomson.

This seems obvious, and it should be.

Tom Thomson was raised within the school district.  If he were alive today, he would stroll down the lane at Rose Hill Farm and quietly wait for bus #840 as it made its way along the aptly named Tom Thomson Lane.  Once aboard, he would enjoy the short ride to the new (yet to be named) elementary school on the Southeast edge of Owen Sound.  One can just imagine his return home, dashing off the bus with sketchbook in hand, eager to capture the scenic landscapes that surrounded him.

Tom is not alive today; his grave sits just down the road at the Leith Church Cemetery where he was laid to rest in 1917, exactly 100 years ago.  There will be many celebrations to mark this centennial, and fate has it that one could be the adoption of his name for our new school.

We know that Tom is a celebrated painter, although his unassuming local heritage could make it easy to understate the significance of his life and work.  Tom directly influenced the artists who would form the Group of Seven.  The National Gallery of Canada has featured his work in the same regard as Picasso and Renoir.  He has inspired countless artists, authors, even lyrics by The Tragically Hip (Three Pistols) and a clothing line by Roots.  The Tom Thomson Art Gallery was established to preserve his legacy.  And, as fate would have it, the founding of our new school in 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of The TOM in 1967.  Yet Tom is ours.  He grew up here.  He painted scenes in our community.  He is our own local international icon, and we should be very, very proud of that.

At a time when school closures are afflicting our communities, we have a rare opportunity to set a Cornerstone in the foundation of a new one – through the selection of its name.  We could choose any name, and it would gradually develop its own history through the passage of time.  Or we could select a name that immediately bonds the new school community together, gives us reason to celebrate, and provides the basis of a culture that can quickly begin to flourish.  We can engage with our local history.  We can encourage the arts.  We can honour a great Canadian.  And, we can inspire our students.

In 2017, the doors will open to a new community school in Owen Sound.  This school will be an amalgamation of Bayview Public School and École Sydenham Community School.  The new name will be chosen from six nominations which have been selected for public input.  You can cast your ballot until January 20th at, or in person at ballot stations around Owen Sound.

In 2017, we celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.  Throughout this year we will recognize our country’s history, accomplishments, and our most influential citizens.  Tom Thomson is certainly deserving of such recognition.  To make it happen, we need your support.   Please share this initiative and vote TOM for our school.


Deadline for votes is January 20.

Thank you and all the best!

Sabrina & Jeremy McCoubrey, Sydenham

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