1995 Bell

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The 1994-95 team from Bell High School in Ottawa did not win any tournaments, but won a legal battle with Reach for the Top.

Contents

Background

The 1994 team won the Reach for the Top national title. Traditionally, Reach has given defending champion schools an automatic berth in their provincial tournament the following year (if they don't qualify through regional events). In 1995, Bell defeated Lisgar for the Ottawa Schoolreach League title, earning them the chance to face the Eastern Ontario champion - from Picton - for a spot in the provincial tournament (though if Picton won, Bell would enter anyway).

CBE Labour Dispute

At some point between the Ottawa championship and the Picton zone match, the Carleton Board of Education began a teacher work-to-rule strike. Bell was part of the school board; Lisgar was not. After complaints arose from a similar strike in 1992, Reach producer Sandy Stewart had introduced a policy of barring teams under teachers strikes from participating in competition; teacher-coaches from other school boards in Ontario wished to express solidarity with the strikers. Because of this policy, Bell was prohibited from participating in any further Reach events in 1995.

Zone Match

Bell had been scheduled to face a school from Picton for the chance to play at provincials. In light of the labour dispute, Lisgar was invited to take the place of Bell for that game. According to a Bell student, supervisors from the participating teams were "asked very strongly" by SchoolReach not to tell Bell where or when the competition was being held, so that the students couldn't step in and protest. Lisgar won, earning a berth in provincials. Bell held out, hoping that the job action would end in time for them to take their automatic qualification to provincials.

Court Injunction

In late April, director Stewart said Reach will "show our support for the teachers", implying that Bell would not be welcome at provincials. With no end to the strike anytime soon, Bell's acting coach Chris Spiteri, then a law student, sought an injunction to reverse Reach's policy on striking schools, claiming it was a breach in contract to the $300 fees paid at the beginning of the year. Stewart objected, threatening that if Bell participated, there would be 31 schools not attending as part of a boycott.

Superior Court judge Robert Desmarais granted an injunction against the policy, calling the situation "ridiculous". However, the ruling did not give Bell their spot in provincials. Stewart said "they'll have to injunction themselves all the way to Toronto".

Provincials Berth

At this point, Lisgar was scheduled to represent Ottawa as "the correct team". Bell managed to receive an injunction extension that allowed them to participate in provincials. With all 32 spots claimed, Stewart was forced to remove Lisgar and replace them with Bell.

Cancellation

In the first week of May, the federation of Ontario teachers' unions apparently ordered other schools to boycott Reach provincials as solidarity for the striking Bell teachers. After a school actually withdrew, Stewart decided to cancel the provincial tournament with less than two weeks to go. Stewart decided to play the victim, saying that he would revive the tournament if "somebody will blink" in the standoff between the Bell students and the teachers' federation.

The federation blinked, and the tournament proceeded. Teams were advised not to play against Bell, but allowed to face other schools.

Provincials

Bell managed to scramble a team together for provincials. Upon their arrival, the coach from Oakville-Trafalgar HS "screamed at them" (Sweetman's article refers to the coach from Oakville; Elliot's article states that O-T HS represented Oakville). Nevertheless, Bell's presence did not generate the uproar Stewart predicted, and the students were able to play in all their matches. Some judges refused to officiate the games Bell played, so spares had to be brought in. Throughout all this, no students showed any opposition to having Bell at the tournament.

Aftermath

Bell ended up third at provincials, one spot short of qualifying for nationals. In the following weeks, the students received heaps of praise in the Ottawa media for overcoming the "might" that was Sandy Stewart and the SchoolReach organization. Stewart retired at the end of the competition, and went back to his earlier hobby of trashing his old employer, the CBC. The CBE labour dispute was resolved over the summer, but coach Richard Mageau of the 1994 team did not return, resurfacing instead for the 2000 Merivale team.

The 1995 Fredericton team ended up winning Nationals. This title may be in dispute, since Lisgar - who did beat the Picton team to qualify for provincials - was never given the opportunity to compete at the higher levels of competition (coincidentally, the 2008 Lisgar team won Nationals despite not winning provincials and also having a disputed city title).

Members

Captain: Ian Clysdale

Members: Jennaya Doylend, Jonathan Hills, and others

References

  • "Quiz glory beyond reach of CBE students" by Joanne Laucius in The Ottawa Citizen, April 21, 1995, page B1.
  • "Don't let job action put us out of Reach" by Jennaya Doylend in The Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 1995, page B5.
  • "Quiz masters reach to court to stay on show" by Brenda Branswell in The Ottawa Citizen, April 27, 1995, page B2.
  • "Reach team tackles bar to competition" by Ian Clysdale in The Ottawa Citizen, April 27, 1995, page B4.
  • "Bell students still battle to Reach for the Top" by Brenda Branswell in The Ottawa Citizen, May 2, 1995, page B7.
  • "Bell expects to compete in Reach for the Top" in The Ottawa Citizen, May 3, 1995, page D5.
  • "Teachers' labor feud takes toll on quiz show" in The Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 1995, page B5.
  • "Game show could be cancelled" in Kingston Whig-Standard, May 5, 1995, page 30.
  • "Students lose title, win respect" by Keri Sweetman in The Ottawa Citizen, May 15, 1995, page B1.
  • "School dispute tries parents' patience" by Pat Bell in The Ottawa Citizen, June 15, 1995, page B3.
  • "A eulogy for CBC television" by Sandy Stewart in The Globe and Mail, November 11, 1995, page D2.
  • "Quiz whizzes know it all" by James Elliot in The Hamilton Spectator, April 8, 1995, page T1.