Jim MacAulay

I was sad to read yesterday of the death of Jim MacAulay

The public service contributions of the MacAulay family to are legion, and I crossed paths with each of the MacAulay brothers over the years.

Jim had a special place in my heart: as a lifelong educator he contributed enormously to public education on PEI, and I had the pleasure of sitting around the luncheon table with him at the PEI Retired Teachers Association; he was funny, curious, and willing to tell tales.

Among Jim’s many contributions to the province, his 1996 Eastern School District Facilities Review was one of the most significant: it’s a 433 page deeply detailed review of the school infrastructure in half of the Island that begins with a section “How Things Came to Be”:

In a study of this nature, a historical review provides useful perspective. Until the late 1950’s and early 1960’s education in Prince Edward Island was primarily provided by small, one-room, community schools. Frequently a farmer provided in a comer of one of his fields, sufficient space for the school building and its playground. Each of these structures and its administration was an entity unto itself. In many of our communities, this model served very well for the social, economic, technological and demographical climate of the day. Many very prominent citizens emerged from these institutions.

The report is at once a detailed review of school buildings (Parkdale Elementary: “Two new furnaces were installed in the last 3 years.”), and a capsule history of public education on PEI (“If one investigates school size over the past fifty years, many school sizes put forth as ideal. At one time people felt that very large schools were the answers. Before long problems which surfaced led to a change of thinking and understanding that schools could be too large to manage.”).

It is comprehensive, well written, and its publication served as an inflection point in how we think about school infrastructure, coming 30 years after the big push to school consolidation and construction that happened in the 1960s.

For anyone wants to understand “How Things Came to Be” from a 2023 perspective, it’s the place to start reading.

Jim MacAulay will be missed.