Are the parents of high school students having a number done on them? And if that is the case - what are they going to do about it?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 11th, 2016



There was a line in the Saturday Globe & Mail editorial that might resonate with the several hundred people who took part in the first public meeting of the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) at the Gary Alan School on New Street Thursday evening.

The editorial was about the seriously flawed on-line survey being conducted to learn what Canadians have to say about how we elect our leaders.

Much of the editorial was “tongue in cheek” but the following paragraph comes pretty close to reflecting what many people felt when they left the school Thursday evening.

“As you answer the questions, remember that there are no wrong answers, because we don’t care what you say. This is a different way of consulting Canadians – in the sense that we’re not actually consulting anyone. We are just collecting data on our imposed preferences and sorting it by your demographic profile for unclear purposes. Thank you for participating.”

For those at the Thursday evening meeting we expect many to cringe after reading the paragraph.


PARC Chair Scott Podabarac – a Superintendent with the Halton District school Board

Data was collected – the Gazette provided the questions asked and an early cut of the audience responses. The data we provided has to be verified – it wasn’t possible to get it all down – the data on the screens was moving pretty quickly and one of the women sitting in the row behind me seemed to need to chatter incessantly.

All the data needs to be analyzed by the parents who really care about how many schools will be kept open and if schools are closed – which will it be?

The Board of Education may not be able to do better than this – but this is in the hands of the citizens. They are the steel in the spine of the PARC and they can ensure that the report written reflects their views. They can hold Chair of the PARC, Superintendent Scott Podabarc’s feet to the flames – he is there to serve them.

The PARC could also choose to summon Domenico Renzella, Manager of Planning, Halton District School Board and put questions to him and demand all the data they need.


Director of Education Stuart Miller and Manager of Planning Domenico Renzella during an on-line Q&A

Several parents have come up with boundary change scenarios that they think will solve at least some of the empty seat problems.

PARC policy is that:

The PARC is an Advisory body; it acts as the official conduit for information shared between Trustees and school communities. It provides feedback on options considered in Director’s Preliminary Report. It can seek clarification on Director’s Preliminary Report and provide new accommodation options and supporting rationale

The Board of Trustees is responsible for deciding the most appropriate pupil accommodation arrangements for the delivery of its elementary and secondary programs. Decisions that are made by the Board of Trustees are in the context of carrying out its primary responsibilities of fostering student achievement and well-being, and ensuring effective stewardship of school board resources. The Board of Trustees may consider undertaking pupil accommodation reviews that may lead to school consolidations and closures in order to address declining and shifting student enrolment.

The final decision regarding the future of a school or a group of schools rests solely with the Board of Trustees.

There are a couple of ways to interpret that statement. There is an opportunity for the members of the PARC to be aggressively proactive and take the lead on this and not sit there like stooges while the board runs circles around them.

The PARC might even consider having some original research done and require the board to fund it. There is nothing in the rules that says the PARC cannot call witnesses and ask questions.  For any of this to happen to parents have to stand up on their hind legs and demand what is rightfully theirs.

They also need to keep their trustees fully briefed on what is happening and lobby like crazy.

The trustees were elected to make decisions on or your behalf and we would like to believe that those decisions are being made in your best interests as well.

It might get a little messy – but it can’t get any worse than it is right now.

The senior staff at the board are intelligent people and they have the capacity to adapt to changing situations – the parents can determine that this is a changing situation and expect their board to adapt. The phrase innovation and imagination was tossed around several times – bring that to ground and be imaginative and innovative to solve this perplexing problem.


Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring

The disconcerting part in this situation is the way the city has decided to steer clear of what they feel is a little too political for them. The parents at Central understood fully the need for a political element and placed Marianne Meed Ward, their ward Councillor on the PARC – she does have a son who attends the school – so she is legit.

Mayor Goldring chose not to take part and instead sent James Ridge, his city manager, who is new to Burlington and probably hasn’t been anywhere near one of the high schools. He does not have the legitimacy Meed Ward has on this file.  He was not at the first public meeting – it was his birthday. Happy Birthday James.

The data

The Mayor’s choice

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