Board of Education sends the Ministry of Education a pretty chippy response on the way Administrative Reviews are handled - but agrees to cooperate.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

October 30th, 2017



The Halton District school board sent the Minister of Education what can only be seen as a pretty direct set of statements on the way they see an Administrative Review of decisions they made being handled.

The decision the Board of Education made last June was something parents could ask to have reviewed. Any review however was limited to the process the board followed and not the actual decision made by the trustees.

Bateman - crowd scene with Bull

Bateman high school parents and students protesting the decision to close their school.

Parents from both the Lester B. Pearson high school and the Robert Bateman high school filed requests for Administrative Reviews. Of the twelve school groups across the province only the two in Burlington had review requests that were granted.

Read it all for yourself.  The letter is the Board’s response to the request for an Administrative Review made by both the Pearson high and and Bateman high school parent groups.

We are writing in response to the request received on July 6, 2017, for an administrative review of the program and accommodation review (“PARN) process undertaken for the secondary schools located in the City of Burlington which resulted in a resolution of the Halton District School Board (“HDSB”) to close Lester B.Pearson High School effective June 30, 2018.

HDSB staff were able to verify that 194 of 213 supporters who signed the petition are parents of students from the Lester B. Pearson High School community or participated in the program and accommodation review process. This represents approximately 49% of the June 30, 2017 headcount (397).

PAR bannerThe PAR was initiated on October 19, 2016, with the Director’s Preliminary Report being presented to the Board of Trustees at a regular Board meeting On June 7, 2017. Approximately eight months
later, trustees approved motions regarding the Burlington Secondary Schools PAR, which included the closure of Lester B. Pearson High School effective June 30, 2018.

At the outset we believe it is important to establish the parameters and ground rules of a Ministry administrative review of the HDSB’s decision to close Lester B. Pearson High School. The purpose of an administrative review is to allow an objector to challenge a school board’s decision to close an operating school on the sole ground that the board’s conduct of a PAR did not comply with the board’s PAR policy.

Voting by hand

School Board trustees voting to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools.

In the context of an administrative review, it is not open to a complainant to challenge the merits or reasonableness of a decision to close or not close a particular school. The trustees of a school board are elected to make those difficult policy decisions and the Ministry should not interfere with the proper exercise of a board’s discretion to use that power, which is granted under Section 171{1), paragraph 7 of the Education Act. Rather, the scope of a Ministry administrative review is limited to challenging a board’s decision to close a school on the narrow ground that the school board did not follow its PAR policy in undertaking the PAR process.

The merits of the HDSB’s decision to close Lester B. Pearson High School is beyond the ambit of a Ministry administrative review. The focus of this exercise is not whether the decision to close Lester B. Pearson High School was reasonable or financially prudent. Instead, the Ministry’s inquiry should be directed to the issue of whether the Board generally complied with the PAR policy in arriving at the decision to close the school. In order to succeed on this application for an administrative review, the complainant must establish a compelling case that (i} there was non-compliance with the PAR policy and (ii) the non-compliance was material such that the Board would likely have reached a different decision.

It is instructive to review the Board’s statutory authority to close a school. Section 171(1), paragraph 7 of the Education Act reads as follows:

171 (1) A board may,

 “… determine the number and kind of schools to be established and maintained and the attendance area for each school, and close schools in accordance with policies established by the board from guidelines issued by the Minister. “

It is clear from this provision that the organization and conduct of a PAR is to be based on a Board policy that is derived from a Ministry guideline. It is a policy based on a guideline. Strict adherence to such a policy is thus not required given the very nature of policies and guidelines, which are considered general rules and flexible. Strict adherence would be required, however, if a PAR were governed by the provisions of the Education Act or a regulation made under that legislation. It is therefore sufficient if the process undertaken for Robert Bateman High School maintained the spirit and intent of the Board’s PAR policy. We are confident that the PAR process in this case more than satisfies that standard.

The arguments raised by the complainant, although framed as process related challenges, are in substance debating the merits of the Board’s decision.

The Board of Education provided a detailed response to the complaint filed by each parents group.  They are extensive and will be set out in a seperate news report.

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1 comment to Board of Education sends the Ministry of Education a pretty chippy response on the way Administrative Reviews are handled – but agrees to cooperate.

  • George

    The above “chippy” reply of the Director is in response to the Ontario Ministry of Education’s request for the HDSB input and response to the Lester B. Pearson parent’s request for an Administrative Review of the process used to convince the HDSB Trustees to vote to close Lester B. Pearson.

    “chippy” defined in Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:
    Aggressively belligerent; also: marked by much fighting

    “Chippy” may be considered a mild term used in this case to identify the arrogance, anarchistic and autocratic behaviour of the HDSB and the Director of Education with regard to their pursuit of closing two Burlington high schools and building them selves a new $29.6 million dollar new Administration building.

    It makes one wonder if the HDSB & Director at planning on building their new Administration palace on the land of one of the schools they plan to close!

    What do the people of Burlington think about this “chippy” reply by the Halton District School Board (HDSB) Director of Education, Mr. S. Miller?