Board of trustees in need of some help learning what their jobs are and how to pull together as a team. This isn't a sewing circle.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

August 22, 2017


This article has had a correction, Pearson will not open in September of 2018

The Going Back to School process has begun – the school supplies are being bought and fresh new clothing is being chosen.

News Analysis

Parents are learning what the fashion trend is going to be this year and the first timers are going to get a chance to learn what it is like to take a bus to school.

All seven high schools will open this year; it will be different next year.

The Board of trustees voted to close two of the city’s seven high schools: Lester B. Pearson will not open in September of 2018 and Bateman high school will not open in September of 2020.

Protesters PARC

At first it was Central high school parents fighting to keep their school open. They put forward very compelling arguments and they were taken off the recommendation list.

Bateman parents

Bateman high school was put on the recommended for closing list when Central high school was taken off the list.

Lester Pearson at Upper Middle and Headon

Lester B. Pearson parents were never able to get the kind of traction they needed to change the minds of the trustees. Ward 3 trustee Andrea Grebenc who attended Pearson said she could not find a reason for voting to keep the school open.

Both high school parent groups filed a request for an Administrative Review of the decision the trustees made– that review looks at the process used to make the decision – not the merits of the decision.

The parents had to file a request for the Administrative Review within 30 days of the decision – both met the July 7th deadline; the Board Administration had 30 days to respond to the request for a review – they did that by August 7th. The Ministry of Education now has 30 days to decide if there is any merit in the request for a review and to consider the position taken by the Board.

That gets us to sometime in the middle of September.

It would be a little naïve to expect any changes.

The Halton District school Board has been hit with Administrative Reviews before – the end result then was no change.

There is a very unhappy public in Burlington; parents are unhappy with the way the city failed to take a position on closing schools; many feel that the process used to make the decision was so flawed that the trustees should have taken the option that was available to them – and that was not to close any of the high schools at this time until there has been an opportunity for an in depth look at just what the problem is and if there is any likelihood of a change in the number of students that are going to attend high schools.

Burlington was in a situation where one high school was at 135% capacity (Hayden) while another was at about the 65% (Pearson) capacity level. That situation was the result of the traditional feeder schools for Pearson were filling Hayden instead.

The Program Accommodation Review process was new to the people of Burlington, new to the school board as well and in hindsight many people realize that it should have been done differently.

The school board trustees didn’t really deliver on their mandate – they took a hands off approach to the issue during the PAR process and then got swamped with the more than 50 delegations they had to deal with.

Kelly Amos, the chair of the school board was flummoxed on several occasions when it as clear she was in over her head with the process. At one critical meeting she had legal counsel for the Board giving her one opinion and a parliamentarian who had been brought in to provide advice and direction giving her a different opinion.

Collard and Miller

Ward 5 school board trustee Amy Collard livid with the decision made by the Director of Education wears her feelings.

One parent made the both astute and disturbing observation that the school board gave less time to deciding whether or not to close high schools than the city did on what to do with the Freeman station – which is now doing quite nicely in its new location.

The biggest problem the public has is the quality of the current school board. With the exception of Ward 5 trustee Amy Collard, the Burlington trustees are not delivering on the mandate they were given when they were elected.

Trustees Miller, Amos - Graves

From the right: Vice chair Graves and Chair Amos – who along with the other trustees are expected to hold the Director of Education Stuart Miller on the left accountable – something they don’t appear to know how to do.

They don’t know their jobs; they don’t ask hard questions; they don’t really hold the Board staff or its Director of Education truly accountable.

While the trustees may be nice people their job is to ask the probing questions. They have chosen to be nice and operate as what has become a bit of a clique that has a tremendous opportunity to make a significant difference but instead chose to take a pass.

Expect to see a lot of different names on the Burlington ballot in the October 2018 municipal elections.

Burlington can do better than what we have.

MMW + Leah Reynolds

Leah Reynolds on the right. She gets by with a little help from her friends. City Councillor Meed Ward on the left.

We have a board where a trustee – Leah Reynolds – feels it is acceptable to receive text notes and advice on her computer from a member of the PAR, Marianne Meed Ward, who is also a city Councillor, who many believe expects the trustee to replace her should the council member run for the office of Mayor.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the behaviour of these two women, but Chair Amos pointed out that it was not against the code of conduct.

What the Chair failed to realize is that the letter of the law is important and relevant – it is however the spirit of the law that should prevail.

Of the 11 trustees on the Board of Education – four come from Burlington. Collard was the only one to vote against the closing of Bateman High school. Collard and Papin voted against the closing of Pearson.


From the left- trustees Papin, Reynolds, Ehl Harrison and Grebenc sat in on most of the Program Accommodation Review committee meetings as observers. There was no opportunity or occasion for them to make their views known at that point in the process.

The remaining seven members of the Board voted for the closing of both high schools. It is a little unsettling to realize that it was possible for trustees who do not represent the voters of Burlington to vote for the closing of high schools in Burlington even if the Burlington trustees had voted to keep them open.

There was not much in the way of a common cause between the four Burlington trustees. Three of the four bought into the Director’s recommendation to close the two high schools.

The sense that those trustees are keeping those seats warm while they battle for you is something that belongs in your Santa Clause and Easter Bunny box.

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12 comments to Board of trustees in need of some help learning what their jobs are and how to pull together as a team. This isn’t a sewing circle.

  • Mike Travers

    The trustees and Miller are of the same mind. Miller’s mega school plan is in motion and there’s little use in thinking the current band of knit wits will do anything to reverse course. I can’t see it changing with elections in 2018 even if constituents clear the board.

    Unfortunately the balance of power resides outside of Burlington so any concern within Burlington to keep schools open will run contrary to fiscal interests outside the city. The system is broken in allowing this to happen, where schools can be closed by parties with no real connection to the city.

  • jo

    Article states…”The Board of trustees voted to close two of the city’s seven high schools: Lester B. Pearson will not open in September of 2019..” Is Pearson not closing in June 2018?

    Editor’s note: You are absolutely correct. The line should have read, ad has been corrected to read, “…will not open in September of 2018.”

  • Steve Atkinson

    Hmmm. Apparently the non-problem of bussing that we were all concerned about and expressed to Director Miller et al, if they voted for the preferred option of school closures , might need some looking into. Plenty of time before school begins, right?

  • gordon

    Oh man, this picture of MW and Reynolds is hilarious…future Mayor and Ward 2 Councillor…what a joke!! I know this was the scenario delivered by these elected officials when they campaigned during the last election.
    We’ll see how that one plays out. Thanks for the laughs.

  • HDSB student

    I would like to know exactly when and where did the students have an opportunity to analyze the problem and whether or not their voices were heard in the process besides when it came down to delegations. From my reports, it seems very well so the Trustee Metropolitansky and Trustee Haj Ali, both of whom are student trustees acted very suspiciously in refusing to incorporate students in the PARC and failing to meet with the appropriate representatives from the student bodies to discuss options as well. If i am not mistaken, Metropolitansky has been re-elected but something tells me her time “serving” will come to an end very soon

  • Stephen White

    A great article Pepper! You really highlighted a number of problems with the PAC review process.

    Clearly, the process was flawed, the management of the process by HDSB officials was flawed, and the actions of trustees left a lot to be desired. Another shortcoming was the behaviour of our MPP who was missing in action from the outset. Her silence speaks volumes.

    We really do need to clean house in the next municipal election…not just the Mayor’s Office, Council and the School Board, but later on, a number of senior public servants need to go as well. Taxpayers in Burlington have not been well-served in the past four years.

  • Sharon

    Yes 21 days after the HDSB voted to close Pearson and Robert Batman High Schools Mitzie Hunter calls a moratorium and admits there were flaws in the PAR process. Why didn’t the Trustees call an emergency meeting and halt the closures. Were they afraid of what Stuart Miller was going to say? All it takes is some guts. In fact, its not too late they can do it in September at their first Board meeting. But don’t hold your breath Pearson and Robert Bateman High Schools because they won’t. Why? Because they don’t have guts. The Trustees are Miller’s puppets. The only one I could honestly see putting the motion on the floor is Amy Collard but when you are 1 man on an island surrounded by sharks. Would you jump in?

  • Cheryl

    Don’t Believe anything that the director of education says. Stuart Miller all along quoted “this is about the students. “Let’s be clear about this whole parc process had nothing to do with any of the students in Burlington. The Halton district school board and the school trustees have destroyed Burlington. You bet your bottom dollar there will be many new face around that table come the election 2018 . we need a board of trustees that actually speak on behalf of their school communities because that is what they were elected for is that not right??

  • Mark

    Totally agree with above comment. Pearson what’s on the chopping table from the gecko having it on 12 of the 19 original options. They had their decisions made way way long ago. I echo the disappointment I am so disappointed in the school board that we entrust our children with and more so with the school trustees that could have stop this But they were the puppets to the director of education. Shame on all of them for destroying Burlington that is your legacy The trustees could make a difference with bringing a motion to the table this fall in light of the Liberal government stating that this process is flawed and they will not conduct any future parc until they look at the funding formula and change it. This is your chance Halton District school board trustees to make a change and reverse this very bad shortsighted decision which has destroyed Burlington

  • Steve Atkinson

    A complete failure by the School Board and Trustees. A few weeks after they voted to close 2 schools, the Minister of Education called a halt to the faulty process. No reaction from “our” board to save these schools. Then they voted to increase their budget! Oakville was able to save Glen Abbey from developers, HDSB cannot save two schools. Priorities.

  • Sharon

    Pepper I think this is the first article that I have agreed with you entirely!
    You are right I think we will see a lot of new faces around the Board table October 2018 and hopefully, those trustees will have enough guts to tell the Board staff how to do their jobs, not the other way around.
    I agree with Cassandra that decisions were made long ago and the PAR was a formality they needed to check off the Ministry List. It’s pretty sad when the Trustee(Leah Reynolds) that sits on SEAC votes to close Robert Bateman High School There were lots of solutions put forth not only from the PARC at the last meeting we requested to look at innovations but also by parents and Amy Collard. Nothing was ever investigated just ignored.
    Hopefully, the next Board Chair will know how to run a meeting, run a thread and know when Code of Conduct has been broken. And be strong enough to do something about it.
    All I personally hope that the rest of Halton has been watching the PAR in Burlington and now know how their Trustees vote on school closures. There was nothing in this chaos that had the students best interest at heart. Absolutely nothing! Remember Trustees the taxpayers of Halton put you those seats we certainly can take you out! And I personally plan on voting out the Trustee in my area. And no it’s not Ward 5.

  • Cassandra Wadham

    They made their decision long ago,and let the students and parents feel like we had a say and our voice mattered when realistically it didn’t. So many solutions were put forth, easy logical options that would allow all kur highschools to function. I am so disappointed in our school Board and trustees, shame on you for saying you have the students Best Interest at heart.