Can the Halton District School Board trustee speak now?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 17th, 2017



It is now down to the eleven trustees – they will determine if any of the high schools in Burlington are to be closed.

The Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) that was created did some superb work – the Board Staff were taken aback a bit at how persistent and diligent they were.

Option 7 - short

During the first occasion when PARC members were asked to rank their choices # 7 – Don’t close any high school was not all that high on the list. That changed and it now appears to be the option the PARC would prefer.

Option 19 short

Option #19 – to Close both Central and Pearson was the Board Staff recommendation and the one that the the PARC members ranked higher than the option to not close any of the high schools. Option # 19 is no longer on the list of options that the PARC left on the table.

The option of not closing any of the schools was barely on the table when the PARC process began and at the early look at where the PARC members stood what was known as Option # 7 didn’t rank all that well – but sentiment for that option grew and by the end of the PARC process it was the clear preference, with the trustee serving as an advisor to the PARC asking how not closing any of the schools could be made to happen.

That question could have and should have been put to the Board staff – they are the people well paid to run the educational system for the Region – which is something that can be looked at in the future.
For now – the voters are going to have to coax their trustees to act in the interests of the community and not be taken too far by the preferences of the Board staff.

A number of months ago the Gazette asked the eleven trustees to rank the following in terms of their importance to the individual trustee.

Kelly Amos

Board chair Kelly Amos

At that time Board Chair Kelly Amos said the trustees did not want to attempt to influence that PARC in any way. Fair enough – but the PARC has now been dissolved. Could the people who elected the trustees know where those trustees stand on the following:

Fiscal prudence
Academic offerings

One isn’t better than another – the intention was to get some understanding as to what the values were of each trustee so that when people delegate they can put forward arguments that would resonate with the trustees.

At a recent parent council meeting at Lester B. Pearson high school a small audience held trustee Papin’s feet to the flames when they asked her to tell them she was going to support their school.

LBP Rachelle Papin 2

Burlington’s Ward 4 school board trustee Richelle Papin

Papin was in a difficult spot – two of the schools in her ward are amongst the options for closing. Both Pearson and Nelson are in ward 4. That is what they call a “sticky wicket”.

Papin could have very easily said she was for Option # 7 – keep all the schools open and direct staff to find a way to pay for it. The Director of Education has already said this was not a money issue and that the Board did not have to close any of the schools.

Papin didn’t seem to be able to assure the Pearson parents – her response was that she didn’t yet have all the information yet.

Four trustees

Four of the eleven Halton District School Board trustees sitting in on one of the public meetings.

The trustees need to be decisive and represent the interests of their communities using the values they hold as a guide. Is fiscal prudence more important than community? Is the academic offering more important that fiscal prudence? Tough questions – there is no right or wrong answer – it is a question of individual values. The 11 trustees are going to make a critical decision for the city of Burlington – what are they going to base that decision on?

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