Trustee Collard gives the Director of Education a very rough ride - promises more of the same when they meet next.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 18th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

With two evenings of delegations behind them the 11 trustees began their own deliberations and Amy Collard headed straight for the recommendations that were put forward by Stuart Miller, Director of Education who was a bit taken aback – he thought he was there to defend his report and here was a trustee wanting to change it before the meeting had hardly started.

Collard and Miller

Trustee Amy Collard was not happy – Director of Education Stuart Miller was not all that interested in answering her first barrage of questions – he anted to defend his report. If looks could kill!

It was that kind of a night – one that began at 7:00 pm and adjourned at 11:15 after agreeing that it wasn’t going to be an adjournment but rather a recess until May 24th.

Trustee Danielli had had more than enough, Collard said she could go until 6:00 am if she had to.
There was a point in this process where the recommendation the Director put forward to close Bateman and Pearson high schools had momentum; that is no longer the case.

That doesn’t mean what Miller recommended is lost – but these trustees are asking some hard questions and they want answers.

Wednesday evening they did engage the six delegations that were heard and they had a lot of questions.

One point that was made clearer – a decision to close a school does not mean that it gets sold. In order to sell a school there has to be a vote to declare it surplus – then it can be sold. While Miller didn’t spend a lot of time on that point he did say that Boards have been known to keep a school closed but as part of the asset inventory.
That might be the angle the trustees decide they can live with.

Steve Armstrong + Cheryl deLught - Pearson

Pearson PARC members Cheryl DeLught and Steve Armstrong were not on the demonstration line but they were very much in the public gallery Wednesday night. Armstrong has not given up on saving Pearson.

Trustee Danielli asked Planning Manager Dom Renzella about the recently released 2016 Statics Canada numbers and he said that the Board doesn’t pay much attention to that data because it is a look at what has taken place – his concern was what was going to take place.

Later in the evening Renzella used Statistics Canada to support a decision made.

The trustees are finding the going quite heavy but they are clearly in for the long hall and are going to make a decision based on what they heard from the delegations and how the Director and his team of Superintendents answers the questions.

Early in this process – back in October, Bateman was a school that was not being considered for closure. That changed and the public began to see and hear the Bateman story that was unknown to most people except those directly involved.

Their was concern about how any transition might take place if the Bateman high school was closed. The trustees were told that the Board has gotten very good at transitioning students and they would do an even better job if they had to move vulnerable people from Bateman to Nelson.

This decision on school closing is far from a slam dunk – it is still very fluid.

Bateman parentsThere was a rally outside the Board offices – bigger this time than anything else before it – maybe it was the warmer weather. This time it was just the Bateman parents; the Central parents won their case and they are staying right off the radar screen.

PARC member Marianne Meed Ward, also city council member for ward 2 put in an appearance.

Much more to report on.

Return to the Front page

Muir's Open Letter to the Halton District School Board trustees; asks how strong the Trustees are as decision-makers in this political context.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

May 17, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tom Muir has been a relentless commentator who asked the hard questions and pressed even harder for answers and the information he felt the public was not getting.
Today – he writes the 11 Halton District School Board trustees outlining their role and the obligation they have to the public that elected them. Muir delegated to the Trustees last Thursday

Dear Trustees,

I have been considering the experience I observed on the evening I delegated to you  and wondering how you are going to move forward in the delivery of your duties and responsibilities.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir

Frankly, there is scarce evidence of your views or intentions in debating this report toward making decisions, and I find this troubling.

This week, May 17, as you know, there is another tabling of the Director’s final report, a formality for final decision on June 7. However, this tabling really only begins your task of, and responsibility for, a transparent and accountable decision-making process. I cannot delegate in person, so please accept this as a written delegation for the record.

This information report tabling allows for your opportunity for deep questions, analysis, and for motions and resolutions for amendments and changes to the Director recommendations.

I have troubling questions about how strong the Trustees are in decision-making in this political context, and if there are any Trustees who will say no to the Director and Board.

I have provided much information, analysis and commentary on this matter, so you should be familiar with this body of evidence, and what it says about the PAR process so far.

The Board and the Director constantly worked at obstructing my efforts to engage the process and investigate the Conditions 1 and 2 that formed the justification for the PAR.

My requests for relevant information were constantly ignored and/or refused. I was forced to go to the Office of Information to request pertinent information, and then I was subjected to more obstruction.

The information I was able to get, which I have provided to you, gives evidence-based proof that the state of utilization that the Board cites as Condition 1 was knowingly and deliberately caused by the Board.

It’s irrefutable that the declines in utilization of those schools are planned declines, the direct result of Board actions.

I’m having problems with how you are portraying the utilization of the schools, like it’s due to natural causes and demographics, and therefore that’s the problem, not the Board’s intention and action. You have been doing this for most of the time since this all started. This misrepresents the situation, and is not truthful.

As I said in my delegation of May 11, utilization in Burlington was planned and directed so as to fill a NE Burlington school (Hayden), and the evidence clearly shows that this was done by choking the life out of 4 of the 6 existing Burlington schools, with premeditation.

Pearson enrollment - monitoring

Steve Armstrong graphed data showing that the changing of boundaries and limiting the feeder school is what put the Pearson high school at risk of closing.

The current UTZ was planned long ago, and imposed by the Board – it didn’t just happen by itself. I have provided proof of this in the data.

But rather than getting to the bottom of how to fix the underlying causes, the Board focused on stopping release of pertinent information to me and the public, including forcing me to submit an FOI request, and even then further obstructing and refusing the release of information.

The current situation of low utilization was caused by the Board, and only by them. Refusing to be transparent and accountable for this is the big lie of the Board.

Now using this PAR, the same Board is now blaming the victims, and recommending that two of the six victims be sacrificed by closure.This recommendation by the Director came right at the start of the PAR, with no public discussion.

To decide the closures, the victims were pitted against one another, a process still ongoing, but it didn’t matter. After a long process the Director still wants his two victims.

His reasons are not the true context, but as they say, if repeated over and over again, people will eventually believe it.

For truth in your deliberations, you have to note each time that you discuss utilization, that the rates of UTZ are the result of a conscious decision by the Board, and implemented in their planning by building Hayden and putting 1500 students there from the other schools and their feeders, causing the planned declines in UTZ in those schools.

Now, as the result of these known consequences, they want to close schools to make it up, and that’s part of their plan too.

There is no accountability, and I think that’s part of the Trustees job to call out, but it’s not evident.

What I have seen is a general administrative failure of transparency and accountability by all the Board, and a failure to show visible oversight on the part of the Trustees.

Do you plan on doing anything to correct this misrepresenting slant, and the failure of accountability?

Stuart Miller

Halton District school Board Director of Education Stuart Miller

The Director’s report also speaks of Condition 2 for the PAR. This mentions that the PAR will address questions of equity of opportunity for students, but I see no concrete problem analysis, or details of solutions.

The report also states that “reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities.” Please note that the Condition 2 uses the action words “could enhance”. It does not say “will” and so guarantees and specifies nothing.

There is no transparent and accountable information provided by the Board indicating any details of the delivery of this Condition 2 aspect of the PAR. There are only abstract assumptions, and ideology, that larger enrollments and schools allow for this. This assertion is disputed by education studies, and by parents and students in Burlington.

I repeat the point made about how much the financial operating savings are with closures of empty spaces. The $2 million operating cost savings is the only operating funding that is spent on maintaining empty spaces. Since there is no increase in budgets for instruction, more programming cannot come from there,

The PAR Policy statement says that; “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.”

I remind the Trustees that you will be closely watched to see how your decisions fulfill these duties and responsibilities, in a transparent and accountable way.

Bateman - crowd scene

Bateman

I ask you to demonstrate how closing Bateman fosters student achievement and well-being in our most vulnerable, and needing of extra support, children? After seeing some of these kids at the delegations, I don’t know how you could in good conscience close their school for so little savings and so much cost, as the most expensive option.

And show me how removing the possibility of the small school experience of Pearson, with the integrated day-care facility, fosters the same things, while providing a test of the real validity of the large school ideology currently dominating the Board planning and design.

And I look forward to you showing me how you equate the ensuring of effective stewardship of school board resources with the closing and loss of 2 of Burlington’s community schools, and the gain of practically nothing of significance in the financial and fiscal condition of the Board. The ignoring of future growth needs, and social changes, is especially reckless regarding closure induced over-utilization, and risks of pressure for renewed future schools and capital needs.

Hayden High, Burlington's newest high school built as part of a complex that includes a Recreational Centre and a public library with a skate park right across the street.

Dr. Frank J. Hayden High School

Remember again, it was the Board that created this problem in a planned, deliberate way, and this added cost of school closures in this deliberate plan, in building Hayden, must not be swept under the rug in an attempt to forget it. That is what I see happening now.

I argue that based on demonstrated benefits to student achievement, and stewardship of school board resources, now and in the foreseeable future, there is no case to close any schools. There are simply no demonstrated financial gains in closing schools, thereby destroying the community of Burlington schools, to provide any meaningful benefits. This is the truth of the matter.

Indeed, it is always in the best interest to deliver and act on the truth, because there is no telling what harm will come of leaving out these details in the future. That’s really what happened by leaving out the truth of Hayden’s impact, so please, let’s not compound that mistake by closing schools.

At bottom, we are not only dealing with numbers or dollars, but instead with children, and essentially the future of our community. This makes our decisions much more important than just taking care of business.

The trustees have within their authority the means to move boundaries, feeders, and programs in order to undo the skewed enrollment caused by building Hayden without considering the consequences.

Hayden was built and filled with students by transfers from existing schools that can just as easily be undone.

Trustees - fill board +

The Halton District School Board trustees in session

In conclusion, the Trustees do not have a pressing need to close schools, and it appears that on planning, financial, fiscal, risk, student benefits from demonstrated significantly enhanced academic offerings as opposed to known negative impacts, the real net economic effects looked at closely, and the impacts on the overall school community, it makes no sense.

If you happen to disagree with this assessment, it is your responsibility to demonstrate your reasons in a transparent and accountable way.

Return to the Front page

Nursery co-op worried that it will be seen as just collateral damage if Pearson high school is closed.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 16th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Any plans to close Lester B. Pearson high school are complicated. A small school with enrollment at 30% below the expected utilization level happens to be the home of the Pearson Cooperative Nursery school, an operation that has been around for more than 40 years and operated very successfully.

In her delegation last week Fiona Wielhouwer was pretty blunt: “ We are here tonight to ask some important questions that have yet to be answered.”

pearson-nursery-playgropund-full

Secure secluded playground for the nursery students – with a nice patch of forest yards away.

The nursery is funded by the city to some degree and by the fees it charges patents. The building it is in – is owned by the school Board but a lot of the capital costs were paid for by the city and the city provides ongoing financial support.

“Our first concern: said Wielhouwer is  the agreement between the City of Burlington and the school board. The community space where the nursery school is located, as well as the third gym (a double gym is typical for a school Pearson’s size), was built cooperatively with capital investments from both the city of Burlington and the Halton School Board. The community had input into the use of the space and the Integrated Community School partnership initiated Pearson Cooperative Nursery school.

“The nursery has had a long standing partnership with the City of Burlington, not the HDSB, for our space. The city paid for part of the community room and the expanded size of the gym, for which the city has an operating agreement with the school board that hasn’t expired – how can that be agreement be broken for the strategic purposes of the school board? Why should the city and taxpayers allow this to happen?

Wielhouwer addressed the issue of rent paid for the space and said “We are not ‘getting away’ with not paying rent. The agreement for the community space that our nursery school occupies gives the city, not the school board, authority to establish the use, policy, regulations and scheduling of the community space.

Despite what some may have been lead to believe, it is not for the Board to charge us rent or a user fee. The city has acknowledged this. The spirit of this agreement was to have a community space that was used by and benefitted the community, which it has for 40 years.

Wielhouwer questions the availability of funding for a potential new space, the timing, and whether the nursery would actually fit the criteria for funding. “This is a major question” she adds. Any funding for a new preschool space would be provided to meet only the minimum requirements from the Ministry…a new classroom would shrink to half our current size and our playground would be diminished by over 50% We also estimate the cost of just the move to be over $22 000.

She adds that: “In addition, over the past 10 years, the nursery has spent $71,000 on capital improvements to the space. Would we be reimbursed for this spending that we would be forced to leave behind?. The financial implications of a move could cripple our non-profit organization.

“This concern has been brushed aside by board staff stating that there would be funding available. Relocation is not a simple solution, and as a small organization run by a board of volunteer parents, we cannot count on an undefined source of funding, nor can we afford moving and remuneration costs. If our worst fears should come to pass…and we are forced out of Pearson and are unable to afford relocation that would result in five people becoming unemployed because of a strategic, unnecessary decision by the board.”

pearson-nusery-sign

Forty years of history might go down the drain of the high school the nursery is attached to is closed.

“This is not just about us” said Wielhouwer. “The nursery school students and families are not the only beneficiaries from our organization.” Alijcia Gibson, the co-op teacher at Pearson said “Having access that is readily available for students to be able to see the development of children during their fundamental years is something that is not only unique for students at Pearson but instrumental in making the connections between the curriculum and the real world….this practical component has helped the students enjoy and experience success in the classroom.”

There is a key phrase that Wielhouwer uses that points up the problem she is having with the school Board and that is – “a true community school”.

This school board does not appear to have much, if any interest, in community schools. The guiding philosophy at this point seems to be large high schools with enrollment of 1000 + students – 1200 appearing to be the optimum number. The rationale for this approach is that larger high schools allow for a much more inviting academic menu.

Concerns about fiscal prudence don’t seem paramount – the money will be found is what Fiona Wielhouwer seems to be hearing.

pearson-nursery-outdoor-art-work

An interesting teaching tool – does it portray the lack of any direction for the future of the nursery.

Community is just not something that shows up on the radar screens the bureaucrats use to guide where they are going. School spirit seems to be the point at which the school Board superintendents view what community is all about.

The parents fully understand the importance of school spirit but they, unlike the superintendents, see school spirit as something that is a part of the community.

There is no clear sense as to what the trustees actually hold in the way of a philosophy. It has been very difficult to figure out just what the individual trustees think – they don’t answer questions.

Few of them, in Burlington, have said very much about what for them is the philosophy that drives their thinking.

The Gazette asked each of the trustees to rank community, fiscal prudence and academic services – they were directed not to do so while the PAR was taking place. With the PAR completed one trustee came back with “we don’t want the public to know what we think because they will then delegate and focus on what our philosophy”. So much for an understanding of what the democratic process is all about.

Wielhouwer summed up her delegation telling the trustees that “a nursery school within Pearson is ideal for a true community school. The central location with its big bright windows, looking out on the meticulously maintained playground and forest beyond is a rare find in a city where many young children’s programs are housed in basements or overlooking parking lots and busy streets.”

“Our children need nature and the outdoors, which is a key part of the program at Pearson. Our youngest learners need to be respected with a space that is designed for them (like our nursery school with its tiny toilets and low counters), not gathered like an afterthought in an unused room in a building designed for other purposes.

“Should the nursery school children be collateral damage from this closure? Shouldn’t their needs be considered the same as the high school students?

LBP Rachelle Papin 2

Ward 4 school Board Trustee Rachelle Papin – didn’t ask any questions and wasn’t certain she had actually received the report from Wielhouwer.

“Choosing to close Lester B Pearson High School would have lasting and irreversible consequences that will impact many families. It will force a financially sound, thriving, non-profit nursery school with deep roots in the community to close its doors after 40 years. A decision to close Pearson would impact students aged 2.5 to 18. Pearson High school needs to remain open so our staff, families and high school students can continue to work together for another 40 years allowing children to grow, play and learn.

The School Board delegation process allowed five minutes for each presentation with another five minutes for questions from the trustees.

Fiona Wielhouwer was not asked one single question.

Return to the Front page

School closing delegations bring out a lot of new information - public input brings out concerns the parents have wanted to express for more than six months. Trustees are being overwhelmed with data.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2017

BURLINGTON. ON

 

Steve Armstrong was one of the 14 members of the Burlington community that sat on the PAR – tasked with being the conduit between the Board of education and the community.

It is safe to say that every member of the PARC believes the process was badly flawed and resulted in communities fighting with each other rather than working together to find a solution that worked for everyone.

PARC Jan 27 full group

PARC committee needed some time to understand the rules they had to work within. They had begun to realize that they were in an impossible situation yet began to come to the conclusion that not closing any schools was perhaps the best option for the immediate future.

The PARC leadership was not able to find a route to a solution; the PARC members did begin to coalesce around the option that called for no school closures. What the PARC did do was reject the original recommendation which was to close Central high school and Pearson high school.

The second recommendation recommended closing Bateman high school and Pearson high school; that led to a much closer look at just what Bateman had going for it – a lot more than many people realized.

That realization and the better late than never arousal of the Bateman parents brought some exceptionally valid information the public didn’t have before. We will have more detail on just what Bateman does have going for it; as much if not more than Central.

Steve Armstrong, a Pearson parent said in his delegation that the Board of Education’s utilization (that portion of the capacity of a school that is being used) sits at 75% and, based on the Board’s projections, will hit 80% in 2020.

That 75% is a city wide number – it includes all the schools – some of which are at the Board policy utilization level of 90% while others are at significantly below.  Pearson is one of the schools significantly below.   Armstrong believes that “If these sorts of numbers (75%)  were being seen at each of the schools we wouldn’t be undergoing this process.”

Armstrong prepared a series of graphs, one of which showed that Burlington’s overall actual enrollment bottomed out in 2014, and is presently on the rise. He also shows yearly Long Term Accommodation (LTAP) for as far back as 2006. The curve labeled as 2010 represents the 2010-2011 LTAP data.

Burlington city wide

This graph shows what the LTAP boundaries were for each of the years – the actual number is shown in red and indicates that enrollment bottomed out in 2014

“Just focusing on the pattern associated with 2020 enrollments we can see that from the 2010 projections up to the most recent data provided to the PAR Committee there has been a strong increase in the expected numbers. Over 700 students to be exact, and 2020 isn’t very far away.”

Oakville city wide

The LTAP numbers for Oakville are shown for comparison

Armstrong notes that this pattern is also seen in the Oakville data, but is a little more “bursty”, and makes bigger jumps when it moves. Not surprisingly the accuracy of the projections goes down, in both municipalities, the further out one looks.”

“The Region is growing, the City is growing, high school enrollment is growing, and the pattern has been that the projection errors tend to underestimate the actual numbers. This isn’t to surprising as the Board recognizes the planned housing growth at a different point than the City does.

PARC Andrea Taylor MMR with PARC member

Andrea Taylor, Principal at M.M. Robinson in conversation with Steve Armstrong during a PARC meeting.

Given the known near term growth, and the lower confidence in the projections beyond 5 years, extreme caution regarding closing schools is merited. Especially if it involves selling real estate assets in return for short term cash benefit.”

“High over utilization (crowding) creates problems, and low enrollment numbers will reduce some opportunities for studnets. Both situations alter the student experience, and we have these conditions present in two close proximity schools located in north Burlington – Hayden and Pearson. As the image below indicates they show a large overlap in “walkability” zones.”

The most recent projections indicate that if nothing changes Hayden will grow in size and be 600+ students over capacity by 2021. And there is no room for additional portables or a permanent addition on that site.

No 7 unwalkable areas

The symbol indicating the school aligns with the boundary area. Armstrong identified just three relatively small areas where a student would not be expected to walk to school from.

Option 19 had proposed to move the French Immersion (FI) program to MM Robinson as a way to deal with this looming issue. The Board had also listed in its Options the idea of capping enrollment, with extra students being redirected to an overflow school.

The PAR Committee also briefly discussed boundary changes, but ultimately the present recommendation stays with moving FI, and monitoring the situation going forward.

Armstrong has great concern and takes “exception to the simple notion of “monitoring”,.

Armstrong argues that the “enrollment numbers for Lester B Pearson as depicted in this graph “we can visualize three sets of data. The upper most curve represents the projected enrollment prior to a boundary change associated with the opening of Hayden. The boundary change purposely reduced the expected enrollment to just below 600 students. Apparently smaller enrollments where Ok back then! The actual enrollment went off the plan quickly, and significantly. Presently that school is sitting 30% below its planned student body, and indeed those 392 students are witnessing the problems of too little enrollment.”

Pearson enrollment - monitoringArmstrong doesn’t have much faith in the Board’s plan to monitor.  “If monitoring simply means standing by and watching then that is unacceptable. If 30 % off target isn’t enough to trigger action what is? The Board needs to put a stronger set of actions around tracking and managing, and the Trustees needs to press for frequent reporting back to them” he said.

Armstrong wil tell you that “Hayden definitely has a “vibe” to it, and it’s more than just being a new building. “When I toured the school as a PARC member I couldn’t help but feel that Burlington needs more of this. In reality, feel probably has little to do with the age of the walls.”

Armstrong likes the idea of conjoining Hayden and Pearson as a way of combining the best of both schools. “If Hayden’s Principal was to also oversee Pearson, similar to what happens with some elementary schools, would this not help ensure success? Since the goal is that some of the students presently going to, or about to start at Hayden, would be instead attending Pearson, why not bring some of the teachers over as well he asks.

Pearson has been a vibrant smaller school in the past, and not everyone is seeking out everything that a large school has to offer. Armstrong points out that currently 25% of Pearson’s students do so through optional attendance. A similar percentage also attend Bateman’s English stream program through optional attendance. Apparently there is value in having such environments available both north and south of the QEW.

With a proposal like this both student bodies expand their programming options, in an environment most suited to their preferences.

“The current set of recommendations would move the city’s overall utilization from the present 80% trajectory to 108%. Based on the historical inaccuracies of the projections beyond the 5 year mark this plan greatly increasing the risks of requiring capital intensive construction in the future.

“Hayden’s projections involve it running at 150% of capacity by 2021. Redirecting FI to MM Robinson to relieve overcrowding is too critical to simply leave to “monitoring” the progress.

“Closing Pearson removes close proximity capacity from the North, eliminates an option for smaller school attendance, and takes what by 2020 will be a 88% utilization up to 111% overall for the remaining 2 schools.”

“Change isn’t always easy” acknowledged Armstrong. “Perhaps starting with a smaller project, that would develop better community based problem solving, is in order.”

Option 7 - short

Closing no schools was always an option – it just took the PARC members some time to realize it might be the best one. 7 dots

Option 19 short

The original option to close Central and Pearson was interesting to those who were not representing either of the schools. 9 dots

Option 28 - short

This was the same as option 19 with some variation on boundary changes and shifts in the program offerings. 9 dots

Armstrong has come to the conclusion that Pearson is necessary to give Hayden some breathing room and to continue the community based approach to problem solving.  He was a strong advocate for retaining access to a smaller school in the North.

The PAR committee members were asked to rank the options that were before them.  Each of the 14 PRAC members were given two dots to put on which ever option they favoured. The objective was to begin to whittle down the 40 plus options that were on the table.  The results made it immediately clear that there wasn’t going to be anything near the consensus the Board would have liked to see.  It also meant that the trustees had a very hard job ahead of them.

After his three months of work on the PARC, Armstrong feels the trustees need to vote for the “close none of the schools option” and allow time for the Board, with significant involvement from the community, to fully study the issues and finally get it right.

Like many in the community, Armstrong believes that Hayden should not have been built – but it exists and parents are going to have to live with that decision.  That is is a fine school today, even though it is over crowded, should not blur the issues about what is done with the other six high schools.

 

Return to the Front page

How much damage can the theft of your personal identity do?

News 100 redBy Staff

May 15, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

On Saturday June 3rd, you will be able to have your personal sensitive documents shred at the Crime stoppers event.  The shredding truck will be at the parking lot on the east side of Brant at Ghent from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.

How much damage can the theft of your personal identity do?

An Ontario teacher is working to clear her name and her credit score, after someone appears to have used her identity to open credit cards, take out a loan and purchase a luxury SUV.

Tara Douglas arrived home from her teaching job in Bradford, about 65 kilometres north of Toronto, on April 28 to find a bill waiting for her for the Highway 407 toll expressway.

The bill was for trips she never took in a car she never bought.

“I saw the licence plate did not belong to me and the trips that were on this 407 bill I had never taken,” Douglas told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning.

She called the number on the bill and was told she had to deal with the Ministry of Transportation. The next day, Douglas went to a Service Ontario location to figure out what was going on.

After receiving a strange bill, Tara Douglas began digging and discovered that her identity had been stolen.
A staffer there pulled up her information and told Douglas that a 2012 black Range Rover was registered to her driver’s licence, in addition to her own car.

“That’s kind of when I really started to freak out because this obviously isn’t my car,” she said.
The MTO staffer removed the Range Rover from her licence and directed her to police in Barrie. Police listened to the details of her case and launched an investigation. On Tuesday, the force issued a news release with a picture of a suspect standing in front of the SUV.

“The news release says the Range Rover has been registered to Douglas since March 31 after being purchased at a dealership in Woodbridge, another community north of Toronto.

“The dealership was contacted and confirmed the female who purchased the vehicle did so with a valid driver’s licence and proper identification,” the release says.

Police had advised Douglas to contact her bank, as well as credit reporting agencies Equifax and TransUnion, to see what else may have been done in her name. While her personal bank information was fine, the credit bureaus told her that someone had taken out numerous credit cards in her name, ringing up between $1,000 and $5,000 in charges. Her address was also listed as being in North York, which isn’t true. Two cellphone numbers that weren’t Douglas’s were also registered to her.

Other car purchases were also listed on her credit report, and police told her that a $60,000 loan had also been taken out in her name.

After learning about the extent of the identity theft, Douglas has done everything she could to clean up her credit report and protect herself.

While she doesn’t yet know how someone managed to get her personal information, police did tell her that the person allegedly buying cars and obtaining credit in her name had obtained her social insurance number.

She’s now working hard to clean up her credit report, sending the credit bureaus various documents to prove her side of the story. She has also contacted Canada Post to ensure her mail wasn’t being diverted to the suspect’s address.

“I think I’ve covered all my bases,” she said. She’s also unsubscribed from email lists she doesn’t want to be on, has told her banks to only communicate with her by phone and boosted the privacy settings on her social media accounts.

“I don’t know what else I can do at this point, but I want this to be resolved and go away and and get back to what my life was and who I am,” she said.

How did someone get enough information on Tara Douglas to be able to open up a bank account, get a bank loan, buy a car and get credit cards,  She may never know.  The thieves may have gone though her garbage and found a bank statement – that would be more than enough to get them started.

On Saturday June 3rd, you will be able to have your personal sensitive documents shred at the Crime stoppers event.  The shredding truck will be at the parking lot on the east side of Brant at Ghent from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.

Return to the Front page

Second list of delegations will address the school board trustees on possible school closings.

highschoolsBy Staff

May 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The following are the people selected as delegates to address the Halton District school Board trustees on the matter of closing high schools in Burlington.

Earlier in the week the trustees listened to 24 delegations and managed to ask a paltry five questions with three of them coming from one trustee.

Chair Kelly Amos didn’t say a word other than to open the meeting, thank the speakers and close the meeting. Engaging the people who elected them seems to be beyond this crop of elected officials.

 

PARC Jan 27 - school reps

Cheryl Delugt, standing, a member of the PARC

Tracey and Joelle Howard will speak on the closing of Robert Bateman

Cheryl Delugt, a member of the PARC will speak on the closing of Lester B. Pearson

Elyse Matthews is a community member.

Tammie Beattie will represent the interests of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Jane Cooper Kelly is a Community Member

Dr. Lisa Van Zoost will speak for Nelson high school

Diane Miller will speak for Lester B, Pearson.

Adam Peaker is a community member

Tom Muir is a community member who has written at length on why the Board of Education is in the situation they are in. He speaks as a Community Member

Debbie Wakem will speak for Robert Bateman high school

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Steve Cussons, on the right, was a member of the PARC committee.

Steve Cussons will speak for parents at Aldershot high chool

Jeffrey Huang Ma will speak for Robert Bateman HS

Maeve Fitzgerald will also speak for Robert Bateman HS

Cassie White will speak for Robert Bateman high school as well.

Camryn McKay will speak for Robert Bateman

Denise Davy, who has worked tirelessly for the interests of the parents with children at Robert Bateman, will delegate Thursday evening.

Barbara Heller will speak about the Gifted Programs

Natalie Hiltz will also speak on the Gifted Program

Julie Hill will speak for Robert Bateman HS

Heather deHaan will speak for Robert Bateman

Stephen Beleck will speak for Robert Bateman

Brent Hall is a Community Member

Tracey Bruton will speak for Robert Bateman HS

Lauren Olsen will speak for Burlington Central HS

Jason Bartlett

Jason Bartlett, parent of a student at Bateman high school

Jason and Kelley Bartlett will speak for Robert Bateman HS. Jason has in the past been a member of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

Steve Armstrong, who was a member of the PARC will speak for Lester B. Pearson and for Hayden high school

Douglas Emerson will speak for Lester B. Pearson high school

Renée Sirbu will speak on the International Baccalaureate program

Kathy Berglund will speak for the Aldershot HS

Heather McElrea will also speak for the Aldershot HS

Ron Raj Reddy will speak on the International Baccalaureate program.

The delegation meeting of the Board of Trustees on Monday met at the Board of Education offices – if you were not a delegation you had to watch the proceedings at M. M. Robinson high school, a couple of hundred yards away.

The turn out at MMR was 21 people which narrowed down to 17 as the evening wore on. The Board made every effort to keep a crowd that had the potential to get noisy out side the building.

The policy is not to allow any emotional response from the public. That doesn’t square all that well with a policy that lets the trustees applaud when they are handing out awards to members of the public.

Closing any school is an emotional process – the Director of Education said having to tell the staff at Bateman high school that he had recommended the closing of that school “broke his heart”. It’s doing a lot more than that to the parents of the students at Bateman.

There is nothing wrong with people allowing their emotions to overflow. This Board and these trustees seem to be afraid of hearing how people really feel.

When things get noisy or even a little rowdy – a strong chair has a gavel and can call a meeting to order very effectively; that of course is the problem – the chair isn’t very strong.

A man named Jim Young, an Aldershot resident with a passion for getting better public transit service for seniors in Burlington once told that city council that council was not theirs – it was something they held as a sacred trust on behalf of the public – and we thought he was right.

The 11 trustees were elected to represent the public and ensure that the teachers and board staff deliver the service the province directs them to deliver and that the public wants.

So far – not one person has stood up publicly and said that closing a high school is a good thing for Burlington.

Trustees - fill board +

Eleven of the people sitting at the conference table will vote to decide which, if any, of the high schools in Burlington should be closed.

Trustees – fill board +
Eleven of the people at the meeting will decide which, if any of the high schools in Burlington are to be closed. There doesn’t seem to be any public support for closing the schools.

At a recent Board of Trustee meeting the 11 members poured over the plans for a new high school on Milton; they talked about where hallways should be, where recreational facilities should be – they sounded like a family designing their new hone. They had all kinds of questions.

They need to be as deliberate and as responsible and as involved and as engaged with the matter of closing a school. This isn’t a game.

Return to the Front page

School board trustees hear 24 delegations - fail to engage the people they were elected to represent.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 9th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Revised:  This article has been revised based on information sent to us by trustee Papin

The first wave of delegations to the Halton District School Board were heard last night; twenty four people made their case for keeping different schools open.

The eleven trustees listened – three – just three asked questions. Amy Collard, perhaps the trustee with the experience needed to ask pointed questions of Board staff didn’t have much in the way of questions for any of the delegations,

Delegation May 8 HDSB

Those delegating before the trustees were in one building, those there to just listen were in another location watching the events by an internet feed.

Ward 1 and 2 trustee Leah Reynolds had a question that was more technical in nature, Trustee Oliver out of Oakville had the best question – she wanted to know more about what would be involved if Bateman were to be moved to Nelson.

Other than that, the trustees didn’t really engage with the audience. They didn’t ask any of the delegations how they might resolve the question the trustee they were faced with.

As the evening wound down one could easily get the impression that the trustee’s may have felt that they had gotten through the evening with most of the skin on their backs.

Kelly Amos

School Board trustee chair Kelly Amos

Chair Kelly Amos seemed a bit flustered when she opened the meeting and maintained a polite veneer throughout the evening, hesitant at times that the whole thing might blow up in her face.
Stuart Miller, Director of Education who is going to have to work with whatever decision the trustees make maintained a calm observant demeanor throughout the evening.

There were some excellent delegations. The trustees were given new information, some of it very relevant, but one never got the impression that anything that was said was sinking in.

It was as if there was a line drawn in the sand and each group maintained their distance on their side of the line.
The parents, especially those from Bateman, certainly made their case about the value of the programs that school runs. The Board staff have taken the position that anything Bateman has today they will have when the transition to Nelson is made. The evidence heard last night suggests that is not going to be the case.

The senior staff at Nelson are going to have to work hard at changing the attitudes of a small number of Nelson students and ensure that the welcome they give the Bateman students, if that is where they are going to end up, is genuine. There has been a tremendous amount of exceptionally negative comment made on twitter by Nelson students.

The Nelson pride that Casey Cosgrove, a Bateman student in his high school days, spoke about is going to need an attitude adjustment if the decision is made to close Bateman and march all the Bateman students along New Street to their new digs.

What Cosgrove did do was remind the trustees that they had some amazing people in the community who could and would pull together to find a solution that keeps the schools open. “These are amazing people” said Cosgrove “use them”

Cosgrove wanted the trustees to vote for option 7 – don’t close any of the schools until the real work that has yet to be done can get done to figure out what the possibilities are for making a better decision than the one staff gave the trustees,

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie – don;t close any of the schools until you have better data.

Gary Scobie, a Burlington resident who delegates often at city hall, pointed out that “Past estimates of student location into the future have not always proven correct, so it is still questionable whether it is worth the risk of losing high school properties and facilities when it will likely be impossible to place new facilities back into the existing neighbourhoods if the estimates are wrong and if demographic projections are incorrect.

“I believe that you the Trustees understand the politics of what you are being asked to vote on. You are aware of how funding works and how it doesn’t work, and how the PAR process is deeply flawed. You are in a difficult but also pivotal position to put students first.”

Scobie asked the trustees to vote for option 7b – don’t close any of the schools – not at this time.

Lisa Bull, a Bateman parent, was very pointed in her remarks when she said: “The Director’s report in front of us now dismissively suggests that the new locations for the SHSM’s and OYAPs currently located at Bateman are “to be determined” as though they are just another course you could take on-line or pick up along the way. As though moving these programs and putting them in the hands of new teachers would be without consequence.

Bateman - crowd scene with Bull

Lisa Bull sits in the middle of a group of parents and students protesting a possible closure of their school.

“The Director couldn’t be more wrong. These programs change the course of students’ lives. And it is the availability of these programs alongside of the Essentials and Applied programming which create opportunities for success- personal and academic, efficacy, and happiness for students who might not otherwise experience such success. They should not be treated like afterthoughts.”

At this point the trustees are hearing parents advocate that the school their children attend not be closed – and they give some compelling evidence.

What the trustees are not hearing is comment on the larger picture – where is high school education going in Burlington?

Does anyone have a clear idea what may happen in the years ahead? If the senior Board staff have a vision and a deep understanding of what is really taking place – they have not communicated that to the wider community and they certainly haven’t given the trustees the data and information they need to make wise decisions.

central-strong

Central made their case – and they were heard. There are other cases that are just as strong.

The Central parents made their case – take a high school out of the downtown core and you are hollowing out a significant part of the community. Board staff seem to have understood and they changed the recommendation to the trustees.

Lester B. Pearson has a strong case – which was put forward rather well by Rory Nisan and Fiona Wielhouwer.

pearson-nursery-playgropund-full

The nursery at Lester B. Pearson has a long historical relationship with the city that funds part of that operation. A delegation argued that some of the assets don’t belong to the board.

Were they heard? Wielhouwer’s delegation raised some critical questions related to the city’s involvement at Pearson – none of the trustees followed up. Richelle Papin, the trustee for Pearson said she didn’t get the copy of the delegation that Wielhouwer said was sent.

Addition: Papin said in a comment that she “I did get a copy of Fiona Wielhouwer’s delegation report by email on Sunday night. What wasn’t clear was who was to share the report with the other trustees. Normally, any delegation report goes through the director’s office. I assumed a copy would be sent to the director’s office. At any rate, a copy was shared with all trustees last night.”

If the parents of this city feel that the trustees they elected are going to do the really hard work that has to be done to resolve the problems – they may want to get ready for a bruising disappointment.

The public didn’t see much in the way of trustee engagement with the audience at the Board of education meeting last night.

The Gazette will publish more detail on what the delegations had to say.

The majority of the 24 people who spoke last night have every reason to be very proud of the job they did.

Return to the Front page

Delegations from 25 parents on the closing of high schools in Burlington begin tonight.

highschoolsBy Staff

May 8th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

And now it comes down to the people who are going to be impacted directly by the closing of high schools.

The parent’s at Lester B. Pearson feel disillusioned by the decision to close their school. The feeder schools that kept Pearson alive were shifted to Hayden high school leaving Pearson with very little in the way of incoming students from the elementary sector.

Bateman hug

Bateman high school parents decided to give their high school a hug – hoping that the Board of Trustees would give them a hug in return?

Some of the parents at Bateman are close to frantic with the decision to close that school in 2019 when an addition to Nelson high school will take in what are described as very emotionally vulnerable students with serious learning disabilities.

The parents at Central have gone very very quiet. They were on the original close list (they shouldn’t have been) but they were not on the recommendation that was sent to the trustees last week.

An unfortunate statement released by the Central parents didn’t help the hard feelings that developed between parents at the different schools that were up for closure.

It took ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward an inordinate amount of time to issue a statement and at least try to soothe the very ruffled feathers

meed-ward-at-council

Is a city Councillor restricted to serving on just city council or can she take part in other organizations as well? Ward 2 council member Marianne Meed Ward accepted the request to be a member of the PARC – she has a son at the high school.

The Central decision to ask Meed Ward to serve as one of their representatives on the PARC wasn’t popular with many; some saw it as a conflict of interest. She had every right to serve – she has a son at the high school. Quite how her being as city Councillor could be seen as a conflict suggests those who made the remark don’t understand what a conflict of interest is.

If there was a conflict of interest it was with the Mayor who took the gutless approach to representing the city on the PARC and sent the City Manager instead. The conflict was between his personal interests and those of the people he was elected to represent.

The city representative on the PARC did not have a vote – the person was just there as an observer and in a position to make comments. Ridge who filled the city seat said very little other than to suggest that if a school was closed the Board should not sell the land. A school board basically has to dispose of any land or buildings that are surplus to its needs.

Podrebarac and Ridge

City manager James Ridge, on the right, was appointed by city council to be the observer at the PARC meetings.

What the city could have done was looked for ways to rent some of the excess space the school board has and not continue to rent expensive space in the Sims building across the street from city hall where they occupy several floors in that building.

Kim, a parent who moved from the Alton Village into the Lester B. Pearson community so her children could attend Pearson. She and her husband wanted their children to attend a small school. They bought in that community so there children could attend the school

Rory Nisan, a small guy, who played rugby at Pearson said “ I would never have gotten on any team at M. M. Robinson”

Another parent that will be delegating has a boy that is a quiet child, “not the kind of student that will survive in a school with close to 1000 students. He just wouldn’t make it.” This parent, who didn’t want to be named, is working on getting her seven page delegation down to two pages. “All we get is five minutes” she said and she isn’t comfortable being a delegate. “Am I going to be criticized or humiliated when they ask me questions”, she asked.

“When we moved into this community” she said “we called the school and asked about the rumours that the school was going to be closed and we were told that it was just a rumour”.

Girl with T-shirt LBPH

Every high school that was at risk had T shirts made up. Even Nelson which was never really at risk.

The schools frequently send pieces of paper home with a student – it gets tucked into their back backs – and they are usually on pink paper. They tend not to get read admitted this parent, which drives the administrative people at the school board up the wall who ask – ‘what do we have to do, hang a sign around the neck of every student when we want to get a message to their parents?’

“It was a rainy Friday after school in early October, and we received a letter explained one parent, saying that Pearson was proposed to close in June 2018. I thought to myself, How could they do this just as my child was settling into high school?

“Who does this to students as they just start their high school year? I had so many questions and yet didn’t know where to go for the answers.

“Over the course of the past seven months, our family has endured so much heartache, uncertainty and unnecessary stress. From attending countless public meetings only to witness the conflicts developing between communities…..there were no answers, just more questions. We as a family have participated in all community rallies and committee meetings in hopes to find answers and in a small way feel that we had some sort of control over the situation. As time passed, it was obvious, this process was unproductive and was tearing parents, students, and communities apart.

“As I put on my rose coloured glasses and prepare my delegation, I find myself almost brought to tears. As I sit here in front of my computer and try to put all my thoughts down, I am filled with so many emotions. I found myself frustrated, angry, and emotional torn. I am counting the moments until this is over. When there will be no more meetings….no more agendas…. no more rallies.

Unhappy parent

Emotions have been running very high. Not a lot of empathy coming from the Board staff – the trustees get to react to parent concerns during delegations that will start on Monday – the 8th.

“The emotions are too much, the memories of the events that have brought me to this final moment makes me wonder…How did I get here? There is an overwhelming fear inside knowing the words I choose have to perfect to have any real impact. What can I say to make the Trustees see the damage a school closure will do to not only my family but so many others? What magic word or key point can I include that will sway their thoughts of a school closure? After all, I am just a parent….. I don’t have a background in education or politics yet here I am expected to stand up and read my delegation in front of a room filled with people who do this every day.

“I just want this nightmare to be over. The students want it to be just another day at Pearson.….where everyone knows you, where teachers support you, where smiles are exchanged, where good memories of high school are made….…..our kids deserve that!

Were you to talk to this parent you would hear her bubbling with ideas on how to keep the school open. Bur she is “just a parent” and she isn’t at all certain that her voice is going to make any difference.

One of the delegations the trustees will ear this evening reads like this:

I wish to express my deepest concerns and disappointment regarding the potential closure of Lester B Pearson High School. I strongly believe that the drastic measure to close our school is very short-sighted.

Lester B Pearson is ideally located in an area of population growth and demographic change. The issue with the 1800 empty seats is the fact that these spaces are not spread evenly across grade levels nor across schools. With 1267 of the empty pupil spaces located south of the QEW, it makes a closure of any North school unwarranted and unjustified.

Since the building of Hayden, our enrollment numbers have dropped considerably. The main reason being, is that we currently have only have 1 1/2 feeder schools, while Hayden has 7 and a large portion of our catchment area is mainly industrial and commercial.

Despite the close proximity to Pearson, many students are being redirected to other schools and require driving or busing, which doesn’t make sense from a logical, geographical, nor a financial perspective. This simply reinforces the need for balancing of feeder schools and redefining boundaries, and NOT for the drastic measure of a school closure in Burlington.

The current low enrollment at Pearson was created by the HDSB and NOT the lack of growth in North Burlington. Based on the most recent data from the 2016 Statistics Canada Census, the population in Burlington has increased by 4.3 % since 2011, and is growing faster than the estimates currently being used by the HDSB. Should the time come when a new school is needed to satisfy additional growth, more money and more “land”which are both currently limited, will be required.

There is a growing trend in Burlington, with the older residents remaining in their homes well past retirement……demographic change is “inevitable”. With the completion of the housing developments within North Burlington, there will be a substantial increase in families moving to the immediate area. It is important that we as a city be proactive and plan for the future growth and change that will result from our current aging population downsizing. With 3 & 4 bedroom homes nestled perfectly between both elementary and highschool, it makes the Pearson and Palmer area a highly sought after community for new and growing families.

Built in 1976, Pearson is the “2ND NEWEST” public high school in Burlington and offers expansive grounds, tennis courts, running track, and beautiful trails/forestry that provides a unique learning environment and recreational area for many local residents to enjoy year round. Despite the current low enrollment, and the rumors of a potential closure, there are still a good percentage of students choosing to attend Pearson through optional attendance.

Pearson was built as a small school and has consistently proven to be a successful platform for providing academic excellence and student success. According to Fraser Institute, Pearson ranks the “2nds BEST” public high school within the City of Burlington. Research has shown, that many students tend to perform much better and suffer from less stress and anxiety in a small school environment.

With bullying issues a growing concern, many students and parents are seeking out small schools where fighting and bullying are less likely to occur due to having a much lower population. The small school environment not only enables students to be more visible to teachers,it also helps to make it easier for teachers and staff to respond should a confrontation between students arise.

The smaller school environment, improves the student teacher relationship, making it easier to identify a student’s need for support and provide a more personalized educational experience. Having a smaller staff size also makes it much easier and faster to collaborate in order to provide student support when needed. In comparison to the larger school environment, students in a smaller school also tend to feel more connected to their school and their community as a whole.

In small schools, such as Pearson, the percentage of students involved in extracurricular activities and team sports is likely to be much higher than at a larger school. Although there may not be as many teams, there is a greater chance of making the team as a result of less competition. Being part of a team helps to build student self-esteem, strengthen social skills and builds strong and positive relationships with their peers.

Overall, small schools tend to be safer, offer a more positive learning experience, and results in higher academic performance amongst students especially those with social, emotional, and academic challenges.

With growing concerns relating to our youth’s mental health, childhood obesity, physical and emotional well-being, perhaps the HDSB should be focusing their efforts on exploring creative/alternative programming, advocating for small schools, promoting walkability, lowering the needs and costs associated with busing, strengthening school-based community partnerships, and NOT on closing schools in Burlington.

PARC Feb 9 Reynolds and Grebenc

Most of the Burlington trustees attended every PARC meetings and then their twice a month Boar meetings as well. One of those meetings went to well after midnight. Trustees Grebenc and Reynolds taking notes

How will the trustees follow up with their questions?

What impact will delegations like this have on the process?

At one of the PARC meetings Director of Education Stuart Miller admitted that the Board doesn’t communicate with parents all that well.

Return to the Front page

Delegations for the first opportunity to address the public school board trustees announced

highschoolsBy Staff

May 5th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Parents in Burlington have been waiting for months for their opportunity to address the Halton District School Board trustees on the staff recommendation to close Bateman high school and Lester B. Pearson high school.

The following 25 people have been selected by the trustees to speak on Monday May 8, 2017 starting at 6 pm

Sharn Picken confering with a parentr at a PARC

Sharon Picken will be delegating

Seating is limited – the overflow will be able to watch the proceedings via a video link in the theatre studio at M.M. Robinson high school

1. Fiona Wielhouwer  – Pearson Cooperative Nursery School
2. Carla Marshall  – Autism Ontario, Halton Chapter
3. Sharon Picken, David Picken, Kimberley Picken – Self-Contained Programs at Robert Bateman HS
4. Casey Cosgrove –  Nelson High School
5. Gary Scobie  – Community Member
6. Paul Brophy  – Community Member
7. Denise Nacev, Matthew Nacev  – Diversity and inclusion at Robert Bateman HS
8. Jodi Correia, Shelley Wettlaufer, Loretta Chin, Colleen Allan & Tracey Kunzli – Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School
9. Adam Doering  – Community Member
10. Michael Hribljan – Burlington Central High School
11. Carolyn Whiskin  – Burlington Central and ESL Program
12. Lisa Bull, Brian DePoe  – Robert Bateman High School Tech Programs
13. Leah Bisutti  – LB Pearson High School

Casey Cosgrove talks with Deb Tymstra about the crowd he brought with him to the 2013 Terry Fox Run.

Casey Cosgrove will be delegating.

14. Dianna Bower, Marie Madenzides  – MM Robinson High School
15. Amy D’Souza  – LB Pearson High School
16. Kristen Priestner  – Nelson High School
17. Carter Creechan – Robert Bateman High School
18. Jim Dunn Robert Bateman High School
19. Erin Hossack Robert – Bateman High School Alumni
20. Shasni Pathirana – Burlington Central High School
21. Marianne Anderson – International Baccalaureate Program
22. Jennifer Bishop  – Robert Bateman High School
23. John Norris – Robert Bateman High School
24. Christine Hall – International Baccalaureate Program
25. Rory Nisan – Community Member

This is an important part of the process. Parents have not been given much of an opportunity to speak out. The Gazette has published hundreds of comments and withheld publishing almost as many because they were rude, inappropriate and in some cases just plain foul.

The Board has yet to decide if there will be a third evening of delegations.  The number of applications to speak has yet to exceed 100.

The 11 trustees are the people who make the final decision. They do not have to accept the recommendation given to them by Stuart Miller, Director of Education.

One recommendation is to not close any of the high schools at this point in time. Another is to take a hard look at the boundaries.

This is the public’s opportunity to help the trustees make the best decision for all the families that send children to the public school system.

Do everyone proud.

The Gazette will publish the delegations and would appreciate the 25 people named above sending us their delegation which we will embargo until 6 pm on Monday the 8th.

Send whatever you have to newsdesk@bgzt.ca – and may the force go with you.

Return to the Front page

Muir provides much more than a 250 wortd outline - at least the trustees know what they are going to hear - hopefully their questioning will be a deep as the information being put before them

highschoolsBy Staff

May 4th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The School Board trustees are going to get an earful from Tom Muir when he addresses them sometime next week – which assumes that Muir will be allowed to delegate.

Chair Kelly Amos asked each person who wanted to delegate to provide a 250 word outline. Muir gave her 1594 words.

Here is what Muir sent the Chair who now has to decide if what Muir wants to say meets the criteria for selection, which is: ” to have a “varied perspective” of delegations”

Notes for a Delegation to HDSB on Burlington PAR. May 2017

I note that 5 minutes to delegate limits the scope of the perspective and the topics that can be covered. My presentation will follow these notes suitably reorganized to fit the time allotted.

Summary
The perspective of my delegation will be an overview of the context of the PAR, and provide analysis of various aspects and criteria of the PAR planning data basis, recommendations, and options available to the Board.

four-trustees

Four of the eleven school board trustees listen carefully at a public meeting.

I will cover points related to planning, financials, fiscal, risk, future planning outlooks and needs, demonstrated student benefits from enhanced academic offerings as opposed to known negative impacts, the real net economic and money effects looked at closely with prudence, and the expressed views of the overall school community.

I will discuss the roots of the criteria and justification of the PAR as results of Board planning decisions in LTAPs, future enrollment projections, and so-called “business plans” done in the period 2008 to 2013, and now currently.

I will discuss the origins and makeup of the utilization justification criteria of the PAR.

I will also consider data on financial and fiscal impacts of options to deal with this situation.
Another topic is the increased and better program selection that constitutes the second criteria for having the PAR.

Other points cover how school closures reflect what the community and students have expressed as their wants.

Concluding points cover summary of perspective and points on the data and evidence offered in terms of Trustee responsibility and decision options on schools.

Presentation Outline.
I did not see anything in writing describing what the Board and Ministry had in mind about what a business case is, or what the thinking behind the business case was, as contained in the Capital Priorities Template sent to the Ministry in 2009. This seems to be the way business is done. Either there’s nothing in words, or it’s not available publically.

sweg

Hayden high school – Muir questions why it was built.

My first point is that Hayden was built with no seeming regard or public disclosure for the consequences that were built right into the plan from the start – surplus seats in the other Burlington high schools, and Hayden bursting at the seams. Data show this was done by the Board in their planning, boundary and feeder changes, and construction.

In the 2009 plan, submitted to the Ministry, it showed Hayden overflowing with students within 3 years of opening, and continuing this trend. In planned consequences, back in 2009, MM Robinson utilization was planned to decline, by 2022, from 93.7% to 53.4%, and Bateman to decline from 99.2% to 43.9%, by 2018/19. Nelson declined from 108.7% to 95.6%. Most of these declines coincided with Hayden’s projected opening in 2010. By 2022, 1567 students were in these declines, many transferred to Hayden.

The more recent data, shown by the Board, at the November PAR public meeting, and titled in a slide as, “Current Situation: Low Utilization”, paints an even worse picture of what has been done by the Board and only made public in this PAR. This data clearly shows Hayden continuously overfilled grossly with students transferred largely from the other schools, as part of the plan. And this is being facilitated with portables, part of the plan too.

From no students on 2010, Hayden goes to 129% UTG in 2016, and projected at 159% in 2020 and 141% in 2025. At the same time, the other schools continue the planned decline, but now there are 4 schools that are in that situation, not just the 2 schools identified in the 2009 plan, as I noted above. This data is as follows;

– From 112% OTG in 2010, Pearson declines to 61% in 2016, and projected to 55% in 2020, and 50% in 2025.

– From 87% OTG in 2010, Robinson declines to 53% in 2016, and projected to 47% in 2020, and 46% in 2025.

– From 107% OTG in 2010, Nelson declines to 75% in 2016, and projected to 83% in 2020, and 79% in 2025.

– From 95% OTG in 2010, Bateman declines to 59% in 2016, and projected to 55% in 2020, and 50% in 2025.

Looking at the option 23e, in Miller, and the overall plan for Hayden from 2009, and you can see that according to that option outline, Robinson is also overfull by 2020, as Hayden is now to the end of the planning horizon.

So why are we closing schools?
This is the actual data showing how building Hayden created new seats that then became surplus seats for the rest of Burlington schools. We now have a situation of overutilization and underutilization, the main cause of which is building Hayden and then over-utilizing it using boundary, feeder, and program policies.

This is the cause of the “Current Situation – Low Utilization, but this is being ignored and never mentioned, despite being obvious in the data as consequential to the year Hayden was opened.

I will also consider data on financial and fiscal impacts of options to deal with this situation.

The Ministry is not telling the Board to close schools – it’s our call how we spend that part of the money they give us for accommodation costs – keeping all buildings open. That’s a little more than $100 million of a $700 million total budget for 2015/16.

miller-prep-at-central

Director of Education Stuart Miller preparing to speak to parents at Central high school.

According to Miller’s report, it costs $564,000/yr to operate Pearson, and $764,000/yr for Bateman. Closing these 2 schools saves only about $2 million a year, when added busing costs, lost revenues, and staff reduction cost savings, are all accounted for (See Miller; busing costs noted there are incorrect – the report says 226, 286, and 96 more students bused, but only costs the 96). Transportation is a concern as student busing increases, and Hayden already has 580 students bused and is the second most costly in Burlington.

Whether schools close or not, all the rest of the Board budget (except admin and transportation) is for instruction, and this nets out to null savings. So closing 2 schools saves only $2 million, but more than $12 million alone is needed to replace Bateman equipment, somewhere else.

Then there is the cost of decommissioning buildings, mothballing, needed ongoing maintenance, what about the pool, day-care, and so many other transition costs that are just ignored.

So what kind of fiscal savings is $2 million out of a $700 million budget (0.003%), to be so concerned about?

And the fact is, the Director’s recommendation calls for the most expensive option of two closures, and this cost is uncertain, likely underestimated, and doesn’t account for planning errors and risk.

Given the provincial Growth Plan saying Halton must grow by 500,000 people by 2041, and the planning enrollment forecasting error and uncertainty, already experienced for Hayden enrollment, this seems to be a reasonable cost to invest in risk management for planning errors. There has been no risk assessment and management done by the Board. Having all our schools open and functioning provides this risk management as a low cost reserve.

The only other maybe money in this fiscal picture is the PODs, from any surplus asset value that may be realized in the future, and that is only a one-time cash-in, partly chewed up by transition and transaction costs. This will not go far for new schools in Burlington.

Another topic is the increased and better program selection that constitutes the second criteria for having the PAR. Since there is no increase in budgets for instruction, more programming cannot come from there, and more generally, there is no information provided by the Board indicating any details of the delivery of this aspect, and only abstract assumptions, but nothing convincing, that larger enrollments allow for this.

The closures impact students negatively for sure, and the impacts on Bateman students affect them in life-altering ways, as special needs students who have been bumped around in the system.

PARC - engaged onservers

Parents listen intently to the PARC members as they look at the more than 40 options discussed during the seven meetings held.

Other points cover how school closures reflect what the community and students have expressed as their wants. Obviously everyone wants their own neighborhood school kept open. But more generally, when asked for opinions, on two occasions, the public expressed their preference for the Board to spend the money, and implement measures needed, to keep schools open. However, the Board has more or less discounted these results showing public preferences, and it does not appear to have been given any formal consideration.

As it turns out the overall costs of keeping all schools open are a small portion of the Board budgets – savings from closing schools are 0.003% of the Total ($700 M) and less than 0.02% of the more than $100M Accommodation component.

Trustees - fill board +

It all comes own to how the 11 school board trustees vote on June 7th. will they go with the Staff recommendation that Pearson and Bateman be closed or will they decide that none of the schools should be closed at this time.

The Trustees do not have to close schools, and it appears that on planning, financial, fiscal, risk, student benefits from significantly enhanced academic offerings that are not documented as opposed to known negative impacts, the real net economic and money effects looked at closely with prudence, and the overall school community, it makes no sense.

The PAR Policy statement says that; “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.”

I argue that based on demonstrated benefits to student achievement, and stewardship of school board resources, now and in the foreseeable future, there is no case to close any schools. The trustees have within their authority the means to move boundaries, feeders, and programs in order to undo the skewed enrollment caused by building Hayden without considering the consequences.

Hayden was built and filled with students by transfers from existing schools that can just as easily be undone.

Return to the Front page

The school closing delegation process - there is a bylaw that governs that process.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 4th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

People want to speak and feel they are being heard.

Part of that process requires people to listen and to make themselves fully aware of whatever rules are in place.

The issue this time is parents wanting to be sure that they are being heard about the closing of high schools in Burlington.

There is a process. There is a bylaw. It may not be the most elegant piece of writing you are going to see – but there is a bylaw, written by the trustees you elected.

To date the Board of Education has something in the order of 75 requests to delegate. Two evenings were set aside for delegations with the possibility for an additional evening if it is needed.

Kelly Amos

Board of trustees chair Kelly Amos.

While the Gazette has yet to see a single word from Chair Kelly Amos, other than that the trustees would not be responding to our request to rank the values they brought to their jobs as trustees, the fact is that there is a by law that sets out very clearly just what the process is.

How many people have read that bylaw? We just don’t know. However, anyone who filled out the form asking to be a delegation would have had access to the bylaw because it was attached to the on-line form that had to be filled out in order to be accepted as a delegation.

People may not like the rules – the time to complain about them was when that bylaw was written.
Based on what we have learned from Board of Education sources the request are being received and processed. No one at the staff level is involved in the selection process. The chair of the Board of Trustees is doing the sifting through of the applications.

The objective, we are told, is to get a balance of views. What the Chair, apparently, does not want is 20 people from one school standing up and saying the same thing – ‘don’t close our school because our students are so very vulnerable’.

The trustees are acutely aware that some students are at risk and they struggle with the decision they are going to have to make.

The Gazette received the following from a parent:

Denise Davey at council April 3

Denise Davy – lead advocate for keeping Bateman open.

“I understand you’re looking into the 250 word submission that has suddenly been requested by the board. As the leading parent organizer for the Bateman group, you can quote me:

“This is just one more example of the board’s “change the rules” approach that has left parents furious and frustrated at every step of this process. There was never anything said about a 250-word submission until yesterday afternoon then parents had until the next day at noon to put something together.

One woman is on vacation and emailed me that she can’t possibly start putting something together as her laptop is at home with all of the information on it. Most people lead busy lives, especially parents who have a disabled child, and to ask this of them is inappropriate and disrespectful.”

There is nothing in the bylaw requiring an up to 250 word outline of what the delegation will be about. Getting a line that says “about closing Bateman high school” doesn’t help the chair choose who will be asked to speak.

There are some that will take the view that everyone and anyone should be allowed to speak. That is not the process your trustees have chosen – it is the trustees that chose this route and it is the trustees that actually wrote the bylaw. It is not something that was done by staff.

What the Board is looking for are delegations that add to the information they currently have. Emotions are running very high – this is an emotional issue.

It needs a good dose of rationality and common sense.

The Gazette has received a number of well thought papers supported by good data.

If you want your trustees to make the best decision for everyone then give them well thought out arguments and be prepared to follow that up with the time that has been allocated for the trustees to engage the delegations.

Rational if you can. An emotional rant isn’t going to get anyone anything.

The delegation bylaw was revised in January, became effective in February and is due for a revision in September of 2018.

The bylaw that is in place is what the public is going to have to live with.

There is one parent who takes a bit of a different slant on the process:  Here is what she has to say:

This process clearly demonstrates insensitivity and the ignorance we are dealing when it comes to this issue and the acceptance of inaccurate data and misinformation which has presented to the public over the course of the last several months. While everyone is entitled to their opinion… Have we forgotten what is to be human? What has happened to being sensitive to the needs and wants of others? What kind of world do we live in, when we completely disregard people and make decisions based solely on money? If money is the motivation behind this farce (which it clearly is) called a PAR process, then perhaps it is time to get creative and find alternative ways to offset costs and not destroy peoples lives and communities…just a thought.

The bylaw that governs the delegation process is set out below:

REQUESTS TO DELEGATE
1. An individual or group may request the opportunity to delegate the Board of Trustees at a Regular or Special Meeting of the Board or at a Meeting of Committee of the Whole. The provisions of this by-law are applicable to both Board and Committee of the Whole meetings.
2. Potential delegates shall submit a Delegation Request Form (see appendix A) by no later than noon, two business days preceding the meeting at which the individual or group intends to delegate. The Delegation Request Form submission timelines will be adjusted for statutory holidays or non-standard meeting days (see appendix A).
If a delegate requires accommodations to submit their request, they should contact the Director’s Office for assistance. A delegate list will be published on the Board’s website 24 hours in advance of the Board meeting.
3. Potential delegates will be advised by the Chair or Vice Chair (or designate) that their request to present has been accepted or denied as soon after the submission deadline as is practical. A written rationale will be provided to potential delegates whose delegations have been denied, and the Board of Trustees will receive a copy of this rationale.
4. Up to six (6) delegations will be scheduled per meeting. Priority will be given to delegates who intend to address issues that appear on the ‘Ratification/Action’ section of the agenda, giving consideration to delegations with a variety of perspectives on an issue. Delegations will appear on the agenda in the order in which the requests have been received.
5. A request to delegate may be deferred to a subsequent meeting if the number of delegations exceeds the maximum number, or if the topic does not relate to an item on the agenda. The Chair or Vice Chair (as applicable) will notify the delegate of the deferral with an explanation and the Board of Trustees will receive a copy of this notification.
6. Requests to delegate at a Regular or Special Meeting of the Board may be referred to a meeting of Committee of the Whole if the topic of the delegation is not expected to relate to an item on an agenda of a Regular or Special Meeting of the Board in the foreseeable future. The Chair or Vice Chair (as applicable) will notify the delegate of the referral and the Board of Trustees will receive a copy of this notification.

WRITTEN MATERIALS REQUIRED
7. In addition to the Delegation Request Form, delegates may choose to provide supplementary materials to be distributed to Trustees. These materials should be provided to the Director’s Office before 10 am on the day prior to the meeting. The Delegation Request Forms will be posted to the Board’s website, and any optional supplementary materials provided by the delegate(s) will be distributed to Trustees on the day prior to the Board meeting.

ELIGIBILITY TO DELEGATE
8. Where a request to delegate has been accepted, and the delegate is unable to attend the Board meeting for which their delegation has been scheduled, a substitute delegate may be recognized by the Chair or Vice Chair (as applicable).
9. Employees of the Board, or representatives of employee groups shall not utilize delegations to the Board to express their views relative to their employment or professional interests.
10. Individuals or groups who have delegated the Board of Trustees on a topic will be permitted to delegate again on the same topic no sooner than four months after the original delegation unless they are presenting new information.

PRESENTATION OF DELEGATIONS
11. Each delegation shall be allowed up to five (5) minutes for their presentation to the Board. Following each delegation, the Chair or Vice Chair (as applicable) will open the floor to Trustees for up to five (5) minutes for questions of clarification to either the delegate or staff.
12. Any delegate or substitute spokesperson(s) for a delegate is expected to refrain from the use of abusive language, or from making any derogatory statement concerning the character or performance of named individuals, including students, staff, citizens, or Trustees of the Halton District School Board. Any delegate who violates this section during their presentation shall be ruled out of order by the Chair or Vice Chair (as applicable) and may be asked to discontinue their presentation.

SPECIAL DELEGATION NIGHT
13. Notwithstanding the other sections of this By-Law, the Chair may, at their discretion, call a Special Delegation Night, specifically for the purpose of hearing delegations on a particular topic, for which all provisions of this By-Law will apply, with the exception that a maximum of twenty-five (25) rather than six (6) delegations will be allowed.

Return to the Front page

After a major dust up with the Director of Education - Tom Muir is taking on the chair.

highschoolsBy Staff

May 3rd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tom is not happy.

He got a letter from the Chair of the Halton District school Board and wants to know if anyone else received the letter he received.

A reality check Tom – everyone who asks to delegate is going to get the same letter you got.

Muir making a point

“Who chooses what an acceptable perspective to present is? asks Tom Muir.

Tom Muir has written extensively for the Gazette on the matter of closing two high schools in Burlington.

“Does anyone know if everyone who requested a delegation received this letter?” asks Muir and adds “What the hell kind of censorship and possible suppression tactic is this? Anyone know?”

“They give you less than 24 hours, and want 250 words.

“And they will refuse your delegation if they want to based on what criteria? Who determines what an adequate variety of perspectives is?

“Who chooses what an acceptable perspective to present is?

“I venture to say that I have presented a variety of perspectives on this matter, myself, second to no one.  This is disturbing.  The Board is a public institution and everyone should be entitled to present once on such a topic as this.
“Any info and ideas?”

amos-kelly-trustee

Board of Education Chair Kelly Amos

Here is the letter Muir got from Chair Kelly Amos:

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your request to delegate.

As I am sure you can appreciate we have had a great number of requests to delegate from representatives from all the secondary schools in Burlington, as well as some community members.

In order to ensure a variety of perspectives, your delegation description is a very important part of the selection process. As such, we are requesting a 250 word description of your delegation topic, including at least 5 main points, and would request this information by Thurs. May 4th at 12pm in order for the delegation to be able to be reviewed for consideration.

Some individuals or groups have requested multiple delegations. As per the Delegation Bylaw, an individual may only delegate once, as either an individual or as part of a representing group, regarding the Burlington Program and Accommodation Review.

“Individuals or groups who have delegated the Board of Trustees on a topic will be permitted to delegate again on the same topic no sooner than four months after the original delegation unless they are presenting new information.”

“When your response has been received it will be reviewed and all delegations that have been accepted will receive information as to the delegation night you will be appearing on. We will do the best we can to accommodate the night originally requested, depending on space available.”

Muir responds to Chair Amos:

I find this request for 250 words in less than 24 hours, and its stated purpose, as a disturbing development.

Demanding this 250 word delegation description by 12 noon tomorrow is onerous as it has no respect for my individual circumstances in that time period. I would add that the stated purpose compounds that impression.

And I can only assume that every delegation request is being subject to the same demand, but I do not know.

This request does not conform to the Delegation by-law in terms of timing of delegation requests, and possible submission of written material timing, by anything written that I read.

I can appreciate there could be a lot of requests for delegations, but as you know, this is the most contentious issue to face the Board in a very long time.

The Board is a public institution, and you are an elected public official, and every member of the public that wants to delegate, and to be heard, should be able to do so once, without restriction, and without having to submit what they want to say for official scrutiny and approval of their views and right to speak.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, I must tell you, with all due respect, that this very much resembles the possibility of censorship, and suppression, of perspectives and views that don’t pass the criteria or screens that you intend to impose.

As you can also appreciate, this demand, and the optics it projects,  will never lead to any good place or satisfactory resolution of this PAR matter.

If you have more than 50 requests for delegation, I think that your responsibility to the public as an elected official imposes on you a fiduciary, and good faith democratic obligation, to accommodate all requests to delegate.

I recall this possibility for many requests, and the need to meet the demand if greater than 50, was aired at a PARC meeting by PARC members. I could not imagine that the PARC would approve of this action.

All perspectives must be heard, not subjected to censorship.

I request and hope that you will abandon this request, which I think leads only to dangerous ground. It is not a good idea.

Yours sincerely,  Tom Muir

Return to the Front page

Police will be teaching staff at Drive Thru locations how to identify drivers who are impaired and inform the police.

News 100 blueBy Staff

May 2nd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

As part of its ongoing #Campaign911 and #MakeTheCall911 initiatives to get impaired drivers off area roads, the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) will launch a pilot program in Burlington.

Project Drive Thru (#ProjectDriveThru) is a partnership between police and local restaurants with drive thrus that will educate employees on the signs of impairment and instruct them on how to let the police know what they have observed.

Drive thru

The server gets a pretty up close look at the driver of the vehicle – can they help to keep impaired drivers off the road.

Superintendent Al Albano, Commander of 3 District said earlier today that Burlington has 36 drive thru locations of which 15 are 24 hour a day operations.

“Of the 36 that we talked to” said Albino, “everyone has taken up the opportunity to be part of keeping impaired people off the roads.”

Members of the HRPS will present Project Drive Thru to event attendees and will offer a photo opportunity as well as one-on-one interviews.

Constable Dave Stewart, District Response Unit Officer is identified as the Project Drive Thru creator

The training takes place on Wednesday, May 4th at 9:30 am at the Burlington police detachment.

 

Return to the Front page

Ranked balloting is at least now the practice in one Ontario municipality: London takes the plunge.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

May 2nd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Changing the way we elect those who represent us from the current First Past the Post (FPTP) where the person with the most votes is the winner and the number of votes does not have to be more than 50% has been a concern for many.

It becomes possible for a political party to win with as little as 35% of the vote.
The other 65% feel they are not represented.

Ranking the ballots so that the eventual winner has at least 50% + 1 is an approach favoured by many.

 

Ballot box - elections ontarioHow would it work in practice?  The Ontario government set out an example that explains just what voters do with their ballots and how the results are tallied up.

Single-member election: an election where one candidate is elected

In this election, you are being asked to vote on the kind of fruit that will be served as a snack. 

 

Ranking the ballot

Ranking the ballot

With ranked ballots you can rank your choices from your most preferred to least preferred option, as follows:

  • Cherry  1
  • Pear   2
  • Strawberry 3
  • Apple  4

Calculate the threshold

Thirty people voted, and only one fruit can be chosen. Sixteen votes are needed for a fruit to be elected (50 per cent of 30 votes is 15 votes, plus one makes it a majority).

Count the first choice votes

After the ballots are distributed according to first choices, the vote count looks like this:

Count the first choice votes

None of the fruits has received enough votes to be elected.

Eliminate the option in last place and redistribute those ballots to other candidates

Your first choice, Cherry got the fewest votes. Your ballot will now be given to your second choice, Pear. (The ballots of everyone else who voted for Cherry as their first choice will also be redistributed to their second choices). 

After the five Cherry ballots are distributed, the new vote count is:

Count 2

After the second round of counting, none of the fruits has received enough votes to be elected.

Drop the last place and redistribute those ballots

Strawberry now has the fewest votes. Your ballot stays with your second choice, Pear.

After the seven Strawberry ballots are redistributed, the new vote count is:

Count 3

Pear is elected with 17 votes. Even though your first choice didn’t get elected, your ballot helped your second choice to win.

The problem was that no one was using such an approach – until Monday evening when London, Ontario’s city council voted to use ranked balloting for their 2018 municipal election.  They are the first municipality to do so in Ontario.

Dave Meslin, Creative Director of Unlock Democracy Canada, said “This unprecedented decision makes London City Council the first and only government, anywhere in Canada, to abandon First-Past-the-Post.

“Ranked ballots are a small and simple change that make local elections more fair, inclusive and friendly” said Meslin. “In an age of increasing political cynicism it’s inspiring to see this kind of leadership. Voters deserve a modern electoral system that delivers fair results, reduces negativity and encourages more voices to participate.”

He added that London has put themselves on the map as the #1 leader of democratic renewal in Canada – a great gift to the country on our 150th birthday!

Recent legislation in Ontario allows any of the province’s 444 municipalities to use ranked ballots, but 443 Councils decided to keep the status quo. Electoral reform is difficult to achieve because incumbents rarely want to change the system that put them into power. What we saw in London tonight was rare: selfless leadership.

Meed Ward H&S profile

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has been an advocate for ranked balloting – but has yet to bring a motion to city council.

No one on Burlington’s city council has put a motion on the table giving the citizens an opportunity to debate the issues. Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said in a prepared statement that she “commend London for taking this step and will be watching the next election with interest. They are in a bit of a different situation as a single tier municipality than we are, as part of Halton Regional.

Meslin argues that “lower tiers can do whatever they want, but the UPPER tier can’t switch to ranked ballots unless all of the lower tiers switch.

The upshot is that Burlington is not going to even debate the issue. Oakville and Milton appear to be taking the same position – there is just no appetite for a change.

Why mess with a good thing.

Return to the Front page

Muir on getting school board closing information - exhausting. But he did eventually get it.

highschoolsBy Tom Muir

May 1st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident who does not have children in any schools, wanted to know why parents in the city of Burlington were being told that two of the city’s seven high schools should be closed. His attempt to get at the real reason behind this decision boggles the mind. Red tape galore – a long but not very pretty story.

Part 4 of a four part series:  Another Chapter in This Saga

 

Muir making a pointBecause the response to my Freedom of Inforamtion (FOI) request to the Halton District School Board got tied up in the mail, my failure to receive a response to an identically worded FOI request to the Ministry of Education prompted me to contact them. I found the same problem that a Ministry response was in the mail to my home.

I then asked for and received a response by email, and got it April 11.
The Ministry replied that;

“upon review of the records, it has been noted that your request may affect the interests of a third party”
“The third party has been notified that a request has been made for the records, and has been given the opportunity to make representation concerning the disclosure of the records.”
“A decision on whether the records will be disclosed will be made by April 30, 2017 in accordance with subsection 28(4) of the Act.”

At this message, the identity of the third party remained anonymous.

It was obviously concerning because this long delay, with the opportunity for the third party to appeal a decision to release at the April 30 date, meant that the FOI documents from the Ministry might not be released until after the PARC process was essentially over and would be of no use.

This statement and finding begged me to ask numerous questions. For example,

– I don’t know how such an FOI request as mine, involving entirely public business, by public institutions, could involve the interests of a third party other that the HDSB and the Ministry of Education, and employees of said institutions.

– Please tell me how this could be, and what evidence is there that my request may affect the interests of a third party?

– And why are you withholding all of the record?

– I know of some particular parts of the record that have been disclosed by the HDSB, so tell me how this works?

– How could anyone have personal interest in a public process involving only public institutions and public records, have personal interests and information the disclosure of which might constitute an unjustified invasion of personal privacy?

– It’s all public business, conducted in the public domain, so there is no personal privacy to be invaded, unjustified or not.
Subsequent correspondence with the Ministry included;

– On second thought to my message below, it occurred to me – is the third party considered by you to be the Halton District School Board?

– There are only 3 parties to this FOI request – I (1),sent the FOI to the Ministry (2), and ask about their interaction with HDSB (3), without which the basis for the FOI request has no object to search.

– If it is, then this is a most ridiculous idea, and it fits with my suggestion that the end result of this failure to disclose any of the record is to delay beyond the timeline of the public process for which the FOI is meant to inform about.

– The record involves HDSB in some way so this fits with all the record being withheld.

– It is also ridiculous to think that disclosure would constitute an invasion of privacy for HDSB, which is not a person, and staff who are not private persons in their responsible employment with HDSB.

In response to this, the Ministry stated on April 12;

– The information responsive to your request originated from, and was created by, the Halton District School Board.

– In cases like this one, section 28 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act) makes clear that if there is reason to believe the responsive record may contain information referred to in section 17 [Third Party Information] of the Act, we are to give written notice to the entity or person to whom the information relates.

– As you will see in the portion of legislation below, section 17 lists harms that an affected party would need to prove relevant to prevent the release of specified information. Third party notice is important, especially when we require clarity as to whether the information shared by another institution, business or person was supplied in confidence to the Ministry.

Here is our update –

– Following our third party notice to the board (affected party) and our advisory letter to you (the requester), the board confirmed that they have no concerns with the release of the records.

– My staff are attempting to reach the board contact and advise them that we will release the records prior to the end of the third party period. This is not a usual occurrence, but given their green light, we will proceed. I understand you are under a time constraint of your own so, with your permission, we can send you the records via e-mail when they are ready for a mail-out.

Since all this Ministry revelation was going on at the same time as my interactions with HDSB it is easily imagined that the upset was doubly disturbing and running on.

My reading of this is that all the information in the FOI response came from the HDSB. This was disturbing as it sounds like the Ministry didn’t provide any of its own records, despite my knowing of several documents in the HDSB response to their FOI that are Ministry documents.

This makes it appear that HDSB did basically all of the Ministry response to the FOI. And since the scoping of the FOI request was identical for both HDSB and Ministry FOI requests, it would be obvious to the HDSB that they are coming from the same person.

Further, according to the Ministry, despite the HDSB indicating they had no concerns, the groundless and purposeless delay till April 30 was kept in place, and the HDSB would have known about this, and knowing the identical text of the FOI request, would have a highly likely knowledge of who it was that the FOI response pertained to. And yet, the Board said nothing and let the time delay stay in place.

Add all this together – Board and Ministry issues and delays – and let me tell you, that your so called “unnecessarily abrupt” email from me becomes both necessary and appropriate.

So, on the same date, April 13, the Ministry got a equally “abrupt” email challenging what had been done and essentially “demanding” their FOI response that very same day as I asked the Board to provide theirs.

Although I did not get my demand, in contrast with the Board’s stone-wall and continued power driven evasive response, this is what I received;

Good morning Tom,

My office’s decision to issue a third party notice, which is a time extension, is permitted under the Act.
My office is preparing a response that is the totality of the records responsive to your request. We cannot create records for an access request; only provide records that exist in our custody and control. The records existed in our Ministry at the time we received your request.

Despite the April 30th deadline, we intend to get the records to you next week.

Conclusion
So there you have it, my promised story about how this email you find so “unnecessarily abrupt”, as to be so offensive to you, that you continue to play the Board’s power trump card to dictate conditions, a bully tactic that I have no countervailing means to respond with.

So you got something like what you give.

In conclusion, I will say that I did not opt out of conversation with your Superintendent of Business, rather she opted out of a conversation with me about what the conversation needed to consist of in order to meet the standards of public institutional transparency and accountability, which are of course, the basis of trust.
I never said I didn’t want to consider a conversation. I still want the information and clarifications I asked for.

Now – what was in the documents Muir worked so hard at getting?  That comes next.

Part 1 of a 4 part series.

Part 2 of a 4 part series

Part 3 of a 4 part series

Return to the Front page

The GO BOLD mobility team is rolling into Aldershot on Saturday May 13th.

News 100 redBy Staff

May 1, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Next stop on the Mobility Hub train is in Aldershot.

Saturday May 13th: 10:30 to 12:30, East Plains United Church, 375 Plains Road East

The City is developing detailed plans for the “mobility hubs” around the Go Stations and they want to hear what the good people of Aldershot think about the idea

The public are invited to share ideas on a long-term vision the city is creating for the area around the Aldershot GO station.

Centre ice - fully engaged audience

It was a very engaged crowd with hundreds of questions.

The workshop will be led by City staff and external planning consultants.

The audience that attended the Burlington  GO station event was close to capacity.

Return to the Front page

Has a Lester B. Pearson high school alumni done work the Board of Education planners should have done and solved the well over capacity at Hayden and given Pearson the students it should not have lost?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 1st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is amazing what comes to the surface when a problem is set out before the people it is going to impact.

Rory Nisan is a Lester B. Pearson alumni. He doesn’t want to see the high school that prepared him for university and the career he has today closed.

However Nisan isn’t moaning about the community losing a school that everyone loves; he has set out a number of options that appear to be sound.

Here is what Nisan proposes: He deserves a hearing;.

(1) Send Kilbride PS students back to Pearson.

Result: 116 students sent back to Pearson, where their older siblings attended. Hayden gets relief; Pearson gets students.

Note: The Director claimed at the Committee of the Whole meeting that Hayden HS was closer to Kilbride than Pearson. In fact, there is a 200 metre difference (14.6 km to Hayden, 14.8 km to Pearson).

(2) Maintain decision to send Alton West students to MM Robinson

Result: MM gets 40 (or more) students.

(3) ‎ Make all of CH Norton a feeder school to Pearson. This unites the public school to a single, nearby high school, and rectifies the unfair catchment boundaries, which currently do not allow Pearson a fair number of feeder schools.

Result: Pearson gets 59 students, CH Norton students get to stay together.

(4) Send any students from the new prospective development at Havendale Lands (West of Brant, South of Upper Middle) to MM Robinson (units TBC)

Result: MM gets students.

(5) Send all Florence Meares students from Hayden to Pearson

Result: Pearson gets 237 students; Hayden gets relief. Meares graduates no longer have to cross Dundas street to reach Hayden.

(6) Send late French Immersion students to MM Robinson from Macmillan

Result: MM gets 156 students

(7) If Bateman closes: MM Robinson receives ESS, Gifted, CPP and Leap programme from Bateman where student is north of the HWY (~110 students). We do not advocate closing Bateman, and we don’t need these students. But if Bateman must be closed to deal with utilization in the South, MM Robinson should receive these students so they do not have to travel too far (as outlined in the Director’s Final Report).

Result: less distance for these students to travel

(8) At a future date, commit to sending an appropriate distribution of students from new developments to the three schools based on updated estimates and location of developments (Adi development: 602 units; Valera road: 400 units; Evergreen Community: 907 units).

Result: Flexibility to re-balance utilization numbers based on changes 1-7 above.

Nisan figure 1

This graphic demonstrates the total number of students at Pearson if Pearson were to have the four listed schools as it catchment, and if late French Immersion were sent to MM, based on elementary school data today (697 estimated). It also indicates how many students MM would add if it were to receive Late French Immersion students (156 estimated).

Nisan figure 2

New catchment boundary for Pearson based on changes (Kilbride not shown). Red = Hayden; beige = M.M. Robinson; blue = Pearson

If Bateman doesn’t close, MM Robinson adds 137 students, plus Havendale Lands Development, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

If Bateman closes, MM Robinson add 247 students, plus Havendale Lands Development, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

Pearson adds 266 students, plus possible future distribution of other new developments.

Hayden subtracts 353 students, and then will add possible future distribution of other new developments.

This straight-forward proposal puts all three school in the North at sustainable utilization levels.

What’s killing Pearson is choking the school of its elementary feeder schools.  The Board has never explained any rationale for this decision and the trustee has never asked why it was done.

Will Nisan get a hearing; does he have the support of his school trustee?

Nisan isn’t the only Pearson alumni who has concerns over what has been done to the school.  George Ward attended the meeting at which Director of Education Stuart Miller explained what he had set out to do in his recommendation after which he answered questions.

Ward had some questions of his own but learned hat he wasn’t allowed to ask questions.  That didn’t seem to bother him – he bellowed out a question which led to the Chair of the meeting insructing the trustees to stand and leave the room – the meeting was over.

Ward wanted to know  if the HDSB forecasts are for 10 years and updated yearly then why is the Director of Education recommending the closure of two high schools three years and a few months after the new school was opened?

Ward thinks the Director  based his  recommendation on a  chart showing projected enrollments.

Ward graphis

George Ward has a problem with this chart – he thinks the data behind it are flawed.

Ward thinks the process of forecasting projected enrollment must be called into question – he is not alone in that point of view.  Has the Director of Education  made a recommendation  based upon defective forecasting?

Ward maintains “The process of closing Burlington High Schools is flawed and should be immediately halted and to pursue the action to “Save All Burlington High Schools”.

That decision was never the Director’s to make – it is in the hands of the trustees now.  They will get to hear delegations from the public on May 8th and 11th – 25 delegations each evening – five minutes each.

The Program Accommodation Review was flawed from the day it started; to a considerable degree because the way the province set out the regulations that had to be followed.  This was compounded by the problems the Board staff had with publishing data the public was prepared to believe because it kept changing.

Trustees - fill board +

There is a crisis of confidence in the Board of Education trustees.

There was and still is a crisis of confidence.  Will the trustees sand up for the public that elected them – or will they role over and do what the Director of Education has recommendation.

The trustees are there to lead – when the Chair Kelly Amos chooses to not actually attend the meeting but take part by telephone conference call – one wonders where the leadership is coming from.

If the Chair was ill and not able to actually attend – a simple brief media release could have informed the public.

Of the 11 trustees just the one distinguished herself; Amy Collard had tough questions and when she didn’t get answers that satisfied her – she made sure the Director of education know she was not pleased.

The public now has time to delegate and make a case for a specific decision.  This isn’t the time to complain about one group of parents throwing a school under the bus; this is the time for the leaders of the different schools to meet and come up with a strategy and take it to the trustees.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Ian Farewll could be talked into another meeting and Steve Cusson would still be at PARC meetings if they had let him.

There were some very talented people involved in the PARC process. Lisa Bull from Bateman, Steve Cussons  from Aldershot, Steve Armstrong from Pearson and Kate Nazar from Nelson to name just a few – need to make phone calls to each other. Ian Farewell can be convinced to attend one more meeting.

Bull brought small bottles of wine to the closing PARC meeting to hand out.  Buy a case of the stuff and get the parent leaders in the same room and work it out.

What city Councillor Meed Ward is going to do at this point is anybody’s guess.  She is know to enjoy a glass of wine, perhaps that will stir the leadership gifts she does have.

The current crew of trustees do not appear to be able to do the job – the parents that elected them are going to have to step in and give them some guidance.

There isn’t a lot of time left.

 

 

 

Return to the Front page

Aldershot high school students learn CPR and how to use a defibrillator

News 100 blueBy Staff

May 1, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is an organization called the Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation that partners with high schools to teach the fundamentals of CPR and AED.

What do the acronyms mean?

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a combination of breathing and chest compressions. Performing CPR increases a cardiac arrest casualty’s chances of survival by keeping the brain supplied with oxygen until the person receives advanced medical care.

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator. An AED sends an electric shock through the chest to the heart to start the heard beating effectively again. Defibrillation given as soon as possible is the key to helping some people survive cardiac arrest.

CPR - doing compressios

Aldershot high school students being taught how to apply CPR and how to use an AED.

There are 28 high schools in Halton taking the training that will result in 7000 students empowered by their teachers with essential lifesaving skills every year. The media event for this program took place t Aldershot High School,

CPR mascot gts involved

The high school mascot gets into the training.

The ACT Foundation is the charitable organization that is establishing CPR and defibrillator training programs in high schools throughout Ontario and across Canada. Mannequins and defibrillator training units are donated to schools and high school teachers are trained as instructors to train all students prior to graduation.

When used in conjunction with CPR in the first few minutes after a cardiac arrest, defibrillation can dramatically improve cardiac arrest survival rates by more than 50 per cent. Providing youth with the tools and confidence to intervene in a life-saving scenario is an important investment that will benefit everyone.

CPR - ready to usse AED

One student does CPR while a second students prepares the defibrillator.

This initiative will see high schools receive training equipment as a result of the Skills4Life Fundraising Campaign which has received the support of many community partners and service clubs. These include lead community partners, AstraZeneca Canada, Amgen Canada, and Boehringer Ingelheim Canada Ltd. Community partners are: Bayer, Halton Hills Hydro Inc., Kiwanis Club of Oakville Inc., Oakville Lions Club, Rotary Club of Acton, Rotary Club of Burlington Central, Rotary Club of Burlington Lakeshore, Rotary Club of Burlington North, Rotary Club of Oakville Trafalgar, and Takeda Canada Inc.

More than 700 CPR mannequins are being donated to high schools along with 85 defibrillator training units.

With eight in 10 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occurring at home or in public places, empowering youth with CPR training as part of their high school education will help increase citizen CPR response rates over the long term.

Return to the Front page

Muir: The overall Board performance in handling the PAR, tells me their own deeds indicate that they cannot be trusted.

highschoolsBy Tom Muir

April 30, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident who does not have children in school, continues his struggle with the Halton District School Board to get the full story on why Hayden high school was built.  He believed the answer would be in public documents the Board and Ministry of Education have – and he wanted to see those records.

His email correspondence, which began in part 1, continued in part 2 and continues here  in part 3.  The words are taken from email Muir had with different staff at the HDSB and or the Ministry of Education and comments he makes on the process of getting information.

Part 3 of a four part series:

Muir making a pointWhat you are saying is that these staff “interpretations” are not to be challenged or questioned, and will get no written response to such things. I’m supposed to be satisfied with the “words” only of the staff involved.

You do with the FOI what you want to get more time until the PAR process is over.

Why should I take the word of people who will not engage me in writing? Why should I accept interpretations of documents, where the interpretations include statements and words and facts that do not appear in said documents?

I stand by my comments made and questions asked, that Lucy only wanted to talk about, not bear witness in writing. You continue to defy responding to that email – and now you have this one – to prove me wrong with evidence from the documents you provided, where I found my points of contention.

What you might tell me in words only is not relevant to the data and evidence basis of the FOI request and documents.

I have no reason whatsoever to trust the Board from my own experience.

Combining that with the negative public reception of the overall Board performance in handling the PAR, tells me their own deeds indicate that they cannot be trusted.

This timeline shows that Hayden planning was a bungled mistake that lost track of the consequences, and the need to tell residents and parents about them. In fact, these consequences were willfully ignored and put off to an undetermined future, which is here right now.

Then, to double down on this bungled planning, basically the same people and thinking are proposing an even bigger bungled mistake – closing schools because of the first mistakes that were made.

Trusting these people will lead beyond mere failure to learn from mistakes, but to destructive actions for Burlington and education.

Closing schools in Burlington is a train wreck.

To Director Miller, I would say, that if the known consequences of building all these empty seats were not important to deal with back in 2008, then how can they be important now?

If schools do not have to be closed, and money is not the issue, then what’s the hurry now to make irrevocable decisions with tragic consequences?

If it’s truly about the students, and what benefits them, then how can it be important to decide to close schools right now?

It’s just wrong to put such a decision, in such circumstances, to the Board of Trustees, who are mostly inexperienced and under pressure that was not anticipated.

They cannot be expected to deal with this very well, and recommending closures, especially when not needed, will put them into an impossible position.

Personally, I do not want to close any schools, period. But I recognize possibilities, in compromise, to relieve opposing tensions.

You can recommend two tracks. Do not close any schools – because we don’t have to. When not needed, it’s a bad idea.

The compromise is to close no schools now, and take a 2-3 year deferral to consider and deliberate about what we should really do, and can do, about the space situation.

Eventually, all the Board, to varying extents, will come under pressure at some time. We need a much better process and arena to be considerate and deliberate about these matters.

In that period, we can elapse the Trustee term of office, have another election, with what we decide to do about our situation as a key issue. In that period, the Trustees can perhaps better gain their feet and become more adept at this kind of decision-making, and pressure. And residents and parents can perhaps do something similar.

That’s the best compromise I can offer. It will relieve the pressure, but I’m sure has it’s own set of unforeseen consequences. The Board staff might just keep bungling, and not be cooperative.

The main idea is to make sure, as best we can, that we don’t make more stupid mistakes by acting with haste when we don’t have to.

Remember, slowness remembers, and hurry forgets.

But we can still act decisively and close no schools. Put this business behind us.

This is a long and at times monotonous series of articles – why publish all this stuff now?   Imagine if the public had had an opportunity to fully debate the opening of Hayden when that took place in 2012?  Imagine if there had been something on the public record accessible to all?

Return to the Front page

Reaction begins to set in: parent writes a 21 point letter on what she heard at the school board meeting.

highschoolsBy Dianne Miller

APRIL 28th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

The reaction begins: parent Dianne Miller write about her experience at the meeting where Director of Education Stuart Miller reports to the trustees.

After attending a rally for two schools (I have a teenager at each of the proposed school closure sites) prior to the meeting last night I went from a feeling of wow – so many care – to wondering if it is remembered that two schools are up for closure.

I apologize for the length of this letter, I hope you will take the time to read it.

For three hours, a group of parents, students, and community members, sat and listened both to Stuart Miller trying to defend the most expensive option that he is recommending and to the school trustees who had a chance to ask many, many questions. Kudos to some of the trustees. It was obvious some had read the proposal; reflected; made notes; had very pointed questions; were there to challenge the proposal; hear rational arguments; present alternatives; defend the school they were representing (if up for closure). The difference in those fighting for their school and those who were not was striking.

I have to respond to some things that I heard last night that were in obvious conflict or were not addressed for myself.

1) A gentleman sitting beside Mr. Miller (to his left for those sitting in the community section) (Dom Renzalla) responded to why Kilbride students had been removed from LBP and redirected to Frank J. Hayden High School.

The rationale…it didn’t make sense for them to pass by two schools. Really? Then what justification was reached to have Orchard students “pass by” LBP to head to Nelson and/or Bateman? What justification was utilized to take two new northern community developments (one already decided in a boundary review (prior to the PARC process completion) and another slated to MMR in the Director’s proposal) to pass by LBP (the closer school) to head to MM Robinson?

2) The focus in response to the only question Trustee Papin seemed to ask related to defending LBP related to the decreasing numbers. The response – Kilbride students were only about 80 students (it was closer to 120) and wouldn’t stop the declining numbers. No but ignoring the fact that Hayden was originally meant to have 4 feeder schools but now has 7 feeder school while Pearson has 1.5 feeder schools definitely is relevant. So too is the decision to have the two new developments go to MMR (passing by LBP). A further 2 other proposed developments north of the highway has also been ignored.

No matter what facts/logic that has been put forth – i.e. 1284 of the 1800 empty spaces are south of the highway; 3 years of overcrowding at Frank J. Hayden (that’s okay, we will monitor); and the fact that both MMR and LBP can be the solution to that overcrowding, have all been roundly ignored.

3) Splitting cohorts – this seems to change depending on the situation and which school is being discussed. So the ideal is no splitting of cohorts? Well, C.H. Norton is split to 1/2 to MMR and 1/2 to LBP. No problem. Gifted program – oh well, no problem, in the proposal, with splitting even though already low numbers in this stream that needs to be back-filled. The new development – nope – it cannot go to LBP because then you might have to split the English and French cohort – no can do. Not sure how that decision why reached? Why did they have to be split – given “LBP’s declining numbers” both English and French were able to be accommodated at LBP. Frank J. Hayden – French Immersion – sure no problem – let’s move them from the student body at Hayden and re-route to MMR. Robert Bateman – no problem in tearing apart the different cohorts and splitting between multiple schools. Central, once under consideration for closure, presented the argument that the cohorts would be split (i.e. to Aldershot and to Nelson and suddenly that wasn’t okay. It is convenient how there is an issue with cohorts until it doesn’t suit the narrative being spun.

4) Late French Immersion (LBP) and French Immersion. I haven’t heard the difference addressed once. So, LBP’s Late French Immersion program is going to move to MMR? How is that stream going to work with the FI group that has worked in that stream from Grade 1? Normally one needs to get permission to switch over or needs to be at a level to integrate with the FI stream from Late French immersion. So how is this going to be dealt with? Doesn’t this then exacerbate conflicts?

5) Nursery Co-op at LBP. This item/group has been given little to no thought. LBP was adapted to include accommodation for the Nursery Co-op. A third gym was added with city and community donations. This program has been here for 40 years. Zero mention/zero consideration. Apparently though, per the report, no adaptation is needed with the LBP move. See you later Nursery Co-op program. The “we will have to consider” etc. what to do with this group is not reassuring. Given that you will throw all schools into over capacity, what responsibility will you possibly feel to accommodate this amazing co-op win/win program that has flourished at LBP?

6) The most expensive option. MMR and Bateman from what I understand, have both undergone some adaptations for special needs programming. This costs money. Now we will wipe out one school and all of the money put into those adaptations (including the industrialized kitchen, which is no where else) and replicate them at Nelson. How in any way, shape or form is this showing fiscal responsibility? As a taxpayer I was appalled to hear Mr. Miller state, “12 million dollars may seem like a lot but”. No, stop after the but. It is a lot of money. It is duplicate money when Bateman already has those features. It is sheer irresponsibility on behalf of this board to even consider an addition to Nelson while closing Bateman which already has those features. The justification of having one fully adapted location in the South and North does not warrant this expenditure. You see, it is already in the south. Spend the funds if you want it at MMR only to upgrade.

7) We heard a lot about we cannot remain at status quo. Boundary change will not fix the problem. Let’s address the status quo. So, Aldershot gets to remain at status quo in the Director’s current proposal. Hayden remains at status quo (minus the FI students). The red herring for Aldershot is that it might become a theme school (which the Director mentioned in his report and at the start of the meeting). This plan was then diminished by Stuart Miller himself as probably not workable (as it hasn’t worked in other areas) half way through the night. So why the game? Why the red herring that one is even going to look at this if you are already determining it is going to fail?

Status quo – you have left LBP at status quo (under-utilization) and Hayden at status quo (over-utilization) for 3 years while robbing students in both of a rich, full educational experience.

Re the boundary change – yes, indeed it will address some of the problems. LBP can absolutely be a solution to Hayden’s overcrowding as can MMR. All three schools can become more equitable with boundary change. Add into that the 4 potential new developments and you can definitely have a 3-way win.

Question – if the 90% capacity goal for each school isn’t working – perhaps the 90% goal is in error to begin with. Has anyone ever checked this underlying assumption/premise? Why not 85 or 80%?

8) Closing schools is very short term thinking. Looking at your past projections/reports you were off in those numbers. What is to say you are not going to be off in these projections? Once the land is gone, it is gone. I heard a trustee ask last night about other options. Why have they not been pursued 100%? When I spoke with Eleanor McMahon’s office, they too brought up other options prior to closure. Why is the Director determined to close not one but two schools prior to full exploration of all of these other options and funding available (again as mentioned to me by Eleanor McMahon’s office)?

9) As a community member with a student at LBP, I was disheartened to say the least that no one seemed to care about this school’s potential closure or the impact on the students/community. It was like one school’s closure only was being debated. Does no one care? Why is it so easy or accepted that LBP should close? The perception by the community is this has been planned. That has never been denied. Why will no one stand up, at the board level or trustee level for this group of students? They deserve every bit as much consideration as those at Bateman or elsewhere. By standing up for them I do not mean gutting their school and moving them elsewhere (if that is your response).

10) Questions were not answered last night. The “we’ll wait and see”; “we’ll monitor”; “that is a possibility”; “we will see how this plays out or levels out” inspired zero confidence. Why would anyone put their faith in a report that gave these responses as their answers when challenged?

11) I would love to see the minutes of the meetings leading up to the decision to build Frank J. Hayden High school. I am sure one point included that the community was “growing” and that a “community school” was needed. But you see each community believes the same. While this point keeps being dismissed as this is in the past and we are here now, who gets to be held accountable for spending $32 million for a build that caused the current problem? That decision is going to result in two other schools being axed. This is acceptable how? It also brings into question why the public or even the Minister of Education should trust the current recommendations.

12) A question was asked (and not answered) as to what is an acceptable level of over-capacity. The current reality at Frank J. Hayden (with the we will monitor attitude) is:

Students have classes in the hallway, in the cafeteria and in the community library next door

There are 12 portables currently on site – potentially 18 in the future

A lie was told last night about how students are maybe in the portable for one class then in the school. That is not true. Some students want to leave Hayden as their whole school career has been spent in portables only.

If Hayden is at over-capacity why is it still accepting new students; why is it actively recruiting students for sports teams from other schools?

Surely this is a fire hazard.

The solution to the over capacity – rezoning of the parking bylaws. Really? So the community (for the parks, library, school) are going to fight it out for parking spaces to accommodate potentially 18 portables? More fire hydrants? Yet you have a school (LBP) which has room for expansion without these issues. Yet, zero consideration is given to this obvious solution.

13) In perhaps the height of insensitivity, given the divisive and emotional nature of this process, I cannot believe that the issue of potentially building yet another shiny new school in the south (meaning even more schools south of the hwy would close) came up last night. Seriously, someone really needs to rethink why they are in the position they are in and who votes them in. This is in the student’s best interests how? What happened to, “we are not here to close schools, no one wants to do this.”?

14) Even given all of the proposals some of the streams still may not be where they need to be. Wasn’t that was this process was supposed to be partly about (as well as under-utilization)? May I submit that just looking at programming in and of itself without giving weighting to:
a) ability to participate in sports teams b) clubs c) single lunches (preferred by school admin) d) graduating with those you began Gr 9 with e) being known by your teachers and fellow students f) safety/bullying issues g) social issues – i.e. anxiety, integration, etc. for some all need to be considered.

Take off the narrow focused blinders. Saying that those other issues, or even special needs considerations violates the spirit of the a) under-utilization and b) programming which triggered the PAR is operating in a vacuum. You cannot just look at two facets. Again, to do so, does not take into account a 360 perspective and full interests of the student. It checks a box. It meets a rigid criteria. It is a self imposed rule that is very narrow in its’ thinking.

15) No one has ever answered this question for me. Is the board for or against online courses and other means of learning (i.e. virtual learning)? Throughout this process and in the surveys it was used as a negative and to justify conflicts, lack of options for programs etc. Yet, a gentleman, from the board, spoke last night about how it is increasing, how some prefer it, how they have increased it in younger grades – this made it sound like a positive. Which is it? Are we to presume it will be done away with once we have reach maximum capacity of streams since it is being utilized to point to course conflicts and a justification for moving pupils around?

16) Busing. Never addressed satisfactorily in this process. We already have a problem. The assumption is that the students from LBP all live 1.9 km from MMR. Not true. So what happens then? More busing? Gifted students split -north/south – busing for them? The Director hedged re northern busing for the gifted students. Not okay. This is an on-going cost. Makes no sense.

17) One consideration that was totally brushed off was parents indicating (or students) that to stay at their school, with their friends, they would drop out of French Immersion (Hayden). The Director didn’t give much weight to this. Parents I know, who’s children would go to MMR should LBP close as recommended, already have their paperwork and decision made to move to the Catholic school board system. Those in the gifted program, who have been together since Gr 1-8 (and who are slated to be split) – well, the attraction per the Director is that they would prefer to be closer to their home/community and save 10-20 minutes. Sir, with all due respect you do not know the students. Their friends, not the 10-20 minutes, are their priority. To the parents – the Fraser Report data, the reputation of their current school (over another), their need to keep their child from another at MMR (which is why they are at LBP due to past bullying issues) is what is of importance. I say this not to disrespect the staff and students at another school but to show how it is of concern. The loyalty of the FI students isn’t to FI – it is to their peers at Hayden and to their school. You are under-estimating this sir. If you are wrong, especially with the FI at Hayden you still have an overcrowding issue and then a stream issue.

18) This was supposed to be about the students. It is not. Those at Hayden have been left in overcrowding for three years. Current solution – move FI -maybe 50% (if others choose mainstream) or 100% and monitor the rest (re overcrowding). Utilize portables. Bateman – it is okay to impact the most vulnerable in our school population with yet another move. You claim to understand how hard this is for them – if you did and really took to heart reports of what change vs. consistency does mean to them – you would not be making this decision. For those at LBP who answered the report that they appreciated and loved the close relationship with the teachers; that being known means a lot to them (vs. a number in a larger school); to having that opportunity to really fit in by participating in a sports program; then you would do everything you could to revamp those numbers to bring them up to about a 600 range of student population. You wouldn’t be separating cohorts at the elementary level and streaming them to two different schools. You would actually listen to them; see their faces; hear their words; read their signs; feel their pain. My daughter feels crushed and invisible in this process. My son feels resigned that this has been the plan all along. I cannot in good conscience tell them otherwise.

19) Has anyone, and I mean anyone, given the rhetoric I keep hearing about optimum programming being at 1200 students per school or even consolidating schools, read the reports/studies (too numerous to mention by professionals in their field) that say that 600-800 is the best number for high schools? If we want to look at the experts and their opinions – why is all of that data, information, input, years of experience, routinely ignored? Or, in fact is this information not even being considered?

20) I felt it was very misleading when a question was asked about new growth in Burlington (in fact we are already at the proposed growth now that the City of Burlington had expected in future years), to hear only about development south of the highway (and mainly condos so it doesn’t really count). The north will have, per Jack Dennison, the final single dwelling units, multiple townhouses, etc. The south will have condos or high density on existing properties that will be rezoned. The city and the board appear to use different metrics. The city has adjusted and realizes, due to financial considerations and cultural differences, that more than one family may occupy a dwelling. This actually caused the explosion at Hayden partially (i.e. incorrect forecast/numbers were projected by the board). What adjustments are you talking about to reflect this reality?

21) What were the results of the survey where the community was asked to input on their choice of options. For many that I spoke with, the 7B option of “no school closures – but boundary reviews” seemed to be the prime choice. Yet, even before your final report, that was being discounted as one that would not work. What then is the purpose of all these surveys – student, parent, community, first meeting (where no questions were answered), if input is ignored?

I have said it before and I will say it again, if you didn’t go into these jobs with the intention of closing schools, then that should be your starting and ending point. You are in the education field – be creative. All of the individuals that are working so hard to save their schools have put hours into coming up with creative ideas, ways to save their schools. Don’t ignore them. Stop seeing the children as a group – as an entity. They are individuals. Work with them, work with the community, to save all of our Burlington schools.

I write this letter for our community schools not just for my daughter and son, but for all the children and future high school students. They are worth it.

Return to the Front page