Is poverty just one of those things that every society has and we just learn to live with? Don't say that to Leena Sharma Seth.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 28th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There were about 60 – maybe 70 people gathered around 10 tables. They were a pretty representative bunch; there were the professionals, the practitioners and the volunteers – the people in the trenches.

They were there to talk about poverty – something they want to be able to ensure that by 2026 all residents will have a livable income and as a result have access to opportunities, resources and supports to thrive and to fully participate in an inclusive Halton community.

They have their work cut out for them.

Burlington is a city that will admit that there are some serious pockets of poverty in the city and that something should be done – but social welfare is a Regional responsibility. The longest serving city council member wasn’t prepared to try free transit service for seniors on Monday’s on a trial basis.

He was prepared to let them have discounted bus tickets – but there was a sort of means test to get into that program.

The chatter around the city council horse shoe is about everyone getting in on the purchase of property – you can’t lose in that game. Get a starter property and move up the value ladder.

Food for Life

Michael Mikulak, Community Food Network Manager Halton Food Council, Leena Sharma Seth, Director, Community Engagement Halton Poverty Roundtable, Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO Burlington Community Foundation, and Brenda Hajdu Executive Director Food for Life.

This city council doesn’t really understand or appreciate the eco-system that gets food into the hands of people who just don’t have enough money to pay for the food they need.

With housing prices rising – rents tend to rise as well – and the scarcity of rental properties owned by landlords that have no qualms about jacking up the rent as much as they can and then making life miserable for any tenant who chooses to fight back.

Getting to that 2026 target is a challenge indeed.

Some of the ground work took place at St. Christopher’s United Church where the group gathered under the auspices of the Halton Poverty Roundtable.

Each participant was given a sheet of paper with a number of questions on it. How would you have answered these questions?

How do you define poverty? How should it be measured? Are there data gaps that need to be addressed to help improve our understanding of poverty in Canada?

What will success look like in a Poverty Reduction Strategy? What target(s) should we pick to measure progress?

Which indicators should we use to track progress towards the target(s)?
On which groups should we focus our efforts?

Which Government of Canada programs and policies do you feel are effective at reducing poverty? Are there programs and policies that can be improved? What else could we do?

Poverty - Leena-Sharma Seth

Leena Sharma Seth, Director of Community Engagement for the Halton Poverty Roundtable

These people were meeting during the week that the provincial government announced that 4,000 people in Ontario would be put on a guaranteed income program for a period of time to see if with an income that they know is going to be there for a period of time – can they rise out of the poverty they have to lie with?

The Gazette wants to follow what Leena Sharma Seth, Director of Community Engagement for the Halton Poverty Round Table does with this group of people.

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Meed Ward releases a statement on the school closing report sent to school board trustees.

highschoolsBy Staff

April 27, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and former member of the Halton District School Board Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) has released a comment on her position on the Report the Director of Education gave the trustees last Friday.

The Gazette asked for a comment last week – Meed Ward released her statement on her ward web site late yesterday. It reads:

Meed WArd at PARC

Ward 2 city Councillor |Marianne Meed Ward was a member of the PARC.

I have taken some time to read and reflect on the report and the process to date, as a parent and as a former PARC member.

Let me start by saying my heart goes out to the Pearson and Bateman communities.The recommended option is undoubtedly devastating news. I toured each of the high schools along with other PARC members. Every school in Burlington is unique and offers something special to its students and communities. No one wants to see a school in their community closed. Any school closure is disruptive and represents a loss.

I came into this process with a commitment to do what is best for all our students, and have an open mind to new information. I have learned there is no perfect solution for the issues faced by the Board, and no solution without some impact on the community – even status quo.

There will be community disruption no matter what the final decision is, including closing no schools, since boundary changes would still be required to address over or under enrolment at four of our schools, effectively “closing” those schools to students who find themselves outside of redrawn boundaries.

Some options are better (or worse) than others, and I have discovered there is no consensus around any option, in the community, at the PARC or at the Board table. This will not be an easy decision for Trustees to make – nor should it be.

Whatever decision the Board of Trustees makes, we must work together as a community to ensure it is implemented with student welfare at the forefront, and ensure it improves the educational experience for all of our students for the long term.

Parents get to delegate to the trustees on May 8th and 11th.

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Hard questions and soft answers were served up at a Board of Education meeting .

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 27, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was a meeting that ended with the Chair directing the trustees to rise and leave the room.

A member of the public had stood up and called out a question – he was told questions were not being taken. Georg Ward, the man who wanted to ask the question isn’t a man to be shut down easily. We will come back to what George Ward wanted to know.

Stuart Miller, Director of Education sat in front of the trustees, not amongst them this time. He was there, along with Scott Podrebarac, Superintendent, and Dom Renzella Manager Planning, to answer questions the trustees had about the recommendation given them the previous Friday to close two schools and transfer most of the programs at Bateman high school to neighbouring Nelson high school that is less than 2 km to the west.

Kelly Amos, chair of the school board was not in attendance.

Collard - direct into camera

Ward 5 school board trustee Amy Collard

Miller was soundly grilled, for the most part by trustee Amy Collard whose ward the school to be closed is located in. She told the audience in a pretty well packed public gallery that it was going to cost $12 million to replicate what already exists.

Miller’s position was that the issue wasn’t the condition of the school nor the costs involved but that future enrollment was just not going to make the school viable.

There is an International Baccalaureate program at Bateman high school that will be transferred to Central high school, some 6.5 km to the west that was in the first recommendation given to the trustees.

Miller stumbled a number of times in explaining to the trustees why the Board staff made the recommendation they did.

The set up in the Board room where the meetings take place is such that those testifying, and that was what Miller and his colleagues were doing, face the trustees and not the public gallery. The Gazette chose not to attend the actual meeting but to watch the event via the live web cast where the facial expressions and body language of those testifying could be clearly seen.

We were able to note as well that there were never more than 40 people watching the web cast.
Trustee Collard put forward a number of very stiff questions and made it clear that she wasn’t buying most of the arguments Miller had in his report. What wasn’t at all clear was if Collard had the support of enough of the other 10 trustees to result in a decision to keep the school open.

PARC with options on the walls

PARC in session.

When the trustees announced last October that they were going to accept the Board Staff recommendation to hold a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) and create a committee ( a PARC – Program Accommodation Review committee) to look at all the issues related to the Board staff recommendation that Central High school and Lester B. Pearson high school be closed.

The PARC was given a list of 19 possible options to solve the problem of the 1800 empty seats. The closing Central and Pearson option stood during the first few of the seven meetings the PARC held but as different ideas came forward closing Bateman and Nelson were placed on the table.

PAR HDSB Parents at Bateman

First public meeting at which Board of Education explained the PAR process at every high school was very poorly attended at Bateman high school

Up until that point Bateman high school parents weren’t concerned about being closed.
The Central parents were exceptionally active from the first meeting and held rallies, a fund raiser that put $14,000 into a fund the pay for signs and other costs.  Bateman had a lot of caching up to do.
Many felt that having city ward Councillor Marianne Meed Ward representing Central high school on the PARC made the difference for that school.
Our observation was that while Meed Ward certainly wasn’t her usually very much in your face city councillor she was quite a bit quieter at the PARC. Central had a very strong case and they were very good at getting that case in front of anyone with ears.
Central, the oldest high school in the city has gone through having to deal with a possible closure twice in the past. They knew how to organize and make their case.
The PAR process was such that communities found themselves fighting against each other to not be closed.

The process however did bring to the surface data that left a lot to be desired. The PARC was made up of two parent representatives from each of the seven high schools in the city. These people found that much of the data they were being given was suspect and Board staff kept having to make revisions, sometimes on the fly.
There were a total of more than 40 different closure options considered by the PARC, one of which was to not close any schools. That option didn’t get a lot of attention during the questions asked last night.

The problem the school board staff faced was that there are 1800 empty high school seat in Burlington. And that wasn’t a situation that was sustainable – board staff believed that high schools had to be closed.

Protesters PARC

Central parents protested whenever and wherever they could.

Central made the case that closing their school would mean there would be no high school in the core of the city and $400,000 a year would have to be spent to bus students.

In 2013 the Halton District School Board opened a new high school in north Burlington and named it the Dr. Frank Hayden high school.
Many wondered why that decision was made to open a new school was made. It resulted in students being pulled from other high schools which lowered the student enrollment creating the problem of lower enrollments and resulting in the decision to close schools south of the QEW.
Hayden high school is part of a complex that includes a recreational centre and a public library and is very popular.

No more desks set out in neat rows. The classroom furniture is now such that students can sit by themselves or in groups of two or three - up to eight. The objective was to create situations where the students learn to work as groups and to collaborate on a problem - question or assignment.

The real issue is the empty seats – there are 1800 0f them and that is a situation the Board stall tell the 11 trustees is not sustainable.

Lester B. Pearson didn’t get all that much in the way of discussion during the three hour meeting.

The Gazette will publish additional material later in the day.

Parents now get to delegate to the trustees on May 8th and 11th. There are strong emotions and strong cases being made against closing Pearson and Central.

There are also those 1800 empty seats and a demography that suggests they may not be filled in the near future.

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Downtown visioning part two- a closer look for those who did not attend the event.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

April 26, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

By 2031 Halton will have a population 1 million people; its population today is about 550,000.  That is the kind of growth the Region is going to experience -and Burlington is going to get a significant share of that growth.

While Burlington doesn’t yet know exactly how much the city’s population is going to have to grow; the current population of 183,000 is expected to grow beyond 210,000 within 25 years. Some see that as a conservative number.

The urban boundary is set – nothing significant is going to be built north of the 403 – Dundas line except for mall small pockets of development in Lowville and Kilbride.

The rest of the population growth is going to be located south of the 403 Dundas line that separates the rural from the urban.

Study area visioning

Study area with the many precincts the planner created.

City hall no longer talks about Burlington being suburban; we are an urban city and our growth is going to have to be up because there isn’t any significant land available to grow out for residential development.

The Downtown visioning exercise that took place at the Lions Hall last week, and on which we reported on in some detail yesterday, was in part to learn what the public feels about different aspects of downtown development.

The city has a Downtown Core commitment that sets out its vision for the core; there is a precinct system that sets out specific neighbours and applies specific zoning for those precincts.  The (BDBA) Burlington Downtown Business Association (what has seen its border move north quit a bit, that has its policies and objectives. and there are policies for what the city wants to see in terms of the street-scape – wider side walks, benches or people to sit on and retail at the ground level

The Planning department has released a draft version of the Official Plan. The Plan that is in place now was first crafted 23 years ago. Efforts to revise that plan were abandoned by the new Director of Planning, Mary Lou Tanner who has been with the city for HOW LONG.

She joined the city at a point where staff were doing a revision of the existing Strategic Plan, a document that is created by each Council that sets out what it wants to do during its term.

Close look

The audience paid close attention to the material that was on display.

Somewhere along the way council and the planners decided that instead of a four year plan they would craft a 25 year Strategic Plan and spent a considerable amount of time engaging the public to review the document. Council has Burlington as one of the citys’ with the best level of citizen engagement in the province and uses every opportunity to tout that claim.

Centre ice - fully engaged audience

Groups of people gathered to ask questions of planning staff or the consultants that were in the room and to exchange opinions as well – and there were a lot of opinions.

There was indeed very significant public engagement but one would be hard pressed to find five out of every thousand residents who can tell you what the four pillars on which the Strategic Plan is based actually are.
City council seems to believe that if they say the city has the best public engagement policy then it must be so.

In this part two article on the event, we have set out a number of the visuals the audience was shown to give people a sense of all the variables the planners are looking at; the audience was then asked: The question the audience was then asked  was :

“What’s here? What’s not? What’s missing? What would you add? How would you make it better?”

Study area 1

The mobility hub is the black dotted line; the pink line demarcates the primary and secondary WORDS

Study area 2 - parklands

The study area boundary is demarcated by the pink line – the straight green line on the right is where the Elgin promenade will be located – that will link the downtown core to the Centennial trail.  Each graphic builds on the previous one.

Study area 3 - parlands + environmental

The environmentally sensitive areas are added.

Study area 4 all + heritage

Heritage buildings get dropped into the picture.

Study area 5 all + landmarks

Existing landmarks and cultural features are added.

Study area 6 all _ corridors

The significant site lines to the lake are shown – don’t think people realize just how few corridors with a direct look at the lake there are. We just assume that every street shows the water when it is really just Maple, Brant and Burlington.  Elizabeth isn’t indicated on the graphic.

Study area 7 All + tall buildings

In a development proposal that will get its public statutory meeting in the very near future the planning consultant they hired advocated using Brant Street as the spine that would be the location for many of the tall buildings that are expected.  The orange marks show where those tall buildings are now.

 

 

This is your city – this is what you have to work with. What do you want to see done?  The Planners are looking for feed back from the public; they appear to be open minded and ready to listen.

Getting a closer look

Getting a close look.

The information they gathered last Thursday evening will be compiled and blended into a second presentation that will take place  June 21st. The public will get to see just how well the planners have listened.

MMW with mob hubs in background

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward listening intently.

It was an active meeting – small crowd given the importance of the event – but it was a rainy night and the room couldn’t have held many more people.

The audience was told that there would be little in the way of changes to the existing employment lands.  Meed Ward explained that developments pop up and get presented to the Planning department and added “you want to be in charge of that”.

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Pilgrimage passes through Burlington - walking to Parliament in Ottawa.

News 100 redBy Donna Flemming Zaffino

April 26th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On my way to run errands I spotted a group of people walking with banners and signs eastwards from the downtown core on Lakeshore Road. As an amateur photographer I saw a terrific photo opportunity, quickly turned my car around, caught up to the group who were now past Seneca Rd on Lakeshore.

They’re quick.

When asked if I could take a photo and what their message was I was met with bright smiles and a glowing welcome. A conversation started.

The Pilgrimage for Indigenous Rights (PFIR) is a group of dedicated walkers on their way from Kitchener, ON to Parliament Hill in Ottawa to call on all members of Parliament to vote yes to enact Bill C-262 – “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”.

Zaffino picture - walkers

A stop in Burlington for those walking a pilgrimage for the rights of the Indigenous people. They are walking from Kitchener to Ottawa.

The private member bill was drafted by Romeo Saganash (Cree Nation) the NDP MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou. The Bill was tabled in the House of Commons on April 21, 2016 for First Reading where it still sits today.

The group consists predominantly of Christians from various churches. Their mission “we are seeking to make right our relationships with host peoples in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.” PFIR reports there is a total of 50 registered walkers. Not all will be taking on the entire challenging journey.

This group of 21 walkers had just had a lunch break at Spencer Smith Park and were on their way to Oakville.

A van followed them with supplies and acted as a safety vehicle. They have a busy schedule each day. At night they have arrangements with various churches along their route. The church provides them dinner, a place to sleep, breakfast and then they are on their way again.

Their excitement was contagious.

Their message is important – do all of us understand what we did to the indigenous people of this country from the late 50’s to 1985? It wasn’t something to be proud of – there is a need to make those mistakes right.

Terry Fox once ran through Burlington – look at the difference he made – the rest of us are in a position to do something equally as important.

Something to remember.

Donna Fleming Zaffino is a Burlington resident with a camera and a passion to capture images of important events.

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What the downtowners think should be done with the downtown core -

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Mayor opened up the event with a short overview of the changes taking place in the city and how the need to intensify and create an Official Plan that would deliver on the promises made in the Strategic Plan.

The audience of something under 100 people on a very rainy night filled the Lions Hall where people were told that what people enjoy about living downtown is:

1.The Waterfront (29.85%)
2.Restaurants and Cafes (18.62%)
3.Walking (18.11%) …

Research told city planners that the first  transportation choice was Walking (37.78%)

The meeting was to have people take part in a Downtown Mobility Hub Visioning Workshop.

Mobility hubs were defined as:

Neighbourhoods within a 10 minute walking distance of major transit stations that will support new residents and jobs in a transit, pedestrian and cycling focused environment.

Clicker being usedWith those pieces of data in front of them the audience was asked to use small hand held devices they would record their responses to questions shown on a large screen.

There were interesting with surprising results.

Appreciate that these were ward 2 people for the most part answering questions about the downtown core.

The Planners intend to take this road show into every community that will have a mobility hub.  The workshops will see a return visit to each community once the Planners have had a chance to evaluate the data they collect.

The initiative will take about  six months to cover each of the four mobility hubs.  The next session for the downtown hub is scheduled for June 21st.

Time line mob hubsThe event was framed as a visioning exercise during which ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward explained that developments pop up at the Planning department and they have to process every application that is filed. “You want to be in charge of that process” said Meed Ward.

2 - Enhanced cycling

The strong agree support doesn’t appear to align all that well with the opposition to bicycle lanes on New Street.

 

1 - waterfront protected

No surprises here.

3 - commercial on Brant

Very mixed views on this question.

4 - daily needs transportation

Vehicles were not included in the question.

5 - downtown growth - where

The street names don’t show up on this map – the white box is the mobility hub area.

6 - downtown transit adquate

This view – from what was a ward 2 crowd contrasts with what the Bfast people think. More thinking to be done on transit matters.

7 - new development family orientated

Compare this with the question on more affordable housing.

8 - affordable downtown

A mixed view here.

9- afforable downtown - more

This response comes as no surprise.

Following the formal presentation the audience was invited to take part in the four information stations where planning staff were on hand to answer questions. The groups that clustered around the information stations were at times intense – in a positive way. They had a lot of questions and the planning staff took a lot of notes.

Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner and Anne McIlroy, the consultant the city has hired to guide this process watched and listened intently.

Close look

All the charts and data set out got very close inspections.

There are two parts to this feature article on the visioning exercise. The second part which will follow tomorrow reviews the visuals on the elements of the downtown core and what the planners have to work with.

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Director of Education gets to defend his report to the trustees Wednesday evening - what kind of a witness is he going to be?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 25th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Director of Education Stuart Miller was not able to visit with staff at Bateman high school Friday afternoon to tell Principal Mark Dudley and the rest of the staff that the school was recommended for closure in the Director’s report to the trustees.

He sent Associate Director David Boag in his place.

The Gazette has heard from several of the trustees, We now know part of the reason Miller gave advice to the chair – as Secretary to the Board Miller is obliged (his words) to advise the trustees when they have questions.
In isn’t clear just what the role of the Secretary of the Board is – advise; to counsel; to direct. It occurs to us that there is a bit of a conflict here.

Miller expects to be in front of the Board of Trustees on Wednesday to defend the recommendation he put forward. Is Miller defending a position to the people he is required to advice and counsel?

In essence Miller is testifying as a witness to the trustees on remarks he wrote in the report they are considering.

What kind of a witness is he likely to be?  That depends on the kinds of questions thw trustees ask.  Will they be real defenders of the public that elected them?

A “hostile” witness at common law is one who is “not desirous of telling the truth”. Such a witness may be cross examined to the extent that the judge sees necessary to do justice, which can include a broad area of topics such as all facts in issue, the witnesses reliability and credibility on the circumstances of the case.

Is Miller a hostile witness?

Don’t expect the Chair to take exception to anything the Director of Education has written. Expecting the Chair to take a strong hand is expecting too much. This chair, Kelly Amos, does not lead. She does not treat her Director of Education as a person that is accountable to the Board of trustees. There is a comfortable (too comfortable) working relationship between the Chair and the Director of Education.

We don’t feel the Director of Education is to be faulted – he has a large (the largest in the Region) organization to run and has to work with a provincial government that can change the rules of the game at any point in time.

The rules and procedures for the Program Accommodation Review that is taking place now is considerably different than anything school boards have had to work with in the past. There is close to unanimous agreement that the process if flawed and at some point the Ministry of Education will make the required changes. Little comfort there for the people at Bateman and Pearson.

There are a few trustees that, while still growing into their roles, may summon the courage to speak out and ask the difficult questions.

Speak now or take it in the ear at the October 2018 election.

The trustees also want to direct some of their questions to staff – the planning department has not served the citizens well, staff changes needed there.

The Superintendent of Facilities needs a job performance review.

The Director of Education is going to have to get tougher with his staff. He is new to the job – far too many people at the top decision making level are new to their jobs.

Time to hunker down and get it right this time.

It was done very very wrong when the decision was made to build Hayden. That mistake could have been lessened by a fairer approach to the boundaries that were created. What is in place now is close to the kind of gerrymandering American politicians do to create constituency boundaries that assure a political party can win.

Parents in Burlington are now angry – some at an emotional level, others have looked at the issues logically and put forward some very sound comments – they deserve a haring and answers to the concerns they raise.

Lisa Bull from Bateman has made comments that cannot be ignored or brushed off. Rory Nisan from Pearson has written a refutation on the decision to close Pearson that the trustees need to pay attention to and arrive at their own conclusions and not rely on the Secretary to the Board of Education to advise them.

And where is city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward. She spoke passionately and with great confidence on her decision to accept the role as a PARC member. Why is she now close to mute?

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Open Letter to the Board of Trustees: Evidence does not justify closing Pearson high school.

Open Letter to the Board of Trustees About Closing Pearson High School: A line-by-line refutation of Recommendation 2 of the Director’s Final Report

News 100 blueBy Rory Nisan

April 25th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Dear Trustees of the Halton District School Board,

This has been a long process, now coming to a head with the Director’s Final Report recommending closing Pearson and Bateman high schools. As a Pearson alumnus, I am writing to refute the arguments made for closing Pearson in the Director’s Final Report. I have addressed every argument in Recommendation 2 below.

The Director’s Final Report portion is shown in red bold italics, my comments are in standard type.. I have aimed to present Recommendation 2 in full without any deletions or other changes.

Rationale: Recommendation 2 – Lester B. Pearson High School

“Lester B. Pearson High School has been experiencing a decline in enrolment for several years and that is projected to continue to 2026 and beyond.”

This is an unfair, obtuse characterization of enrollment at Lester B. Pearson High School. The Director’s Final Report fails to mention the reason for this declining enrollment: a reduction in the number of feeder schools for Pearson, in order to prop up Hayden High School, leaving Pearson with only 1.5 feeder schools compared with seven for Hayden. This was not by accident, but a deliberate decision taken by the HDSB when Hayden opened.

One need only observe the change in enrollment since Hayden came online to see how this gutted Pearson’s numbers. Before Hayden opened, Pearson lost only 10 students from 2010-2011 (see Figure 1, from the Director’s Final Report). Furthermore, the change from 2015-2016 is only 11 less students, because the Hayden transition has ended. It is inappropriate to close a school on the basis of a reduction of 11 students year-over-year when there are many options available to boost utilization.

Recommendation 2 of the Director’s Final Report’s is wholly based on “low and declining enrolment” as the basis for closing Pearson, ignoring the fact that the low enrollment is entirely of the HDSB’s own making.

Figure 1

Figure 1  English Programme enrollment at Pearson as shown in the Director’s Final Report, demonstrating that Pearson would not have an enrollment issue if not for students being sent to Hayden.

“Lester B. Pearson High School is also the only school in the Halton District School Board that provides Extended French at the secondary school level. The students in this program begin extended French in Grade 7.”

This is correct but extended French is only one of several one-of-a-kind features of Pearson High School. The co-op nursery is correctly mentioned further below in the Director’s Final Report. The natural surroundings of the forest allow for unique learning opportunities. The third gymnasium increases sport opportunities. Pearson’s lower capacity gives it unique, well-established strengths, such as less bullying, better social bonds, more opportunities to play on a sport team and/or join other competitive clubs.

Indeed, the student survey (contained in the Director’s Final Report) indicated that Pearson ranked #1 for percentage of students who agreed that their teachers knew something about them (e.g. interests, strengths and how they learn best), #1 for having an adult they could connect with, and #2 in participation in extracurricular activities.

It is therefore no surprise that Pearson regularly punches above its weight in the Fraser Institute rankings of secondary schools. Pearson has the second highest average score over the past five years among Burlington public secondary schools. This is not despite its small size; it is because of it.

“The result of this low enrolment is a diminished ability for the school to provide the same breadth and range of programs for the students as other schools in Halton.”

Nobody doubts that Pearson has low enrolment (though its utilization rate is higher than that of M.M. Robinson). However, as explained above, the Director’s Final Report fails to properly explain how this came about.

Equally important is that he has not given the trustees simple solutions to this low enrolment that do not involve closing Pearson. The simple, obvious answer: redesign the catchments and feeder schools to ensure that (a) Pearson has its fair share of students, (b) Hayden, which is bursting at the seams, is brought down to a proper utilization of 90-100 percent, and (c) M.M. Robinson also sees an increase in students, including from Bateman High School should it be closed (though this is not being advocated), or through redistribution that allows students to go to their closest high school. Figure 3 shows the current feeder schools, demonstrating the imbalance that can be easily fixed.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Feeder schools to the high schools in the north — note the lopsided distribution favouring Hayden while starving Pearson.  (There is no figure 2)

“In order to take specific or desired courses, many students have resorted to online offerings.”

The Director’s Final Report contradicts itself here, as it references in an appendix the student survey which indicates that Pearson has the second lowest percentage of students among Burlington public high schools needing to take online offerings, well below the city’s average (see Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4 – percentage of students taking online courses

Regardless, this argument is invalid as there are more than enough students in the north of Burlington to fill Pearson’s hallways and provide more course offerings.

“Second, this situation will be exacerbated as it is expected the number of students attending Lester B. Pearson High School will decrease by an additional 70 students by 2025.”

Once again, this assertion rests on the assumption that Pearson would not be given any more students while Hayden bursts at the seams and M.M. Robinson takes on students from Bateman and the Evergreen and Alton West developments.

Perhaps most worrying for parents and students in North Burlington is that the Director’s Final Report fails to take into account (a) turnover in North Burlington as more baby boomers sell their homes to young families; and (b) that there will be more development in the north than that which is noted in the report: the Adi proposed development is over 600 residential units, and the Valera road development is expected to have 400 residential units. Furthermore, North Burlington has seen a trend of multiple families moving into singly houses, leading to having twice or more the number of high school students per household.

“Another issue occurring as a result of low enrolment is the impact on the students’ pathways. At present, the numbers reflecting Lester B. Pearson High School students’ pathway choices are as follows:

Figure 5

Figure 5 The Director’s Final Report emphasized low enrollment for applied students in Grade 9, neglecting to mention the reason why enrollment is so low: Grade 9 students being sent to portables in the Hayden parking lot.

“Unfortunately the low number of students and staff has prevented the school from providing the same breadth of programming offered in other Halton District School Board schools. This is most evident given the low number of students in applied programming and subsequently the college pathway, resulting in these students having fewer options or little flexibility in selecting courses they can take.

“Schools are required to provide a pathway to graduation for all students. This means the school will have some smaller classes (for example, 11 students in Grade 9 Applied), and in order to be compliant with staffing formulas and provincial mandates, will have some larger classes to offset the smaller numbers. Consequently, not only is the range of course selection not available to students but there is also a greater disparity between class sizes.”

This entire section is based on the false assumption that there aren’t enough students available in North Burlington to bring Pearson back up to better utilization levels. The arguments made above make clear that this is not only possible, but an excellent option for managing overcrowding at Hayden and the new developments, as well as the fast rate of turnover in North Burlington communities.

Again this is likely to be exacerbated as the projections indicate a continued decline in enrollment.

Again, these projections are based on the inaccurate assumption that there aren’t any students available to bring to Pearson. The above statement seeks to create urgency where there is none.

“Lester B. Pearson High School is 1.9 kilometres from M.M. Robinson High School. Students who currently attend Lester B. Pearson High School are within the walking distance to M.M. Robinson High School. A closure of Lester B. Pearson High School will not result in an increase in bussing costs for the Halton District School Board.”

This is technically correct yet misleading. If Pearson were to stay open and the catchment areas appropriately reshaped, there would be less students bussing, meaning a cost savings for the Halton District School Board.

Regardless, HDSB representatives have stated on several occasions that it’s about the students, not the money.

“At present there is a nursery school located in Lester B. Pearson High School. This is a longstanding relationship between the City of Burlington and the Board, and since the mid-1970s has become part of the fabric of the Lester B. Pearson High School community. If the recommendation to close Lester B. Pearson High School is approved, the Halton District School Board will engage with the appropriate municipal partners to investigate available options for a continued relationship with the Halton District School Board.”

The promise to “investigate available options” should be interpreted as the Board has not undertaken sufficient consultation on this important issue up to this point, and is not making any commitment to maintain the co-op nursery.

Furthermore, the Director’s Final Report is recommending keeping Hayden as an over-capacity mega school, and turning M.M. Robinson into an over-capacity mega school (see Figure 6 below). It does not take into account new growth in North Burlington, nor the aggressive turnover in Headon Forest and Palmer neighbourhoods, which will take Hayden and M.M. Robinson to unsustainable levels.

Given that these schools will be filled to the brim, are we to believe that there will be space to maintain the co-op nursery?

Figure 6

Figure 6 – Mega schools projected for the north if Pearson closes (before taking into account increased enrollment due to new developments and residential turnover)

 

“Lester B. Pearson High School has served its students and community very well for the past 40 years; however, its enrolment has been in decline for some time. It is currently less than 65% of capacity, and by 2025 it is expected to decline to 55%.”

Having read this far, trustees already know that Pearson would only decline to 55% if catchments weren’t appropriately reshaped. To assume that Pearson would decline to 55% is to assume that Hayden would be at 140%, which is the status quo prediction for that school in 2025. Everyone knows that Hayden’s over-utilization is unsustainable, and that Pearson has space to accommodate those students. Therefore, the conclusion of Recommendation 2 of the Director’s Final Report is misleading.

“Based on the two identified criteria for a program and accommodation review (PAR):

“1. The school or group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrolment where on-the-ground (OTG) capacity utilization rate is below 65%.

“AND

“2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities.

“Lester B. Pearson High School meets the criteria for a PAR, and subsequently is recommended for closure.”

Pearson would not have met the criteria for a PAR if it weren’t for the redistribution of its students to Hayden High School.

In conclusion, trustees must question the validity of the evidence brought forward through the Director’s Final Report to support a closure of Pearson High School.

Two final questions for trustees as they make their decision on whether to close Pearson:

(1) Is it in the best interests of students and the community to close Pearson, leaving North Burlington with two schools with over 1300 students, already over capacity before taking into account new developments and residential turnover?

(2) If trustees decide to close Pearson high school, will they, in 10 years’ time, receive a Director’s Final Report requesting $35 million to open a new school in north Burlington, and on what land will that school sit?

I respectfully submit that you must, given the evidence, decline Recommendation 2 and ask the Director to provide options for redistributing Hayden’s student population to Pearson and M.M Robinson.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by delaying a decision on closing Pearson until the true enrollment figures are clarified after a redistribution of Hayden (and possibly Bateman) students, and the new developments in the North are completed.

The Director’s Final Report has not met the burden of evidence for a closure of Pearson High School.

Thank you,

Rory Nisan
Lester B. Pearson Alumnus (class of 2001)
rnisan@gmail.com

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Elements and Expressions: elementary student art show to take place April 25-27 at the New Street Education Centre.

artsblue 100x100By Staff

April 25, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

For the 12th year in a row the Halton District School Board is presenting the elementary art show, called Elements and Expressions, from Tuesday April 25-Thursday April 27, 2017.

The popular event will showcase the artistic flare of Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 students, as all kinds of artwork will grace the Brock Room at the New Street Education Centre, located at 3250 New St. in Burlington.

AGB kids withj art

These two tykes were showing what they produced while at the Art Gallery of Burlington. The school board exhibit will open at the New Street Educational Centre on Tuesday.

The mediums include paintings, sculptures, puppets, paper maché, crayons, pastels, ink, fabric, 2D and 3D pieces. The exhibit pieces are selected by the classroom and art teachers to highlight art curriculum expectations.

The purpose of the art show is to showcase student artwork and to share it with peers to hopefully inspire and encourage others in their creative endeavours. Nearly 2,500 students are expected to visit the New Street Education Centre to tour the works of art. Throughout the three-day exhibit, professional artists from the Burlington Art Centre will be demonstrating various art techniques such as pottery, weaving, spinning, photography, fine art and more. The artists will give students hands-on opportunities to show them that art can have a place in their future.

“Elements and Expressions provides an opportunity for students to share their work with visitors in an art-gallery like setting” said Kevin McConvey, the Board’s Instructional Program Leader – The Arts, K-12. “The art displays show the tremendous amount of work and effort students have put into the creative process. Exposure to a wide variety of creative approaches, from paintings to papier maché, is a great way to broaden the horizons of student artists and spectators alike.”
Students’ artwork will be on display during the following times:

• Tuesday April 25: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
• Wednesday April 26: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
• Thursday April 27: 9 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

New Street Education Centre

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The tricky nature of the FOI Process; Muir's marathon in navigating it all. Part 2

backgrounder 100By Tom Muir

April 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Few people in Burlington could understand why the Board of Education staff decided that some of the city’s high schools had to be closed.  They also had difficulty grasping why the newest high school was at over 150% capacity while other high schools below the QEW had a total of 1800 empty seats in the high school classrooms.

Tom Muir decided to dig into the official record.  In part 1 of this four part series he sets out on a mission to find out how the Halton Board of Education managed build a new school that resulted in Burlington having more high school capacity than it needed which brought about the need to recommend that some schools in the southern part of the city be closed.

Part 2 of a four part series:

The Tricky Nature of the FOI Process:
In his lengthy communication with the people who have the task of providing information under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request Muir continues –

First, you get to decide what records you will provide to fulfill what you say is the scope of the FOI request. You can send what you want, and refuse further.

Second, you get to make assertions about what you want to say these records mean – your “interpretations”.
Third, if I have questions or disagreements about what you say things mean, or want clarifications, you ask me; May I pass along your email to the appropriate staff so we may thoroughly respond to your questions?”

Muir making a pointThen, to my abrupt surprise, this thorough response from staff apparently consists of a refusal to provide written responses – say you will only talk about it – and further, if I persist, tell me, and I quote; “Our offer to assist you in further interpreting those documents or clarifying their intent was made as a courtesy, and exists outside the timelines and parameters specified under the Act, as it goes beyond the scope of records responsive to your FOI request.”

Along with this declaration you restate a disingenuous assertion of one point, with no planning history or context – that Ministry funds paid the entire construction cost of Hayden.

You also state that the use of future proceeds of disposition (POD) was prohibited by the Ministry on August 31, 2011, however, there is no language in the record, Appendix 7, provided by you to support any notion of “prohibition”, or changes in the funding formula for Capital that would lead to the same result. I asked for clarification of this, but this was ignored and denied too.

Note:  Muir refers to a number of appendices: There were nine of them they are part of the response Muir received.

Only the assertion of the full Ministry funding was given, with no context of how this was rationalized provided. Even the text referred to in Appendices 7, 8 and 9 was not elaborated as support.

Appendix 7 contains no language of prohibition import, or even other cautions on the use of PODs, and this includes the page 4 you noted as pertinent to Burlington, and the records of Appendices 8 and 9.

These last Appendices are the approvals of the final Ministry funding as a top-up provision for additional costs for which future POD projections were deemed to be delayed, or uncertain in timing of receipt, to cover, thus possibly creating a cash flow risk according to the Ministry message. Each Appendix allowed the Hayden school to proceed without the use of projected future PODs, with the Ministry willing to provide additional funding. Appendix 8 provided $3M more, and Appendix 9 an additional $2.2M.

Appendix 9 notes that the top up funding is approved, “To allow the project to proceed to construction in partnership with the city and the library, … .” This partnership was and is a community collaboration program and policy of the Ministry and the provincial government.

There was no mention of any a prohibition of future PODs, or any mention that there were no realized PODs in the overall funding. Clearly, PODs remain a source of funding to the Board, whether realized and in cash reserves, or as possible future PODs held in surplus physical assets.

Make no mistake, if this PAR decides to close schools, these schools will become surplus assets that can be sold, thus providing a funding source from PODs.

In any case, and this is key, if schools are closed they become a definite and very big cost to Burlington, regardless of whether the Ministry paid the cash construction cost of Hayden when they did.

Having the PAR now, almost 6 years after the Ministry approval to fund the school, means that this surplus seats cost was just deferred in it’s reckoning, and, if schools are closed, then the idea that the Ministry paid the full cost of Hayden will be a Big Lie.

This point of the Ministry paying for construction of Hayden was not the object of my FOI, but it is what you used during the public and PARC meetings, and are continuing here, to try a red herring to evade, and divert attention from, my longstanding issue that the construction of Hayden is what created this mess of surplus seats, by the Board, with the knowledge of foresight, and resulted in this PAR, that may result in school closures to eliminate the surplus seats created.

Given this mess, and Board responsibility, this PAR should have been held back in 2008-2009 or so, when Hayden was planned. Instead, the board did just a boundary review.

In my FOI request, I explicitly asked for records pertaining to consideration of any OTG surplus pupil places that might or would be created in the overall HDSB of Burlington by the approval and construction of Hayden.
And at the same time you ignore anther point I raised for clarification, that is central to my FOI, and proof of my central issue above – that Hayden was planned and rationalized with a Ministry Growth School Application (FOI response Appendix 6) within the same Planning Area, SRA 100, as the other 6 schools in Burlington that are now the subject of the current PAR, and are threatened with closures.

This Appendix 6 clearly shows that the construction of Hayden, and the transfer of students to Hayden from several of the other schools, created surplus seats at these schools, declines in their utilization, and declines in the overall utilization of the schools in the planning area. These results are the mess we are in.
Specifically, this Appendix 6 shows Hayden was planned with a Ministry Application based on historical and projected enrollment for the planning are SRA 100, in which they included Hayden.

Appendices 1 to 6 show: (1), the Board’s intent to build what is now Hayden; (2), the inclusion in the LTAP; (3) terms set by the Ministry for funding approval, including part payment from Disposition of Surplus Assets, and Trustee resolution approving these terms; (4) funding sources for new schools including Hayden, including Disposition; (5),Trustee resolution approving the terms in (3); (6) Board submission of Growth School Application to Ministry.

SRA 101 as at 2015

SRA 101

SRA 100 as at 2015

SRA 100

This application reduced the 10 year projected average enrollment utilization at MM Robinson from 93.2% to 53.4%; at Nelson, from 108.7% to 95.6%; and at Bateman from 94% to 43.9%. Overall application SRA utilization declined from 88% to 74%.

It also reduced projected 2022 enrollment at MM Robinson from 1268 to 669; at Nelson from 1460 to 1311; and at Bateman from 1273 to 454. The overall transfer of students numbered 1567.

You totally ignored this data, my request for clarification as to when and how Hayden later turned up in a new SRA 101, and how is this inconsistency to be explained.

Instead, you emphasize the Ministry funding all the construction cost of Hayden, like that means there will be nothing for Burlington to pay in some other form, like closed schools. The Ministry decision to fund Hayden construction didn’t come until May – July 2011, but the closing of schools, pursuant to that, is here in our face right now.

Is this really what you mean when you say; May I pass along your email to the appropriate staff so we may thoroughly respond to your questions”?

Part 1 of a four part series.

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Lisa Bull implored the Director o Education to look at all the options.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Is there anything a parent can say that will change minds?

The democratic process we celebrate on both Canada Day and Remembrance Day doesn’t always get reflected when citizens go to the polls to select their city Councillors and school board trustees – expect to see a much bigger turnout in 2018 – we hope? Vainly? We hope not.

PARC with options on the walls

The 14 members of the PARC and the several advisors took part in seven meetings.

There were some very talented people serving their communities on the PARC that met for seven meetings.
These people got nothing for their efforts – the Board did provide coffee and donuts. The parents brought in treats for each other including small bottles of wine to celebrate the work they did – not always as a team pulling in the same direction – there were parents who pulled for their schools and at times some of the language was less than civil. That’s what happens when emotions are aroused.

Lisa Bull was on the PARC representing Bateman high school. She earned a Masters of Education degree and chose to work in the private sector. The PARC experience for her was more frustrating than anything else. She felt that there was a solution that would serve the needs of not only Bateman but if the wider community as well.

Bateman student population

Student population numbers for Bateman high school prepared by the Board of Education.

Several days before the Director of Education released his final recommendation Lisa Bull wrote Stuart Miller with what was a reasonable request.

Her letter was signed by

Lisa Bull, PAR Parent Rep, Robert Bateman High School                                             

 Steve Armstrong, PAR Parent Rep, Lester B. Pearson High School

Sharon Rhys-Jones Picken, PAR Parent Rep,  Robert Bateman High School  

Rebecca Collier, PAR Parent Rep, Nelson High School   

Cheryl Delugt, PAR Parent Rep,   Lester B. Pearson High School   

Steve Cussons, PAR Parent Rep, Aldershot High School.

Kate Nazar, PAR Parent Rep, Nelson High School                        

Here is what they had to say:

As former members of the Burlington Secondary Program Accommodation Review Committee, we are writing to express our strong concerns about the decision to move forward with high school closures in Burlington. We realize that you are just days away from releasing your report to your Board of Trustees, however we are making one last request that you recommend to the Board that that they defer any closures as we do not believe that the Halton District School Board has fully and completely explored all non-school closure options. It is the responsibility of the HDSB to do whatever it takes to keep all high schools open in Burlington and we have not, to-date seen concrete evidence that all avenues have been thoroughly and exhaustively explored.

Hard working people PARC

The PARC members put in a lot of time on behalf of the community.

Throughout the PAR process, our Committee was guided to review Options for school closures designed to address the low utilization rates of the high schools in Burlington. We participated in six Committee meeting, multiple public meetings and, except for when a Committee member raised the Option of keeping all schools opened, the possibility of exploring alternate strategies for solving the HDSB’s utilization and programming challenges were not raised. In fact, it wasn’t until the Committee requested a seventh meeting that our group began to explore and recommend non-closure Options. Why did it take us so long to get this this point? Simply put – the challenge presented to the PAR Committee was framed as ‘which schools should be closed’. We were never challenged to explore alternative solutions.

As detailed in the Preamble of the Ministry of Education’s Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (2015) ‘when a school board identifies a school that is projected to have long-term excess space, a school board would typically look at a number of options such as:

– Moving attendance boundaries and programs to balance enrolment between over and underutilized schools;

– Offering to lease underutilized space within a school to a coterminous school board;

– Finding community partners who can pay the full cost of operating the underutilized space; and/or

– Decommissioning or demolishing a section of the school that is not required for student use to reduce operating costs

Again, other than reviewing attendance boundaries and programs, none of the other options as detailed above was raised in any meaningful way with the PAR Committee. When the Committee raised a number of the above strategies in our final meeting, we were told that some had been explored by the HDSB but with all due respect, the efforts presented seemed limited at best.

In addition, in a letter dated March 6, 2017 Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli outlined how the provincial government is calling upon school boards to find solutions that meet ‘both local needs and the educational needs of Ontario’s students’.

Minister Hunter states that ‘communities and the Province expect Ontario’s four school systems to maximize the opportunities of co-locations’ and that ‘It is our government’s strong preference that school boards fully explore joint accommodation arrangements with coterminous boards’. Further, ‘…the Ministry states a preference for these joint-use projects committing to review these proposals before any others.’ In addition, the Ministry has committed $600,000 to assist school boards in pursuing joint-use school opportunities between school boards.

Why was this Option not fully and completely explored by the Halton District School Board? Given the Minister’s strong preference for this approach and the available funding, the PAR Committee and the community of Burlington should have been presented with evidence that both the public and Catholic boards have completely explored all possibilities for partnership. We were not.

Ministers Hunter and Chiarelli also remind school boards that according to The Ministry of Education Community and Partnerships Guideline, boards are meant to host at least one meeting annually to engage the broader community and relevant stakeholders. “It is imperative that these meetings involve all relevant stakeholders and facilitate real dialogue boards and the involved communities”. Further the Guideline states that “to be effective, these meetings require community engagement and attendance and a spirit of real partnership from all parties”.

As community members, we saw no advertising alerting us of any HDSB partnership meetings. I gather that some community agencies were invited to attend (if they asked to be on a contact list) but what of the broader community? What of partners outside of Burlington? What of “regular” citizens who might be interested in volunteering to bring their expertise and contacts to such an opportunity? Most members of the PAR Committee expressed an interest and a willingness to work with the HDSB to identify, recruit and work with agencies and organizations to build lasting partnerships which could impact both utilization of space and enhance student programming.

Pubmeet politicians BL-JT-PS

The politicians were certainly interested – three from Burlington city council attended one of the public meetings. The Mayor was not seen at any of the meetings.

Further, we were extremely surprised when, during our final PAR Committee meeting (which was not scheduled, but rather strongly requested by the members of the Committee) that the Manager of the City of Burlington, James Ridge requested that he (on behalf of the City) be given first notice regarding available space within schools. Did the HDSB not work with the City to explore all possible partnership and joint-use opportunities prior to the PAR process? Why has the HDSB not been working more closely with the City prior to the secondary school PAR?

We’ve also been disappointed that, despite the expectation ( as outlined in updates to the 2015 Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline) that municipalities and community partners impacted by PARs are engaged in meaningful ways and that ‘full input and feedback from the municipalities, including local economic and community impacts where relevant are reflected in the final staff report and advice to trustees” the City of Burlington’s involvement in the PAR process appears to have been limited to having Mr. Ridge serve on the PAR Committee. As a PAR Committee member I was provided with no information on behalf of the City about the economic and community impact of school closures on our neighbourhoods. Again – should this not have been information that was thoroughly explored and shared with the PARC prior to us making our final recommendations?

Finally, Ministers Hunter and Chiarelli have outlined how the government has been considering how they ‘can use public property in a manner that takes into account the best interests of local communities’. To that end, the government is exploring the concept of community hubs – ‘a school, a neighbourhood centre or other public space that offers co-ordinated services such as education, early years support, health care and social services’ – and is encouraging school boards to work with communities to explore this option. Further, the government is supporting these kinds of initiatives financially by offering funding such as Capital Funding for Community Hub School Retrofits ($50 million).

In her March 6th letter, Ministers Hunter and Chiarello acknowledge the challenges of forming community partnerships quickly/easily and offers boards who are exploring the option of a Community Hub with a school involved in an accommodation review to advise the Ministry of Education’s Capital Policy and Programs Branch and the Ministry of Infrastructure’s Community Hubs Division prior to May 1st.

Centennial pool - outside

City and school board work together on the operation of a swimming pool.

We strongly believe that this is an option which deserves consideration in Burlington. Robert Bateman which has an existing partnership with a city pool facility, a YMCA daycare facility, a broad range of technical and trade facilities, and which is located in a community without a community centre already serves as a community hub for seniors’ groups, families, community organizations and more. Lester B Pearson High School has been partnering with the Pearson Co-op Nursery School for over 40 years. This partnership offers a Dual Credit ECE Program with Mohawk College and a Health and Wellness SHSM: Family and Child Services pathway for Pearson students. Programs such as these could be expanded and enhanced and would address multiple opportunities for these schools and communities.

Robert Bateman

Robert Bateman isn’t the least bit impressed with the idea of closing a school with his name on it.

In closing, we recognize that you and your team are facing an extremely difficult situation. We recognize that you and the Board do not take your responsibility to the students and families of Burlington lightly. That’s why we implore you to take a stand as the leader of the HDSB and recommend that the Board of Trustees halt this process until comprehensive work and more thorough exploration can be conducted.

Lisa Bull reports that she “got no response from” Miller.

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A very disturbing chain of email correspondence. What did the Director of Education think he was doing and why did the Board of Education chair feel she had to get directions?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 23, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are beginning to hear from the trustees on the values they bring to their task as trustees

We have heard from Amy Collard who said

amy-collard-hdsb-trustee

HDSB trustee Any Collard. She represents the Bateman school.

“You have requested that trustees determine a ranking for our decision-making priorities for the PAR. For me, this is a bit like asking us to determine if the mind, the heart or the soul are the most important parts of a person. All of these parts are necessary, and if one part is lacking the person does not function well. In addition, there are many other parts that may not be considered vital, but that increase a person’s quality of life.

“I will be looking for a solution that provides all of the students in Burlington with equitable access to the programming that they need to be successful in their chosen pathway, while honouring their ties to their communities and being mindful that we must be fiscally responsible.

“As you know, this is a difficult proposition. I will be listening to the students and their families, as well as reviewing all of the data that has been compiled, and trying to find a way to balance all of the perspectives. I remain hopeful that the Director will present a recommendation that trustees – and the Burlington community – will be able to support.

Donna Danielli, Milton trustee said she was “not comfortable ranking one value higher than another at this point and I will attempt to explain why.

Protest outside board office

Cold winter night outside the Board of Education offices – Central and Pearson protesters were out on the street.

“A number of years ago, there was concern amongst wine makers. There was a reviewer of wines who was well renowned and whose reviews were considered the epitome of wine reviews. Many bottles of wine were sold according to his recommendations.

“The difficulty came when the wine makers began to change their wines to reflect attributes he found favourable in wines. They stopped creating the wines they had always individually crafted and instead made wines they knew he would give a good review to.

Donna Danielli

Milton school board trustee Donna Danielli

“My concern with providing a rating system with which I will view the PAR recommendation is twofold – I am concerned that whatever aspect I give the most weight to will be the one that delegations will focus on. I won’t hear the true spirit of what I need to hear on the delegation nights but rather one tailored to meet what people may think I want to hear.

“The other concern is that there is no magical formula to share – I will be reading the report, re-reading all of my PAR materials, re-reading all of the emails and letters sent this far and listening diligently to the delegations. I feel that to try to list my values and how they will weigh my vote would be to do a disservice to those who are waiting to delegate the board.

“It is my intention to listen to every one of those delegations whole heartedly and take their feedback as part of my overall decision.”

Then the waters got muddied. A trustee appears to have asked the Director of Education how she should respond to the Gazette’s request.

Hammil + Miller

Director of Education Stuart Miller at a Robotics competition briefing.

In the email trail that came our way Stuart Miller, the Director of Education said: “First I saw it was Kelly’s e-mail. I’ll try to connect today with Kelly.

“My initial thoughts are to quote the mandate of the Min of Ed – Trustees primary focus is student achievement and fiscal responsibility. But I’ll chat with Kelly.”

Halton Hills Trustee, Jeanne Gray got into the conversation with: “Kelly – thanks for connecting to Stuart on our behalf. I will not be responding to Pepper Parr’s this request at this time.”

amos-kelly-trustee

HDSB Chair Kelly Amos.

On Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 9:19 AM, Kelly Amos Trustee Wards 5 & 6 <amosk@hdsb.ca> wrote:
“I am sure we all received this email. As the PAR process is not over until the vote, I believe we should exercise caution about responding to this email. I speak to Stuart about this will try craft something to respond to this on behalf of all trustees.”

This all started when the Gazette wrote each trustee:

“A number of months ago the Gazette asked each of you to rank the values that are a part of the decision making process for you.

Chair Amos told us that the trustees were not going to involve themselves in the PARC process and, with one exception, there were no responses.

The PARC process has ended and that committee no longer meets.”

The Gazette didn’t feel that that asking the trustees to rank the three values was involving yourselves in the PARC process – but that is moot at this point.

The public has a right to know something about the values that drive a trustee.

Would you rank the following:

Fiscal prudence
Community – by which we mean the role a high school plays in a community
Academic offering

Please rank these three – you may have other values – add those as addendum if you wish.

Leah Reynolds, Burlington trustee for Wards 1 and 2 said:

Leah Reynolds

Burlington Wards 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds.

The driving force behind entering public office is my passion for education as evidenced by my long-serving school volunteerism through reading club, breakfast club, chairing school councils, participating in community discussion of elementary school closing and helping lead numerous school capital fundraising enhancements and initiatives. These experiences equipped me with the skills to navigate the school board and I realized that I could be helpful to parents and community.

I also understood that there were population challenges and should a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) be held, I wanted to be a part of the conversation because schools are the heart of the community.

Reynolds pointed out that “this is a full time job, serving parents and families days, evenings and often weekends, one that trustees gladly take on in service to students and their education.”

Trustees attend far more meetings than city Councillors do.

Reynolds said her “top priority and philosophy is focused squarely on what is in the best interests of students.” She did make clear that “schools are the heart of the community”.

Her decision matrix, said Reynolds will consider more than the three factors the Gazette set out. Her considerations include the 13 factors identified by the PAR policy which are:

I. Range of mandatory program
2. Range of optional program
3. Viability of Program – number of students required to offer and maintain program in an educationally sound and fiscally responsible way
4. Physical and environmental state of existing schools
5 Proximity to other schools (non-bus distances, natural boundaries, walking routes)
6 Accommodation of students in permanent school facilities and minimal use of portable classrooms
7. Balance of overall enrollment in each school in the area to maximize student access to programs, resources and extra-curricular opportunities and avoid over and underutilization of buildings.
8. Expansion and placement of new ministry or board programs.
9. Stable, long-term boundaries to avoid frequent boundary changes
10 Cost effectiveness of transportation
11 Fiscal responsibilities
12 Existing and potential community uses and facility partnerships
13. Goals and focus of the current multi-year plan

“There may be additional factors that bubble up as a result of the PAR committee’s discussions. But the lens through which all these factors will be viewed is what is best for students at our schools.”

Every person added Reynolds “has an opportunity right now to make their voice heard to help shape the options that emerge for trustee consideration in the spring.”

What parents expect is an open look at a significant issue. The public want and need to be aware of what the trustees think – not what someone who is accountable to them thinks they should be saying.

miller-stuart-online

Director of Education Stuart Miller during a web cast Q&A

It is not appropriate for the Director of Education to direct the thinking of the trustees nor is it appropriate for the Chair to say she will “will try craft something to respond to this on behalf of all trustees.”

Has the Director of Education given the trustees what they need to be able to vote? Looks that way.

This is a very disturbing chain of email correspondence. The public has a right to know why their elected trustees would behave like this. One might ask also ask the Director of Education what he thought he was doing.

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The original option to close Central and Pearson got changed to a recommendation to close Pearson and Bateman. Best decision? - then why wasn't it the original option?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 23, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Few will differ with the Director of Education on the decision that lets Central high school remain open.
This will be third time that Central has overcome a decision to close the oldest school in the city.

The evidence the school parents brought forward was evidence that was already there – the Board staff either didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it.

MMW with T - shirt

Meed Ward went to Queen’s Park – as a lifelong Liberal she nevertheless stood beside the Progressive Conservative leader to make her point. The words on that T shirt would serve her well in the 2018 municipal election.

Some have suggested that Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward choosing to accept the parent request that she sit on the PARC was what made the difference. Meed Ward wasn’t all that effective – a better way of putting that is to say that she has been much more effective at city hall than she was during the PARC process.

Did Meed Ward save Central? Certainly not. She has had to put up with a lot of undeserved political heat for the decision she made. This isn’t the first time she has had to put up with the small mindedness of her city council colleagues. She has prevailed.

The Central parents put out a statement earlier today saying:

“We strongly support a no school closure option and are disappointed that any schools have been named; we feel for the Bateman and Pearson communities as well as the Hayden FI community as we know first hand what it feels like to sit in this position.

Silent auction Joe Dogs

The Central parents held a silent auction – raised $14,000 and had a war chest to dip into.

“We do acknowledge that the Board is in a position where the Ministry leaves little choice but to close schools in order to maximize funding. We feel that the director and staff have done their best to ensure that the new recommendation considers the best interests of students in all of Burlington. Maintaining schools in every community will benefit the greatest number of students by providing maximum opportunity to allow students to walk, bike and participate in extra- curricular activities as well as keep busing to a minimum which is also fiscally and environmentally responsible.

“From day one we have stressed that impacting the least number of students negatively should be a primary focus and feel that this option does reflect that goal. We also stressed the impact on the students in grade 7 and 8 who are currently housed at Burlington Central and who were not being considered as part of the process.

“We took effort and care to prove that Central was not the problem beyond a shadow of a doubt. The new recommendation outlines all the reasons that Burlington Central should never have been named in the first place. We will continue to delegate and push forward to remind the trustees of this until the final vote on June 7th.

“We want to thank all of the Central Strong Community for the support and commitment over the past few months, with a special thanks to our PARC representatives as this was no easy task. This has been an emotional roller coaster and we wouldn’t have had this success without the help of each and every one of you.”

Meed Ward herself was not available for comment

The Director’s report chose to say that the overflow into Nelson made it necessary to keep Central open. A specious argument if there ever was one.

Closing central would have left such a huge hole between Aldershot and Nelson that would require hundreds of students to be bussed at a cost that was estimated to come in at $400,000 a year forever.

Map #1 - all schools

The strongest argument Central had was this map. The picture was worth more than one thousand words.

While city council wasn’t prepared to take a position on the evidence that was on the table Meed Ward was. The political blow back on that Meed Ward choice will continue for a while but longer term the public will see that she not only was capable of walking into turbulent political water she actually did just that. Not something the current Mayor is inclined to do.

On this occasion Meed Ward didn’t just “talk the talk” – she “walked the talk”. The city is the better for that choice.

The closure of Robert Bateman High School and the associated redirection of the English program students to Nelson High School, as well as the relocation of the Regional Essential, LEAP and CPP programs, will result in a substantial increase in enrollments at Nelson High School. In order to provide some accommodation relief at Nelson High School, a review of the existing boundaries was undertaken to determine if there were any opportunities to redirect some areas out of the Nelson High School catchment area.

The existing Tecumseh Public School Grade 8 cohort is split between two high schools: those students residing east of Guelph Line attend Nelson High School, while those west of Guelph Line attend Burlington Central High School. In order to ensure the Tecumseh Public School Grade 8 cohort would remain together, the entire Tecumseh Public School catchment area is designated to be redirected and included within the Burlington Central High School catchment area. Unifying the cohort would provide accommodation relief to Nelson High School, and enhance Burlington Central High School enrollments by providing additional students to that school’s population.

In order to ensure an appropriate transition, grand parenting will occur. This will result in the redirection of all Tecumseh Public School students entering the Grade 9 English program in September 2018 to Burlington Central High School, including those east of Guelph Line. As of September 2018, Grade 10, 11, and 12 English students currently attending Nelson High School from the Tecumseh Public School catchment area will be grand parented to remain at Nelson High School until they graduate.

Now – what does the Board of Education do with the Central facilities? The school was neglected for so long that its condition was terrible. The students put up with a lot. It was a little like a slum landlord letting a property deteriorate to the point where it had to be demolished.

Central property aerial

Could an indoor swimming pool be placed on this site? Could the high school be designated as an historical site? Can Central be brought back to the condition it should have been put in 15 years ago.

The set up on the property at the corner of Brant and Baldwin includes everything from junior kindergarten to grade 12. The addition of the International Baccalaureate will make the school complex just that much more complete.

The facilities need to be upgraded to the level that exists at Hayden. The property to the west of the school – now a playing field owned by the city, is just the kind of location for an indoor swimming pool where there is a more than dense enough population to ensure very heavy use.

While the decision was the right one – the question Lisa Bull, a Bateman parent asks – is still very relevant.
“I am extremely curious about his (Miller’s) change from recommending Central (and Pearson) for closure in his first recommendation to Bateman (and Pearson) in today’s report. I question the influence of a sitting City council member on the PAR Committee and want to better understand the role this played in Director Miller’s change of heart.”

PARC anxious parent

Was it the power of prayer that brought about the change in the Director of Educations final recommendation? Lynn Crosby at a PARC meeting.

What was it that brought about the change in the minds of the Board staff and the Director of Education (it certainly wasn’t a change of heart) that resulted in the decision to keep Central open?

That is a question the trustee’s will have to determine when they confer with the Director; it might well be an issue that the Bateman parents delegate on as well. The matter is in their hands.

The Central parents are breathing a huge sigh of relief however this is not the time for them to rest on their oars. The building is in poor shape – it needs the treatment the old Laura Secord property on Lakeshore Road got (now the Paletta Mansion) that brought it back to what it was intended to look like.

Is the high school a heritage site? Should it be one? The parents might want to go after that designation as they work towards that point in time where the school is never threatened with closure again.

Part 1 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Part 2 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Part 3 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

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Vulnerable students at Bateman high school are going to need very special consideration if the school does close.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Part 3 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Rationale: Closing Robert Bateman High School

Friday was a very tough day for the parents of students at Robert Bateman high school. The Director of Education has recommended to the trustees that the school be closed effective September 2019

Some background:

In 2004, Lord Elgin High School was consolidated with General Brock High School forming a new school named Robert Bateman High School in the original Lord Elgin facility.

FIRE Bateman principal at siren

Bateman principal Mark Duley ringing a fire siren during a cooking contest with fire department staff.

The consolidation, in part, was undertaken to address declining enrollment in both schools at the time. There were also significant facility enhancements made to the newly consolidated Robert Bateman High School. The enrollment in the Robert Bateman catchment area has continued to decline. As a result of declining enrollment in the catchment area, the school offers and houses many regional programs including International Baccalaureate, Regional Essential program, LEAP, and the Community Pathways Program.

Bateman student population

Bateman student population by year and by grade.

These regional programs have improved the diversity and inclusive nature of the school, but there are still great challenges with low enrollment in the catchment area that impacts regular English programming. This is projected to continue. The school is currently at 59% utilization, below the 65% Board criteria, and is projected to decline to 50% by 2026.

FIRE table 2 tattoo guy

Burlington fire fighter explaining the fine points on ingredients to be used during a cook-off contest at the school.

Currently there are 283 students in the English program within the catchment area of Robert Bateman High School. There are an additional 51 students in the International Baccalaureate Program and 36 students in Essential and Special Education programs within the catchment area.

The total number of students in the English program (including 87 students in regional programs) is
370. This is the lowest enrollment number within a Burlington high school’s catchment area.

This utilization factor includes the regional programs, as Robert Bateman High School is the site for students from the entire city of Burlington. The students in north Burlington attending some of these regional programs are being bussed to the south.

M.M. Robinson High School and Robert Bateman High School are similar facilities and both are experiencing low utilization rates and this is projected to continue.

Bateman Robinson utilization rates

The utilization for both Robinson and Bateman were falling off – putting the two schools together seemed to be a solution. The right one?

In addition, students currently residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 in Burlington are bussed to Robert Bateman High School to attend regional programs there. The creation of a regional Essential Program at M.M. Robinson High School will allow students to attend a school in closer proximity to their homes and also provide the added benefit of continuity of program with the existing CPP program at the school.

Clustering regional programs into one school site disadvantages students as they must travel greater distances to meet their program needs and interests. The students in Burlington would be better served by establishing a school site in both the north and the south that provide similar regional programs. Students would have the same opportunities and be closer to their homes. It also enhances the diversity and inclusiveness in more than one site in Burlington.

Regional programs have been moved successfully each year, from school to school. Our history has proven these programs are transferable and our transition approaches have proven effective in support of students.

Although Robert Bateman High School has had facility enhancements to accommodate regional programs, the declining enrollment in the catchment area and in these programs is problematic.

The two criteria which triggered the PAR are based on students and program:

1. The school or group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrolment where on-the-ground (OTG) capacity utilization rate is below 65%.
AND
2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities.

Nelson High School is 1.9 kilometres from Robert Bateman High School and has an enrolment within its current catchment area of more than 1,000 students. This number, although fluctuating slightly, is projected to remain above 1,000 through 2026. The utilization rate in the same time period ranges from 75% to 87%.

Nelson utilization

Nelson’s utilization numbers become possible if Bateman students move in. Was this the only resolution to the problem?

 

The close proximity of Robert Bateman High School and Nelson High School within walking distance of each other, posed a challenge in determining the most advantageous site in which to house regional programs. The combined catchment areas of the two schools (excluding regional programs) is within the on-the-ground (OTG) capacity of either Nelson or Robert Bateman High Schools.

The parameters used for the PAR, however, are related to utilization and enhancement of program.

Recommending a closure of Nelson High School would result in the relocation of more than 1,000 students in the foreseeable future. Facility enhancements and purpose-built facilities can be accommodated at Nelson High School. The regional programs of south Burlington can be housed in Nelson High School. This does not require the relocation of more than 1,000 students or a recommended closure of a school with a catchment area of up to 84% utilization. Subsequently, it allows the Halton District School Board to have vibrant regional programs in the northwest and the southeast of Burlington.

If the recommended option is approved, it will also result in the relocation of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program to Burlington Central High School. Like other regional programs, the International Baccalaureate program can be relocated to another school.

There are requirements for its site relocation as defined by the IB International governing body which will be strictly adhered to.

Presently there are 174 students in the International Baccalaureate track (Grade 9 and 10 pre-IB and Grade 11 and 12 IB) at Robert Bateman High School. By contrast, White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville has 507 students in its pre-IB and IB program. The IB program has been housed at Robert Bateman High School since January 2001 and the enrollment has fluctuated and has presented a challenge. Moving the IB program to Burlington Central High School may enhance uptake of this program as it is in a more central location.

Finally, consolidating Robert Bateman High School and Nelson High School will allow program enhancement for students currently in both schools, offering them now, and in the future, greater equity of opportunity as a result of the broader range of courses and programs. With a greater number of staff and students, there will be more opportunities for co-curricular activities.

FIRE ist an 2nd place cooks

Fireman and students whoop it up when the winners of a cooking contest are announced.

Implications of Closing Robert Bateman high school.
Closure of Robert Bateman High School, and the resulting movement of the English program to Nelson High School

Program Changes that will take place should Robert Bateman High School be closed:

• September 2019, the International Baccalaureate (IB) program will move to Burlington Central High School.

• September 2019, a second Essential Program site will be established in Burlington; Nelson High School will serve students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403, while students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2019, two sites for the Community Pathways Program (CPP) will continue to be offered; students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School, and students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2019, the LEAP program will be offered in two locations; students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School, while students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.

There are teachers at Bateman High that would like to see this much effort IN the classroom. The football players take their message to the streets.

Bateman high school students staged a protest when they were told that there wouldn’t be a football team that year. Spunky bunch.

Student Movement with the closure of Robert Bateman High School:

• September 2018, English Program students entering Grade 9 will attend Nelson High School.

• September 2019, English Program students entering Grades 11 and 12 will move to Nelson High School.

• September 2018, Grade 9 students entering the International Baccalaureate Program (pre-IB) will attend Burlington Central High School.

• September 2019, students entering into Grades 11 and 12 (IB program) will move to Burlington Central High School.

• September 2018, Essential Program students entering Grade 9 and residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School.

• September 2018, Essential Program students entering Grade 9 and residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M Robinson High School

• September 2019, Essential/Workplace Program students entering Grades 11 and 12 currently attending Robert Bateman High School will move to Nelson High School.

• September 2018, all Community Pathways Program students (Grades 9 to 12) attending Robert Bateman will continue at Robert Bateman High School.

• September 2019, Community Pathways Program students attending Robert Bateman HS will move to Nelson High School.

• September 2019, LEAP students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2019, LEAP students residing south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School.

• September 2018, students entering into Grade 9 in the Gifted program who reside south of the QEW/Hwy 403 will attend Nelson High School, while students residing north of the QEW/Hwy 403 and entering Grade 9 will attend M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2018, students in existing Grades 10 to 12 Secondary Gifted Placement at Nelson High School will be grandparented at Nelson High School until graduation.

• September 2018, Grade 8 students from Pineland Public School will move together to Nelson High School as a cohort (English and French Immersion)

Other Considerations:
• Facility enhancements or additions to address program needs at Nelson High School re: Community Pathways Program (CPP) and technological education programs

• Aldershot High School will be explored as a magnet or themed school

• IB training and certification for administrators and staff at Burlington Central High School as mandated by the IB governing body.

par-hdsb-parents-at-bateman

The parent turn out at the public meeting during which Board staff were on hand to explain what the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) was all about drew less than five parents.

There is no nice way to explain this closure. When the original recommendation to close Central and Pearson high schools Bateman and Nelson seemed to take the position that they were safe – they would not be closed.
But as the PARC process rolled out and the Central parents mobilized themselves and asked a lot of questions closing Central no longer seemed like such a good idea.

Lisa Bull, one of the two Bateman PARC members did all she could to get the Board to think about innovative ideas – she wasn’t wrong, but it was a little too late in the game to get the Board to look at things differently.

This experience is probably one of the most disappointing in Bull’s professional career – the woman holds a Master’s degree in Education.

Does Bateman have a case they can take to the trustees? So far they have not managed to bring forward any solid evidence. There are students that are very vulnerable and any change is going to disrupt their lives.

The task for the Bateman parents at this point is to ensure that their student population is not harmed by a closing and a move.

There are some really fine programs at that school – they will be missed. The cooking programs should not be lost in the shuffle – and some way has to be found to ensure that the swimming pool is not lost to the community.

The Bateman parents have a lot of work to do to ensure that they are well taken care of during what is a very difficult time.

Lisa Bull said she was “devastated and shocked by Director Miller’s recommendations. I am also extremely curious about his change from recommending Central (and Pearson) for closure in his first recommendation to Bateman (and Pearson) in today’s report. I question the influence of a sitting City council member on the PAR Committee and want to better understand the role this played in Director Miller’s change of heart. Most importantly I will continue to work closely with the Robert Bateman community on creating impactful delegations for the Board of Trustees.”

“There are far too many vulnerable students who would be impacted by the closure of our school so we will not stop fighting.”

Part 1 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Part 2 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

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Getting impaired drivers off our roads - make the right call - 911

News 100 greenBy Staff

April 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Despite years of awareness campaigns illustrating why driving a vehicle when impaired by drugs or alcohol is dangerous, impaired driving remains the top criminal cause of death in Canada. The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) has joined with MADD Canada in the effort to stop impaired driving and to support victims of this violent crime.

Campaign 911 1

They want YOU to make the right call – 911 – when you see an impaired driver on the roads. The legalization of marijuana is going to add to the numbers that get behind the wheel impaired.

The Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) is committed to getting impaired drivers off our roads in Halton Region and is partnering with MADD Canada to launch Campaign 911 in Halton Region. Campaign 911 is a Canada-wide campaign to encourage and empower the Canadian public to report suspected impaired driving by calling 911. By calling 911 and reporting suspected impaired drivers to police, all Canadians can play a role in reducing impaired driving crashes, deaths and injuries.

“Impaired driving is the #1 criminal cause of death in Canada, yet Halton motorists are still making the choice to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs,” said Deputy Chief Nishan Duraiappah, Halton Regional Police Service. “The Halton Regional Police Service is imploring citizens to take action by calling 911 and reporting suspected impaired drivers to police. We want to mobilize the community to share the responsibility for keeping Halton safe. By making the right call, members of the public are keeping our roads, and our communities, safe.”

265 Halton motorists were criminally charged for driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs in 2016. Impaired motorists place all Halton residents at risk. If you observe a vehicle being operated in any manner that places you or anyone else in danger, make the call to 911 for an immediate police response.

Community safety is not the responsibility of the Halton Regional Police Service alone but also Halton Region, local business and community. Community safety cannot be improved by working in isolation. By working together we can achieve community safety and stop impaired drivers.

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Closing Lester B. Pearson high school; rationale and implications.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 2 of a series on the Board recommendation to close two high schools in Burlington

Closing Pearson; Rationale

Lester B. Pearson High School has been experiencing a decline in enrolment for several years and that is projected to continue to 2026 and beyond.

There are parents at Pearson who have an easy explanation for the decline – one of which was limiting the number of feeder schools to 1.5 and another having students from Kilbride who used to attend Pearson get sent to Hayden which is running at 150% of it capacity.

LBP parent school meet april 2017

Pearson is a small high school – it didn’t have much in the way of resources to fight back. A parent group meeting to listen to what their trustee had to tell them.

Pearson is the smallest of the high schools in the system. It is situated on a lovely piece of property; has three gymnasiums, one of which was paid for by the parents in the community. It also houses a nursery that has been in operation for more than 40 years.

LBP students by year

 

Lester B. Pearson High School is also the only school in the Halton District School Board that provides Extended French at the secondary school level. The students in this program begin extended French in Grade 7.

The result of this low enrollment is a diminished ability for the school to provide the same breadth and range of programs for the students as other schools in Halton. In order to take specific or desired courses, many students have resorted to online offerings.

This situation will be exacerbated as it is expected the number of students attending Lester B. Pearson High School will decrease by an additional 70 students by 2025.

Another issue occurring as a result of low enrollment is the impact on the students’ pathways.
At present, the numbers reflecting Lester B. Pearson High School students’ pathway choices are as follows:

LBP pathway choices

Unfortunately the low number of students and staff has prevented the school from providing the same breadth of programming offered in other Halton District School Board schools. This is most evident given the low number of students in applied programming and subsequently the college pathway, resulting in these students having fewer options or little flexibility in selecting courses they can take.

LBP Kim

Kim’s family chose to move into the Pearson high school community because they wanted to send their children to a small high school. when Pearson was built it involved the community that paid for an additional gymnasium.

Schools are required to provide a pathway to graduation for all students. This means the school will have some smaller classes (for example, 11 students in Grade 9 Applied), and in order to be compliant with staffing formulas and provincial mandates, will have some larger classes to offset the smaller numbers. Consequently, not only is the range of course selection not available to students but there is also a greater disparity between class sizes.

Again this is likely to be exacerbated as the projections indicate a continued decline in enrollment.

Lester B. Pearson High School is 1.9 kilometres from M.M. Robinson High School. Students who currently attend Lester B. Pearson High School are within the walking distance to M.M. Robinson High School. A closure of Lester B. Pearson High School will not result in an increase in bussing costs for the Halton District School Board.

At present there is a nursery school located in Lester B. Pearson High School. This is a long- standing relationship between the City of Burlington and the Board, and since the mid-1970s has become part of the fabric of the Lester B. Pearson High School community.

If the recommendation to close Lester B. Pearson High School is approved, the Halton District School Board will engage with the appropriate municipal partners to investigate available options for a continued relationship with the Halton District School Board.

Lester B. Pearson High School has served its students and community very well for the past 40 years; however, its enrollment has been in decline for some time. It is currently less than 65% of capacity, and by 2025 it is expected to decline to 55%.

Based on the two identified criteria for a program and accommodation review (PAR):

1. The school or group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrollment where on-the-ground (OTG) capacity utilization rate is below 65%.
AND
2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities.

LBPearson aerialLester B. Pearson High School meets the criteria for a PAR, and subsequently is recommended for closure.

Implications of Recommendation
Closure of Lester B. Pearson High School, and the resulting movement of the English program to M.M. Robinson High School

Program Changes: With the closure of Lester B. Pearson High School:

• the Extended French Program will move to M.M. Robinson High School.
Changes to program offerings at M.M. Robinson High School include:

• September 2018, the Regional Re-engagement Program (REP) will move from M.M. Robinson High School to Burlington Central High School.

• NOTE: the second Community Pathways Program (CPP) will continue at M.M. Robinson High School.
Student Movement:

With the closure of Lester B. Pearson High School:
• September 2018, English program students will move to M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2018, Extended French program students will move to M.M. Robinson High School.

• September 2018, Grade 8 students from C.H. Norton Public School will move together to M.M. Robinson High School as a cohort (English and French Immersion)

Other Considerations:
• Facility enhancements or additions to address program needs at M.M. Robinson High School re: Community Pathways.

Rory Nisan spent his high school career at Pearson.  He isn’t the biggest guy you will meet- small in staure but he made it to the Pearson Rugby team and knows that he wouldn’t have had that kind o an opportunity at a larger high school.

LBP George Ward + Rory Nisen

Two former Pearson alumni trading phone numbers.

Nisan believes there is a case – a strong case for smaller high schools where students can find themselves and not get lost in the hectic life of a bigger high school.

Many of the parents at Pearson felt the die was cast when their school was named on the original recommendation – theirs was a small parent group – they didn’t have the resources that the bigger high schools had.

Can they make a case for being kept open?  Everyone you listen to will say Burlington’s growth is north of the QEW; Hayden is way beyond it capacity.  The Evergreen community (at Tremaine and Dundas) yet to get started is going to have students that will need a high school.  The Link2 at Sutton and Dundas is going house some families.

The Alton 2 project on the west side of Walkers Line will have their children be bused to M.M. Robinson when Hayden high school is yards away.

No one knows if the Adi Development is going to get the approval it wants from the Ontario Municipal Board – the city turned that one down – but don’t expect the Adi people to give up.  That project will add to the Alton community student population.

Pearson has a case.

One observant Pearson parent wondered why the closing date for their school was June of 2018 – they wanted a chance to vote for whoever the trustee was going to be in the October 2018 municipal election.

Closing Lester B. Pearson high school may be just a little short sighted – but that isn’t the first time this Board has been short sighted.

Part  1 of a series on the recommendation to close two high schools in Burlington

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Blow back against Meed Ward begins - are these people throwing in the towel?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The blow back begins.

With a recommendation from the Director of Education on which schools Board staff believe should be closed now on the table and in the hands of the trustees the snarky remarks begin.

Meed WArd at PARC

Meed Ward at a PARC meeting. She certainly wasn’t the most vociferous member of the PARC.

There was always concern over ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward sitting on the Program Accommodation Review Committee – some felt she had a conflict of interest. Her council colleagues didn’t support the position she took.

Meed Ward has a son at the school – she therefore qualified to represent the school and if the parents wanted her to represent them – then why can they not have the person they want.

One comment: (We are not identifying the people who made comments)

“Really! So you are telling me that Marianne Meed Ward’s political pull had nothing to do with it? It was a conflict of interest of Marianne being allowed to sit on the PARC. Unfortunately, no one on the Board had enough guts to say so. Because there was a quite of few people that questioned her being on the PARC.”

This commentator clearly doesn’t understand what influence a member of city Councillor has – little too nothing in this school board matter.

Another commentator asked:

I question the influence of a sitting City council member on the PAR Committee and want to better understand the role this played in Director Miller’s change of heart.

The Gazette doesn’t think Meed Ward got any closer to Miller’s ear than anyone else.

The Central people put up a very strong case; they brought to the attention of the Board information the Board did not have and they raised a lot of questions that no one else was raising.

If Meed Ward brought anything to the PAR it was her optimism and the courage of her convictions. Perfect she isn’t but she did have the courage to venture into what she had to know were going to be troubled waters.

A third comment:

It’s unbelievable, although the Central gang had Meed Ward on their side which was patently unfair.

PAR presentation - ay Bateman Nov 2 HDSB

Attendance at the first public meeting at which the Board of Education went into the community to explain the process. Bateman parents just didn’t show up.

The Bateman parents do face a very difficult situation. The decision they need to make is – can they convince the trustees to make a different decision – and if they can’t – what can they do to make the best of a disappointing situation. Blaming someone else is not going to make anyone’s situation any different.

Parents also need to do something about that paltry $500 being offered for a goodbye school party.

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Identity thieves using Facebook to pull you in - be vigilant.

Crime 100By Staff

April 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

ID theft screenThis is an Identity Theft that attempt that is so obvious – but it will pull in thousands of people if only because there are tens of millions of Facebook users.

If you didn’t make a request to change your password – ignore it. Expect to see this message often. Your Facebook page might have a lot of information about you. You will want to keep it private.

Facebook password change

That “Let us know” line is possibly the most dangerous. If you didn’t request the change – then this is someone wanting to steal your identity and your Facebook page could be a gold mine for a thief.

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Part 1 of a series: Schools to be closed - Director's conclusions.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 22nd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Stuart Miller, Halton District School Board Director of Education sent a 40 page report to the trustees he report to and included 18 appendices with it.

It is a document that is not going to keep everyone happy.

The basic recommendation is to:

Bateman - crowd sceneClose: Robert Bateman High School to be closed June 2019 and students re-directed to Nelson High School and M.M. Robinson High School.

The International Baccalaureate Program to transfer from Robert Bateman High School to Burlington Central High School, effective September 2019.

 

 

pearson-high-school-signClose: Lester B. Pearson High School to be closed June 2018 and the students re-directed to M.M. Robinson High School commencing September 2018.

French Immersion program to be moved from Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School as of September 2018, beginning with the Grade 9 program.

Students from the “Evergreen” community (currently undeveloped) will be directed to M.M. Robinson High School.

There’s a one-page exec summary, 40-ish pages to the report and 18 appendices of varying length. It comes in at well over 200 pages.

The Gazette is going to break the report out into sections and report on each.

Bateman closing rationale

Pearson closing rationale

The selling of Board of Education property

The financial implications.

The bigger picture

We start with Miller’s conclusion:

The Burlington secondary Program and Accommodation Review (PAR) has been a challenging situation for both the Halton District School Board and the communities they serve. It has been especially difficult as all of the schools impacted in this process have served their communities and students well for many, many years.

Miller prep at Central

Director of Education, Stuart Miller.

However as challenging as the process has been, and the resultant perception of its outcome, Burlington’s low enrolment in secondary schools and their projected continued decline has created challenges for the Halton District School Board in providing the same equity of opportunity for these students relative to others in the Board. The students who attend Halton District School Board secondary schools in Burlington deserve the same opportunities, both in range of courses/program offerings and in co/extra-curriculars as those in other areas of the Board.

As a consequence, the Halton District School Board of Trustees approval to initiate a PAR process was based on the two criteria of the policy that are directly related to student opportunities.

School closures in any community are a great challenge for school boards around the province. The Burlington Secondary Program and Accommodation Review is no exception and has without question resulted in many Burlington families feeling anxious and concerned with respect to their community schools and their own children who attend them. It has been especially difficult for the students who currently attend these schools as much was unknown.

However, school closures also present opportunities. The recommendations in this report will create two composite schools, one in the northwest and one in the southeast that house a variety of regional programs, and serve a wider range of students. These recommendations will allow some students in regional programs to be closer to their home, and spend less time on a bus.

Additionally, the recommendations will provide more funds, through both proceeds of disposition and reduced operational costs, to allow for facility upgrades to the remaining schools. They will allow for a geographic balance in the City of Burlington.

The recommendations will also allow for a greater number of students in most programs, but in particular the mandatory Ontario English curriculum, which will also allow for greater breadth and range of course selections. They also allow for a more flexible timetable supporting student choice. The recommendations allow for a greater number of co-curriculars and extra-curriculars, again allowing for greater student choice.

There is still an issue with the low enrolment at Aldershot High School. This will continue to be an issue, and the Halton District School Board is committed to supporting these students as it does with all others.

The location of Aldershot High School made it much more challenging to address the declining enrolment; however as with other municipalities within the Halton District School Board, the recommendation is to support one school in Burlington with low enrolment. Moreover, the school will be explored as a magnet or thematic school, which may potentially increase enrolments in the future.

The specific recommendations in this report will continue to support community schools, allow the majority of students to walk to school, will enhance program offerings, reduce course conflicts, enhance co/extra-curriculars, and most importantly continue to provide high quality instruction and support of Burlington’s secondary school students. The recommendations contained within this report are intended to improve and enhance the equity of opportunity for all Burlington secondary school students. This will allow the five remaining Burlington secondary schools to thrive as dynamic, engaging learning environments for decades to come.

Miller with students Mar 7-17

Miller engaged students throughout the public process.

The students likely to have the greatest concern with respect to this report are those presently at the schools recommended to close, and who will be transitioning to a new school.

It is incumbent upon the Halton District School Board to ensure and support a smooth transition of these students. This is paramount. Funds will be made available to support both the transition and integration of these students into their new school.

For students yet to attend Robert Bateman High School and Lester B. Pearson High School, their home school will be either Nelson High School, M.M. Robinson High School or Burlington Central High School. Prior experience would indicate these students will see these schools as their home school.

There is still much work to do, not the least of which is the transition and integration of the students. This process will be tasked to a diverse committee under the supervision of a superintendent.

There is no question this has been a challenging process for the entire community of Burlington secondary students and their families. However the Halton District School Board was facing, and indeed had faced a challenge in providing equity for those very same students for the foreseeable future.

The choice was to allow a situation that deprived secondary students in Burlington the same opportunities as other students in the Halton District School Board, or to address this inequity and make a recommendation to enhance these students’ secondary school experience.

The primary focus of the Halton District School Board’s secondary schools is to prepare students for what comes after (post-secondary, career, pathways) they leave our schools. It is essential the Halton District School Board prepare our students with a broad range of pathways and program opportunities.

In the Halton District School Board’s Multi-Year Plan, the vision is “Every student will explore and enhance their potential, passions, and strengths to thrive as contributing global citizens”. The intent and spirit of this report and recommendations is to fulfill that vision for every student attending Burlington secondary schools now, and for the years ahead.

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Director of Education recommends that Bateman and Pearson be closed; trustees have final word June 7.

Newsflash 100By Pepper Parr

April 21st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The following  is a portion of the report of the Director of Education to the Halton District School Board trustees:

Robert Bateman High School to be closed June 2019 and students re-directed to Nelson High School and M.M. Robinson High School.

The International Baccalaureate Program to transfer from Robert Bateman High School to Burlington Central High School, effective September 2019.

Lester B. Pearson High School to be closed June 2018 and the students re-directed to M.M.
Robinson High School commencing September 2018.

French Immersion program to be moved from Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School as of
September 2018, beginning with the Grade 9 program.

Students from the “Evergreen” community (currently undeveloped) will be directed to M.M.
Robinson High School.

Aldershot High School will be explored as a site for a magnet program or themed school.

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