Quiet time while the Board of Education writes its reports and debates the options it wants to present to the trustees.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 5th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Engaged parents

Parents at a public meting were the details for each of the school closure options were made available.

Parents with high school students are getting a bit of a break from the work that was done by the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC). The members of that committee have completed their work knowing that they did everything they could to dig out much needed information and whittled a list of more than 30 possible options down to five.

Those five are:

Robert Bateman high school closes in June 2018.
Nelson high school closes in June 2018
No schools closed – catchment boundaries are revised.
Central and Pearson high schools are closed in June 2018
Pearson high school closes in June 2018

The next municipal election, at which school board trustees will stand for election is October 2018.  The provincial government is up for re-election on June xx 2018.

The schedule going forward is:

Chair of the PARC gives his report to the Director of Education (The Gazette has yet to be given a date for the completion of this report.)

Friday April 21, 2017 – Director’s Final Report released online at www.hdsb.ca in the agenda package for Committee of the Whole.

Wednesday April 26, 2017 (6 pm) – Director’s Final Report will be presented to the Board of Trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line, Burlington). This meeting will be live-streamed on the Board website. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

Monday May 8, 2017 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night. These evenings will be live-streamed on the Board website.

Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). Seating priority in the Boardroom will be given to delegates. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre). Monday, April 17, 2017 – Is the first date to submit online Delegation Request Forms for the May 8 Delegation Night.

Thursday May 11 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night. These evenings will be live-streamed on the Board website.

Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). Seating priority in the Boardroom will be given to delegates. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre). Thursday, April 20, 2017 is the first date to submit online Delegation Request Form for the May 11 Delegation Night.

Public gallery Feb 9

Parents listening to the PARC meetings. Central high school parents had a team at these meetings every occasion.

Wednesday May 17, 2017 (7 pm) – Board meeting. Final Report to Board of Trustees for “information”. Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

Wednesday June 7, 2017 (7 pm) – Board meeting. Final Report to Board of Trustees for “decision”. Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

Maps of the school boundaries and the rationale for each option is set out HERE.

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City council decides not to write a letter to the Ministry of Education.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 5, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City council had decided they were going to keep a barge pole length between what they do and what the Public school board has to do.

These two organizations –both vital to the smooth operation and functioning of the city are far apart when it comes to working together on joint issues. The city and the school board are so far apart that they don’t even meet on a formal basis.

The Halton District Regional Police make a presentation to the city; the Library makes a presentation to the city. When the Board of Education meets with the city it is usually at the staff level and then it usually boils down to a turf war. These guys tend not to play golf with each other.
Everyone in the city is the lesser for that political failure.

When the Board of Education told its trustees that it believed it was necessary to close two high schools (that was one of 19 options the School Board staff had considered) City council seemed to be hoping that the matter would stay at the school board level – let them deal with the inevitable political fallout.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about - civic engagement

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster were te only two who wanted the city to write a letter to the Minister of Education to halt the Program Accommodation Review the school board was undertaking.

And it seemed to be working out – that was until Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman asked Council to waive the advance notice of a motion rule and debate his motion that the city write the Ministry of Education asking for an immediate halt to the school closing process now in place to consider the closing of one and perhaps two of the seven high schools in the city.

It has become the hottest political potato the city has faced in a decade.

There was considerable discussion and debate on whether city council was going to let the Sharman motion come forward. Eventually they did on a 5 for, 2 against vote.

One of the negative votes was cast by Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who argued that it was too late for the city to have any impact on the decision.

Meed Ward said: The moment for the city to show some leadership passed when city council chose to appoint the city manager to the PARC instead of the Mayor and then not give the city manager anything in the way of a mandate. “That ship has sailed” she said.

The motion was to ask that the city write the provincial government and ask that there be an immediate halt to the school closing process now taking place.

Council agreed to allow the motion to proceed which brought Denise Davey to the podium who was given permission to delegate.

She said:

As I wrote in my column in The Hamilton Spectator, this has been an extremely difficult and emotionally draining few months for thousands of parents across the city. We’ve been pulled into a process that we knew nothing about and it’s been a steep learning curve trying to figure it all out.

In addition to trying to sift through a maze of information, we’ve had to deal with ineffective public information sessions where we had no voices and a tedious online survey.

Denise Davey at council April 3

Delegator Denise Davey

My worry is that that flawed process and that misinformation that’s been floated around is leading us in the wrong direction and my position – and the reason I approached Paul Sharman – is that I believe Burlington city council needs to take a leadership role.

This is your city and the closure of any school will have an impact on the social and economic fabric of the entire community.

I am not asking that you take a stand around which school to close but simply that you support Councillor Sharman’s motion to suspend the process immediately so that in the end the right decision will be made.

I want to offer an example of how problematic this process has been and why it needs to be suspended, namely, that the data and information being thrown out to the public about Bateman school has been seriously misrepresented.

Shortly after this point Committee chair Meed Ward cautioned Davey that she was straying from the subject being debated.

Davey pressed on and was cautioned a second time – she was determined to get the Bateman high school plea on the record.

Sharman intense LaSalle

Councillor brought in a “walk on” motion to have the city write a letter to the province asking that the Program Accommodation Review in Burlington be halted.

Sharman then began to explain what he was hearing from his constituents. He said he had been asked to help find corporations that might help fund keeping the high schools open. He didn’t mention any specific corporations and asked council to support his request that the provincial government be asked to immediately halt the school closing process in Burlington.

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor, the longest serving member of Council, joined the debate. He didn’t support letting the motion get to the floor of council and he wasn’t going to support the motion either.

He then went into what was pretty close to a tirade about party politics getting into the debate.

He did however bring some background and wisdom when he explained that the “baby boomers” – those born just after the end of the Second World War, have changed everything they touched as it grew and evolved.

They changed the way education was delivered; we were building elementary schools all over the place and then high schools, and then then universities.

The woman who worked in factories during the war returned to their homes, married and had children. Three to four children was not unusual. Those children needed schools. They were the boomers and as they grew families found they needed two incomes to pay for the housing they wanted.

Taylor asked his colleagues why anyone was surprised that we face this problem today. It has been in the making for more than fifty years. When dozens of elementary schools were closed it should have been no surprise that at some point high schools would have to be closed as well.

If what the Minister of Transportation said comes true - Taylor just might consider retiring - his work would be done.

Councillor Taylor gave Council members a broad stroke picture of what they were dealing with.

Taylor added that the next phase the boomers are going to impact is the building of hospitals and nursing homes to take care of the boomers who are now aging.

To add to it all Taylor pointed out that advances in medicine have us living longer.

We have to do something about this problem – it can be avoided, he added.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison said that this was a provincial government and Board of Education trustee problem – it is not a city problem. He saw no point in the city making a plea to the provincial government.

Ward 6 Councillor Blair Lancaster said that more and more parents were asking her to become involved. “None of the schools that are being recommended for closure are in my ward but some of the students are”, she said.

And added that she too felt the process was flawed and that while she wasn’t comfortable with interfering she was very concerned about the problem of the quality of the data that was being used to make a decision.
“This is an important decision and I want the best data available to make that decision”, she said. Lancaster added: “If an appeal to the provincial government can get us a time out and let us take a step back and get better data and do it right then I am for sending the letter.”

Meed Ward said she did not believe the province would intercede for one Board of Education and asking it to do so was “irresponsible and inappropriate”.

Podrebarac and Ridge

City manager James Ridge, on the right, with PARC Chair Scot Podrebarac. Ridge said very little during the meetings – he wasn’t given a mandate other than to attend the meetings.

“Council squandered its opportunity to lead on this. There was an opportunity to send an elected member – we didn’t do that and we didn’t give the person we did send anything in the way of a mandate.”

Having “squandered” the opportunity to lead Meed Ward said the city could now join the other organizations in asking the province to put a moratorium in place across the problem. ROMA – the Rural Ontario Municipal Association has done a lot of research that is very well documented – we could join their plea. AMO, the Association of Municipalities in Ontario has made comments however they have not asked for a moratorium.

Meed WArd at PARC

Meed Ward is troubled by the message city Councillors are sending constituents, particularly parents of Central and Pearson high school students.

Meed Ward said she is “troubled” with the kind of message is this council sending when it said up and down that it was not going to get involved but now we have council members who have schools that might be closed in their wards and want the city to do something when the opportunity to do anything has passed.

What message does this council send to the parents of Central and Pearson? that we did not value their schools when they were subject to closure but now that other schools have been named we want to interfere? This is both inappropriate and offensive.

During the discussion the Mayor mentioned that he had a conversation earlier in the day with the Minister of Education – but didn’t say what words were exchanged.

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Housing Options For Seniors: Getting your parents to the point where they are ready to make a change.

seniorsBy Pepper Parr

April 4TH, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

How does one go about the process of giving their parents into some form of care when they can no longer fully care for themselves?

The parents tend to resist this change in their lives – to a considerable degree because they don’t know enough about this next phase of their lives.

Marion Goard

Marion Goard, came up with the idea for the event. she has been nominated as one of Burlington’s BEST

Marion Goard, a Burlington real estate agent went through this process with her parents and found it emotionally exhausting. It was clear to her however that in her situation changes had to be made.

Where to go for information? That’s when Goard found that there really wasn’t a single place with all the information needed. There were all kinds of vendors with their offerings but that meant travelling from possible location to yet another possible location.

That is when Goard came up with the idea of gathering all the service providers and the vendors and the social agencies in one location and inviting people to attend and learn as much as they could.

The Housing Options For Seniors Event was born

Housing options for seniorsHere is the list of organizations who are going to be at the Monday April 10th event being held at the Holiday Inn.

Burlington Age Friendly Seniors Council – Housing Committee
Burlington Gardens Retirement Residence
CARP, Halton Chapter (Canadian Association for Retired Persons)
Chartwell – Christopher Terrace Retirement Residence
Chartwell – Martha’s Landing Retirement Residence
Egality
Estate Concierge
Hearthstone by the Lake
Halton Heart to Home Meals
Heritage Place
Home Equity Bank – Reverse Mortgages
Home Share
Lakeshore Place Retirement Residence
LaSalle Park Retirement Community by Signature
Neat Spaces
Organize Me
Park Avenue Manor
Pearl & Pine Retirement by Signature
Retire-at-Home Services
RBC Royal Bank
Revera Appleby Place
Sell ‘n STAY
Sunrise of Burlington
The Gardens by Maranatha
The Village of Tansley Woods (Schlegal)
The Williamsburg Uptown Seniors Living

That is an impressive collection of people who can help and organizations that have services that might work for you and your parents.

A web site was created with a form people could use to register.

That’s when the problems began to occur.

“Everyone I talked to” said Goard “thought it was a great idea – but the registrations aren’t all that great.”

It is a very good idea and worth a visit even if you are only going to look around and kick some tires.

Registration isn’t vital but Goard would like an idea as to how many people to expect. You can register at: https://www.mariongoard.ca/seniors/housing-options-for-seniors-event.aspx

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Rainfall results in a watershed weather advisory; in force until April 9th - creeks are no place for children.

News 100 blueBy Staff

April 3rd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Watershed notice March 24-17Environment Canada has issued a Special Weather Statement that forecasts rainfall depths of 20-30 mm in our region, overnight and into the day Tuesday.

Rain is also forecast from Wednesday through Friday, with more significant rainfall potential Thursday.

Creek - rushing water

Our forests aren’t this green yet – but the flow of water is what we are seeing now with the Spring rains.

Following recent rains last week, flows are still elevated and soils are wet. As a result of the forecasted rainfall, watercourses may rise rapidly. Banks may be slippery and currents may be strong. Local streams and rivers may become dangerous, particularly in the vicinity of culverts and bridges.

Widespread flooding is not anticipated, however fast flowing water and flooding of low lying areas and natural floodplains may be expected.

Conservation Halton is asking all residents and children to stay away from all watercourses and structures such as bridges, culverts and dams. Elevated water levels, fast flowing water, and slippery conditions along stream banks continue to make these locations extremely dangerous. Please alert children in your care of these imminent dangers.

This Watershed Conditions Statement – Water Safety will be in effect through Sunday April 9th, 2017. Conservation Halton will continue to monitor stream and weather conditions and will provide updates as required.

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Failed schools: The challenge now is for citizens who’s neighbourhood schools face closure, to transition from protest to vision.

opinionandcommentBy James Smith

April 2, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The next few months will be difficult for many Burlington parents and students as the Public Board decides the future of several schools. This issue is hardly new to Burlington or Halton, the phenomenon of is being played out throughout Ontario, Canada and North America. For example, Hamilton has closed 14 schools since 2003. Shifting demographics call for creative solutions. Some change is coming to Burlington Schools, what that change will look like is far from determined at this point.

Old school

While Burlington’s high schools are not quite this old – these old country schools have disappeared and been re-purposed.

In the past, boards have taken the relatively easy route (if closing a school and the ensuring protests they cause can be called easy) when a school is determined to be redundant; they have applied to municipality for re-zoning, then sell the land to the highest bidder. South East Burlington in 1987, when we moved there, had two separate schools, one high school and five public schools within walking distance. Soon both Elizabeth Gardens and Breckon Schools were closed and St Patrick School, the school our kids attended, hung on by its fingernails. At one point only having 75 students!

Having fought hard to keep our local school, I understand what parents are now going through in their attempt to keep a local school. In our case we had a little bit of luck on our side, many of the original empty-nester home owners were selling to families with a couple of kids, so more children were moving into the neighbourhood. More importantly, the former Shell refinery lands west of Burloak, north of New Street meant expanded enrollment significantly. Neither new development nor is intensification is likely going to be an answer to expand enrollment for the schools at risk. The challenge now is for citizens who’s neighbourhood schools face closure, to transition from protest to vision.

Once the decision to close a school has been made, the challenge is to question some deeply held preconceptions; no easy task. The first preconception parents especially need to rid themselves of is the myth of the local school, especially when it comes to a high schools. Local schools, the kind that parents will often define as those as “within walking distance” are more and more not places children walk to. Sure some kids walk, but a significant number of children of all ages are now chauffeured to and from school. One just has to look at the infrastructure put in place to accommodate the pick-up delivery of children in cars. Passing by a school at opening or dismissal, makes one pine to be at the Mall the last weekend before Christmas by contrast. How do local traffic jams add to a community?

Many will talk about the loss of so called open space. Schools often have rather than open space something more akin to a green deserts surrounding the school building. Rarely used manicured lawns, a landscape design element left over from the plan books of Victorian through post war planners that serves little or no purpose; we’re just used to having them. We are used to seeing these areas with nothing there, so we want to keep these green dead zones. The green deserts surrounding all schools, but especially those to be closed, are resources that presently goes wasted. Overcoming these and other preconceptions and understanding the opportunity in school closures is a big and difficult first step. I have no illusion this will be an easy process to undertake, but citizens need to be ready to embrace this change, even reluctantly.

Once the decision has been made to close a school; who best to plan and execute the redevelopment? As stated the old model was a quick rezoning to Single Family Residential, and sell twenty or 30 residential lots to the highest bidder. While the “take the money and run” approach has served the board in the past, times have changed. Given the time and effort of those who have participated in the PARC exercise have demonstrated, and the controversial nature of the decision to close schools, the Board owe the communities and the city a more inclusive re-visioning exercise.

The board of education, by ownership and necessity must be a partner in the process, and realize most of the financial return, but the lead should be taken by the city of Burlington as the city will have to manage the results of the process. I’m rarely a proponent of the 3P model, but in this case I feel a public private partnership is the best way to maximize the return to the board and the city in developing these assets.

Did I say the city? By the city I don’t mean the politicians nor the planning department. As professional and well meaning as city planners may be, this exercise should be taken up by an outside urban planning firm who doesn’t develop and plan track housing. Preclude those firms with a history of developing planning with, and for, the city of Burlington should also be a condition. In other words, an open competition rather than one from the usual suspects. One consideration would be to fund a competition where three semi finalist firms are paid to work-up general, order of magnitude proposals. This way citizens can wade in on what firm’s vision is in the best interest of the the city at large.

In such a process the city’s role should be limited to setting the general goals and parameters. These guidelines should be as loose as possible to allow the bidding firms as much creative leeway as possible. By awaiting proposals from the winning planning firm prior to changing the zoning of former school property, the city can avoid the mistake of regulation that limits development of a novel proposal. Interesting creative uses shouldn’t be precluded from the beginning due to zoning constraints. Plan, then zone. Part of any redevelopment should include re-purposing some or all of the existing school buildings wherever practical, and the development of the site of community amenity assets should be based on input from the neighbours and citizens in general

Many people find the idea of giving up on what they see as “their school” surrender. Many will feel at this point surrender is premature. Change is likely coming. The best way to prepare for change is to start considering and examine one’s prejudices and to start to imagine what the second best alternative might be. Burlington might be a better place as a result of this kind of exercise.

James Smith is a  is a former resident of Burlington and is a contract Designer, who includes Phillip H Carter Architect and Planning as one of his clients.

 

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$20,000 will bring another community garden to the city; TD Bank writes the cheque.

News 100 greenBy Staff

March 30th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Toronto-Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation is sending the city a cheque for $20,000 to enhance the construction of a new community garden in Ireland Park. Construction of the new garden will begin this fall and will open in spring 2018. The garden will include 36 ground based plots and 3 raised accessible plots.

The city has come a long way since June of 2011 when Amy Schnurr of Burlington Green and Michelle Bennett stood as a tag team before city council trying to convince them to put up 15% of the cost of opening the first city based community garden.

schnurr-stewart-peachy-1024x805

Amy Schnurr at the opening of the first community  Garden. Former city general manager Scott Stewart on the left and Rob Peachy realizing that it was Schnurr and Burlington Green that got the city into community gardens.

Council wasn’t all that keen on the idea but they couldn’t get away from the two women; they were relentless.
They prevailed and the community garden opened to some fanfare and has grown to the point where there are now four such gardens.

Construction of the new garden will begin this fall and will open in spring 2018. The garden will include 36 ground based plots and 3 raised accessible plots.

Funding will be used to expand accessible garden plots and accessible pathways throughout half of the community garden. These pathways will use wild thyme—a drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly ground-cover with reinforced turf mesh—rather than wood chips. This will result in an even, stable, accessible surface, allowing people with limited mobility equal opportunity to visit more areas of the community garden and interact with the other gardeners.

The grant will contribute to the cost of an accessible garden shed, an accessible picnic table and three raised, accessible garden plots.

A perennial garden will be planted around a one-metre border outside the garden fence to attract bees and add flowers to the area. TD FEF staff will be asked to help plant the perennial garden as part of TD’s staff volunteer program.

wer

Michelle Bennett – talked the city out of $11,000 + and created a network of community gardens.

The city has four community gardens with 126 plots in total for 2017:

• Amherst Park
• Central Park
• Francis Road Bikeway
• Maple Park.

This year’s planting season will run from May 1 to Oct. 22, 2017. All plots have been assigned for this season.

The cost to rent a plot for the season is $50. Water, soil and compost are supplied and all plots have full sun.

Community garden applications are available online at www.burlington.ca/communitygardens, the Burlington Seniors’ Centre, or City Hall, 426 Brant St., at the Service Burlington counter. Completed applications are accepted until Nov. 30, 2017 for the 2018 planting season. Plots at all five gardens will be allocated by lottery at the close of the application period.

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The Board of Education has its lens; the parents who want their schools kept open have their lens - are these rose coloured glasses?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 29, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

What was originally planned as a two meeting consultation ended its seventh meeting with several of the 14 participants not certain they had finished the job they set out do – which for many was to ensure that their school did not close and for most to do everything they could to not close any schools.

There were some hard truths to be dealt with – there are 1800 plus secondary classroom seats empty and 3000 + elementary classroom seats that are not being filled.

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.

Empty classroom seats – 1800 + at the secondary level and 3000 + at the elementary level. Unsustainable.

The problem was twofold – too many empty seats and catchment area boundaries that did not match well enough with the student population

It was during those conversations that the gap between the thinking the Board of Education does and the thinking the parents do – most of whom had strong private sector backgrounds, became painfully evident.

In thanking the 14 PARC participants Director of Education Stuart Miller was both positive and effusive. He had learned far more than he expected to learn and was much more aware of where the school board was failing to communicate effectively with parents.

Miller prep at Central

Director of Education Stuart Miller

Miller mentioned how complex running an education system is and touched upon the acronyms that are used to describe the numerous programs that are offered to students. He added that the board knew the education side of the problem and the parents knew the community side of the problem and that the space between the two was much wider than he expected.

If anything comes out of this PARC exercise it is that there is a lot of work to be done by the board to get its story out to the community. Miller has to be given credit for that realization – now he has to find a way to improve that communication and accept that trustees cannot be expected to do all of it.

The options the Board has to deal with is to close one high school or two high schools or try really hard to find a way to not close any of the high schools.

The hard reality is that Burlington no longer has as many families as it once had – and there are nowhere near the number of young people being fed into the educational system

PARC crowd Dec 8-16

The Director of Education admits that the Board has not managed to communicate effectively with the parents – the PARC process taught him that much. How does he change that dynamic?

The problem is now in the hands of the Board staff who have to write reports that will go to the trustees who will then make the final decision – which will be on June 7th

The school year ends June 29th – there are a lot of educators who will want to get out of town real fast – the prospects for keeping all the schools open do not look that good.

 

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The lottery scam or the Inheritance scam - sometimes 100,000 people respond.

Crime 100By Staff

March 28th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

– It’s cliché but if it sounds too good to be true it likely is –

It’s Fraud Prevention Month and the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS) announces its final scheduled Fraud of the Week: Inheritance and Lottery Scams.

The police have focused their public education on fraud and the damage it does to gullible people; usually older people who are not fully aware of what can be done to them via the internet.

Fraud prevention month logoInheritance and lottery scams typically target older individuals who do not use online banking services. This enables fraudsters to hijack victims’ bank accounts for money laundering with less likelihood of them noticing.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, scammers will send up to three million fraudulent letters or emails at a time. The notifications are sent to people around the world and, generally, close to 100,000 people respond. Many victims lose between $20 and $30, but some lose as much as $250,000.

In a typical inheritance scam, an older person receives an email or letter claiming that they are eligible to collect an inheritance. To receive the inheritance, they have a set period of time, usually about 14 days, to respond and provide their contact information by email. Those who reply go on to receive calls and emails from the fraudsters as well as a form requesting personal information.

Shortly thereafter, a cheque for more than a thousand dollars arrives in the mail. To receive the inheritance, victims are asked to cash the cheque and transfer a larger amount of money than the original cheque is worth to the holder of the inheritance. Days later the victim learns that the cheque is fraudulent and they are out the money they transferred.

lottery scamIn a lottery scam, potential victims are contacted by an email, phone call, text message or pop up screen on their computer. They are advised that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. Prior to receiving the prize, however, victims are required to pay taxes, duties or other administrative fees. Once the funds are sent, the victim never receives the prize or is sent an alternate prize than they were promised.

To ensure their continued success, con artists create new twists on both inheritance and lottery scams in an attempt to stay one step ahead of potential victims.

The following protection tips have been provided courtesy of the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and Competition Bureau:

• Remember: Legitimate lotteries do not require you to pay a fee or tax to collect winnings. Known lottery and sweepstakes companies such as Reader’s Digest and Publisher’s Clearinghouse will never request money upfront in order to receive a prize.

• Caution: Never send money to anyone you don’t know and trust.

• Think: Don’t give out any banking information over the phone, through email or via text message.

• Investigate: Carefully examine all terms and conditions of any offer received. Claims of free or very cheap offers often have hidden costs.

• Ask yourself: Did I enter this contest? Why would a stranger leave me money? You more than likely cannot win money unless you have entered a contest nor inherit from someone you do not know.

• Important: Never provide personal information over the phone, no matter who the caller claims to represent.

Anyone with information pertaining to a fraud or any other crime is asked to contact the Regional Fraud Bureau A safe, secure, confidential place to call with information that will keep our streets safe.Intake Office at 905-465-8741 or Fraud@haltonpolice.ca. Tips can also be submitted anonymously to Crime Stoppers “See something, Hear something, Say something” at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), through the web at www.haltoncrimestoppers.ca, or by texting “Tip201” with your message to 274637 (crimes).

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Child behavourial experts doing a free parent presentation titled: Looking Beyond the Behaviour,

eventspink 100x100By Staff

March 28th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Two child behavourial experts will be providing a free parent presentation titled, Looking Beyond the Behaviour, on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in Burlington to teach parents/guardians strategies to help children develop emotional strength.

The event is being presented by Community & Parent Partners for Kids (C.A.P.P. for KIDS), and will run from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at New St. Education Centre (3250 New St., Burlington). There will be community displays from 6:45-7 p.m.

Sonia Holden and Charmaine Williams will be the presenters.

Holden has more than 19 years of experience working with children of all ages and developmental abilities; she coaches and teaches strategies to support emotional development in children.

Williams has more than more than 17 years of experience in social services as a consultant and parenting coach. She has worked with children of all ages and teaches best practices in child development and emotional regulation.
Admission is free but donations toward future speakers will be gratefully appreciated.

C.A.P.P. for Kids is a partnership between Halton Region, Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Reach Out Centre for Kids (ROCK), Our Kids Network, Halton Regional Police Service, Ontario Early Years, Burlington Public Library, City of Burlington, and the Halton Multicultural Council.

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Argonauts to be part of a bullying prevention event - cheerleaders will be on the stage.

eventspink 100x100By Staff

March 27, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Bullying!

It still happens.

And it can do tremendous lifelong damage.

There are instances of suicide as a result of bullying.

Huddle UP posterIt is a different world out there today that has parents looking for any opportunity to educate their children and develop more civil forms of behaviour in the school yards and public playgrounds.

Parents from Lester B. Pearson high school have partnered with Sir Earnest MacMillan elementary school for a program that has the delivery of an address at each school then an evening program at Pearson featuring players from the Toronto Argonauts and some of their cheer leaders.

It is described as a very strong presentation that is aimed at both parents and their children.

Takes place April 10th.

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Burlington's MPP getting hammered by people who don't think she is stepping up and helping them on the matter of school closings.

highschoolsBy Staff

March 27, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

People write the member of city council, or their Member of the provincial legislature (MPP) or the member of Parliament (MP) when they have a beef.

Sometimes they write a “thank you very much” letter.

Burlington’s MPP Eleanor McMahon hasn’t seen too many of the thank you notes recently.

If it isn’t hydro rates they are complaining about then it is the mess at the school board where they are trying to determine which schools to close while parents are asking that none of the schools close.

The following is the correspondence between Cheryl De Lugt, a member of the PAR Committee representing Lester B. Pearson high school.

From: cheryl [mailto:cbtalus@hotmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 04, 2017 8:15 PM
To: Eleanor.McMahon@ontario.ca; McMahon, Eleanor MPP CO
Subject: URGENT REQUEST for Eleanor to vote on Tuesday March 7 to stop the PARC process across this province it is not right to be closing schools which are the heart of the communties

Good Day Eleanor McMahon:

My name is Cheryl De Lugt a very concerned parent in Burlington. As you are well aware the Halton District School Board is under a PARC process of all secondary high schools in Burlington triggered by the Liberal Government that you belong to.

Girl with T-shirt LBPH

Pearson student let people know where she stands.

This process has become incredibly stressful to the citizens of Burlington, parents but more importantly the students that will ultimately affected by any decisions.

I am very concerned about this whole process with a child who has a learning disability and who would be affected the most if her school closes which is Pearson High School as she is in grade 10 and would have to move to a new school in her last year most important year of high school grade 12. As a parent with a child with a disability I fear her transition to high school from the elementary school system fearing she would be lost in the crack, but it was far from that at Pearson. In a smaller school environment she has flourished because every teacher knows every student and they took her under their wings. Wow she would not have had that in a larger mega school environment that this Liberal government is in favour of.

I understand that there is an urgent debate and vote that will be occurring this Tuesday March 7 asking for a moratorium to this flawed process called the PARC. I know first hand being a parent selected to represent Lester B Pearson High School on the PARC Committee, this has been a true eye opening of the recking spending and the lack of accountability and transparency of our school board that we as parent entrust with our children.

I am hoping that you will listen to your Burlington constituents and vote to stop this process and stop closing schools across this Province as they are the heart of the community. I know that the voting rating for the Liberal Party is at it’s all time low and this is time to listen to the people who can or will vote for you.

I appreciate your time but more importantly hope you will vote to stop this PARC process in the legislation on Tuesday March 7, 2017. I do appreciate a response back to this urgent message

Sincerely

 

From: Eleanor McMahon, MPP (Constituency Office) <emcmahon.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>
Sent: March 23, 2017 11:56 AM
To: ‘cheryl’
Subject: RE: URGENT REQUEST for Eleanor to vote on Tuesday March 7 to stop the PARC process across this province it is not right to be closing schools which are the heart of the communties

Dear Cheryl:

Thank you for taking the time to contact my office regarding your concerns related to the pupil accommodation review underway in Burlington. It is important for me to hear from constituents about issues that are important to them. You have clearly outlined your concerns regarding the process and also about Pearson. I was also copied on an email from Jillian to the Trustees and Director – I am assuming she is your daughter – and I very much appreciated hearing from her with the student perspective.

McMahon office - worker facing

The only thing that hasn’t happened is picket lines outside the MPP’s office.

In my role as MPP for Burlington, I have spoken with other parents, students, teachers and residents concerned about the impact of the PAR process. School closures and consolidations are some of the hardest decisions faced by our school boards given the critical role that schools play in the lives of Burlington families and our community more broadly.

Our schools have an impact that extends far beyond the classroom, which is why all residents deserve the chance to provide feedback so their input is reflected in the decision-making process. In my discussions, I have heard from constituents who feel that they have not had adequate time or opportunities to provide meaningful input. I have listened to these concerns and shared it in discussions with constituents, community leaders, trustees and the school board, outlining my expectation that Burlington residents have the chance to participate in consultations.

Decisions with respect to schools and school closures are made at the local level by local decision-makers: school boards (staff) and trustees (elected officials). There was a time, not that long ago, when schools were closed without due consultation. Our government changed this and has empowered local decision-makers to review school accommodation needs, entrusting our school board staff and trustees to ensure that student well-being is the number one priority.

School boards are now asked to ensure these decisions reflect consultations and input from impacted members of the community. The Ministry of Education’s pupil accommodation review guideline provides a framework for this, mandating that meaningful consultation take place.

Local input is essential for local decision-makers as they act on behalf of their community. I expect the Halton District School Board to listen and respond to requests from Burlington residents for more extensive consultation and ensure that their concerns are understood and dutifully addressed. This will ensure that Burlington residents have confidence in the process and therefore, the outcomes.

Encouraging community input is a fundamental principle in important decision-making processes like this and as the MPP for Burlington, I will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents to participate and have their voices heard in these important discussions. Providing our students with the best educational opportunities remains a priority for me, and I expect that a meaningful consultation process will support a robust, high quality education system in Burlington and across the province.

Thanks again for reaching out to me.

Eleanor McMahon – MPP, Burlington

De Lugt wasn’t buying the response she got and shot back at McMahon:
Thank you for your email response but as a concerned parent in Burlington I am not naive in this flawed process that the Liberal Government has created for Local School Boards across this Province to follow. I am not satisfied with your “its not my issue” answer and that this is a decision of the School Board and local elected officials.

Protest outside board office

Central and Pearson high school parents were outside in the cold weather demonstrating consistently.

As a concerned parent that has witnessed first hand this flawed PARC process in Burlington watching communities pitting against communities to save their own school has been a true eye opener to the irresponsible reckless spending and the lack of accountability and transparency of our School Board and Provincial Government that we as parent entrust with our children with.

I work as a nurse in a hospital. We have adopted “A TIME OUT or Patient Briefing” prior to any major procedure such as an operation. The whole team from the surgeon, anesthesia and nurses in the operating room take a momentary pause prior to any operation making sure they ask these questions ( is this the right person, the right surgery, is it the right procedure) this allows the whole team to be on the same page making sure they are delivering the best care to the patient and to carry out the right procedure.

I encourage the Halton District School and the Provincial Government who’s popularity rating is at an all time low at 12% to take “A TIME OUT” which is a momentary pause in closing any schools in Burlington and across this Province. Please be patient and take a time out for approximately 3-5 years wait and watch approach and you will see your student numbers go up. With seniors downsizing and moving out of their homes young families are moving in the students will come.
Burlington is growing and there is projected growth north of the QEW that will be taking place in the next 5-10 years so we will need our schools

Closing schools are not the right thing to do. Schools are the centre of our communities and if the School Board closes one or two schools in Burlington it will severely impact the way this city looks and operates for many many years to come.

Each school has its own stories and its own unique programs and clubs that are important to their communities

I encourage the Provincial  Government, Halton District School Board and the elected School Trustees to think very hard about any decision to close any schools in Burlington with the growth that will occur in Burlington and the lack of green space left to develop there will be a new look to this city with high density development which in turn will yield great number of students.

Sincerely, Cheryl De Lugt

Expect to see a lot more mail like this.  The parents in Burlington have been putting up some very stiff resistance to the closing of high schools.

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High school parents unhappy with what they see MPP McMahon doing on their behalf - not nearly enough is the word on social media.

highschoolsBy Staff

March 26, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There was a time when a multi-national corporation or a Cabinet Minister could put out a statement and it got published with little in the way of comment or analysis.

The advent of on-line and social media changed that – considerably.

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon, who is also a member of the Liberal Cabinet and Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport put out a statement last week that drew significant response from a lot of people who are opposed to the closing of Central high school – they are opposed to closing any high schools but have made it clear that if a high school has to be closed – Central is not the one to shut down.

In her Blog McMahon said:

In my role as MPP for Burlington, I have spoken with parents, students, teachers and residents concerned about the impact of the pupil accommodation review currently underway in our community. School closures and consolidations are some of the hardest decisions faced by our school boards given the critical role that schools play in the lives of Burlington families and our community more broadly.

AGB presentation McMahon

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon” Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport

Our schools have an impact that extends far beyond the classroom, which is why all residents deserve the chance to provide feedback so their input is reflected in the decision-making process. In my discussions, I have heard from constituents who feel that they have not had adequate time or opportunities to provide meaningful input. I have listened to these concerns and shared it in discussions with constituents, community leaders, trustees and the school board, outlining my expectation that Burlington residents have the chance to participate in consultations.

Decisions with respect to schools and school closures are made at the local level by local decision-makers: school boards (staff) and trustees (elected officials). There was a time, not that long ago, when schools were closed without due consultation. Our government changed this and has empowered local decision-makers to review school accommodation needs, entrusting our school board staff and trustees to ensure that student well-being is the number one priority.

Schoolboards are now asked to ensure these decisions reflect consultations and input from impacted members of the community. The Ministry of Education’s pupil accommodation review guideline provides a framework for this, mandating that meaningful consultation take place.

Local input is essential for local decision-makers as they act on behalf of their community. I expect the Halton District School Board to listen and respond to requests from Burlington residents for more extensive consultation and ensure that their concerns are understood and dutifully addressed. This will ensure that Burlington residents have confidence in the process and therefore, the outcomes.

Encouraging community input is a fundamental principle in important decision-making processes like this and as the MPP for Burlington, I will continue to advocate on behalf of my constituents to participate and have their voices heard in these important discussions. Providing our students with the best educational opportunities remains a priority for me, and I expect that a meaningful consultation process will support a robust, high quality education system in Burlington and across the province.

When she was made a Cabinet Minister McMahon beefed up her staff in Burlington and brought on a former staff member from the Mayor’s team. Daphne Jacques sat in on a recent PARC meeting to get a sense of how that process was going.

The Gazette has heard some hair raising comments from Central parents on hoe their conversations with the Minister have gone.  Gets pretty emotional on both sides.

McMahon was getting a lot of negative feedback. Some samples:

Not Nelson Response 7

Not Nelson Response 5

Not Nelson Response 4

Not Nelson Response 2

 

There is some significant constituency work to be done to quell the emotions are are running loose around the school closing issue. At what time does the MPP put herself in front of her public? Not until after the Halton School Board trustees have made a decision – at that time McMahon will know how big a mess she has on her hands.

At just about that time Jane McKenna, the candidate for the Progressive conservative party in Burlington can expect to be heard from.

The date for a decision by the School Board is June 17th – the next provincial election will be a year away. The School Board had said it wanted to implement any school closing decision in September of 2017. That might have to slide forward a year which will make it very awkward for McMahon.

Some very hard thinking will be taking place in the months ahead – on the part of the MPP and on the part of the parents who might be in a very vengeful mood.

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PARC particpants head into the final stretch - have they been able to have a real impact on the decision that gets made or did the process get in the way?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 26th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The dynamic of any group of people takes a little time to reveal itself.

When the people around a table each bring both their own agenda and their own interpretation of what they think the issue in front of them is – that dynamic can get very interesting.

When the Halton District School Board trustees determined that, on the recommendation of the Director of Education, they should hold a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) two people were chosen from each of the seven high schools to provide feedback on the various options.

PARC engagementThose Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) members were expected to work with the parent groups and take the parent views back to the PARC.

The process had several layers of interaction that didn’t always go that well.

The Board staff wanted to control the meeting as much as they could. The facilitator brought in by the Board was expected to gather data and provide some analysis. That process did not go very well – the parents who took part in the several public meetings were not going to go quietly into the night and have a bunch of bureaucrats close their local high school.

Parents now had social media they could use to get their message out. The Gazette played a significant role in creating a platform parents could use to get their views out to a wider audience.
In any collection of people natural leaders emerge and the individual style of the participants comes to the surface.

The work load proved to be a little more than some of the original participants could handle and some of the participants had work commitments that conflicted with the PARC schedule requiring some changes in the PARC makeup.

The Central high school parents chose ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward to represent them. She was joined by Ian Farewell

Many felt that Meed Ward faced a conflict of interest – many more felt she not only had a right to be on the PARC but should be on the PARC because she was known as a pretty direct speaker and not the least bit shy about pushing the edge of the envelope.

Meed Ward was always pretty clear about what she stood for and always kept her election mantra right in front of her: “The people come first.”

Meed WArd at PARC

Marianne Meed Ward as a PARC participant

The Meed Ward we saw at the PARC however, was not the same Meed Ward we see at city council. There is that memorable occasion when she forced her city council colleagues to stand up on four different occasions during a council meeting for a recorded vote – even through the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion.

Time and again she would return to an issue and ask questions. She asked more questions than any other two Councillors combined. She added furrows to the brow of the Mayor and may have changed the colour of some of the hair on his head as well.

We didn’t see that Meed Ward at the PARC meeting. She participated, rather well for the most part, but she was a much more subdued Meed Ward at a table some thought she should not be at.

She did at the last meeting let the Board know that she was not happy with the process she had to live with and wanted to be certain that the Board would interview all the participants and get their feedback on the way the process had worked out. She wanted both a group interview and if possible one on one face to face interviews.

PARC Jan 27 - school reps

Cheryl deLugh standing centre, represented parents from Pearson high school.

Pearson high school PARC member Cheryl de Lugt tuned out to be one of the stronger participants and came up with some of the best lines heard during the five meetings.

There wasn’t a single person who felt the PARC process was satisfactory. Director of Education Stuart Miller admitted that it had its shortcoming and those people at Queen’s Park that the Central parents spoke to when they met with the politicians and the bureaucrats admitted that the process could be improved.

The PARC rules and procedures were new and they did need some tightening up. The fear the Central parents have is that a poorly thought out process might result in their school being closed.

Few feel that Central should be closed – other than Board staff who focus on the cost of keeping Central open.

Hard working people PARC

PARC members found themselves having to put the interests of their school ahead of the bigger picture – the interests of th city and its educational system.

The PARC process put parents representing the different schools at odds with each other as they defended their school.

No one in the room was fighting for the city and the impact closing a high school in the downtown core would have.

Donna Danielli, the trustee advisor on the PARC said that the decision the trustees make is going to be one of the most important this Board makes.

She got that right – and it looks as if the process is going to prevent the best decision from being made.

Unless of course the 11 trustees choose to be brave and look at the bigger picture.

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PARC gets one more kick at the can - additional meeting to listen to

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 26th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

You would think that after three months of being tightly focused on the issue of closing two high schools in Burlington the 14 members of the PARC would be quite happy to call it a day and get back to living normal lives.

Hasn’t worked out quite that way.

During the past two meetings this PAR committee has found its footing and has become a group with two distinct parts; one that wants to go a little further and be more a part of the process that is going to make the decision rather than be just a group that was reacting and responding to questions put to it by the Chair  Scott Podrebarac.

There are others that don’t want to do much more – they feel their school is safe and that the job is done.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

Ian Farewell, on the left, a Central parent and Steve Cussons and Aldershot parent were the two PARC members who never varied from wanting to keep all the schools open. Farewell was adamant that Central not be closed.

Those who wanted to do more were able to prevail and there will be a sixth and final meeting Monday evening.

Steve Cussons, an Aldershot parent, wanted the PARC to be able to step beyond the 13 point framework they were given to work within and talk about some innovative ideas that could perhaps keep all the schools open.  Cussons wasn’t able to define what he meant by “innovative” but it was clear he didn’t want to give up.

They were given a template to use as they made decisions on the various options that were put in front of them.

That template asked them to consider, but not be limited to the following:

1. Range of mandatory programs;

2. Range of optional programs;

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

Starting with more than 40 options the PARC members whittled that down to the following five:

Option 23d ‐ Robert Bateman HS, Lester B Pearson HS closes, Dr. Frank J Hayden SS program change
No change to Aldershot HS boundary
Burlington Central HS catchment expands to include Tecumseh PS catchment
IB program added to Burlington Central HS from Robert Bateman
Nelson HS boundary expands east. SC‐SPED & Essential programming redirected to Nelson HS from Robert Bateman
MM Robinson HS ENG catchment expands to include Lester B Pearson HS
Frank J Hayden SS FI program redirected to M.M. Robinson HS. No change to the English catchment.

par-hdsb-parents-at-bateman

When the process of getting information out to parents few of them showed up at the Bateman high school meeting.

Option 4b – Robert Bateman HS closes
No change to Aldershot HS
Burlington Central HS expands to include the entire Tecumseh PS
Nelson HS expands east to include Robert Bateman HS. Nelson HS receives the SC‐SPED and Essential programming from Robert Bateman
MM Robinson HS catchment expands to include Kilbride PS catchment
Lester B Pearson HS catchment expands to include Florence Meares PS catchment. IB program and Gifted Secondary Placement added to Lester B. Pearson HS from Robert Bateman HS and Nelson HS
Frank J Hayden SS English catchment area is reduced.

Option 7b – Dr. Frank J Hayden SS Boundary change
No schools closed.
Lester B Pearson HS catchment expands to include Kilbride PS catchment area, John William Boich PS catchment area south of Upper Middle Road, and Alexander’s PS catchment
Frank J Hayden HS catchment reduced.

Option 28d – Burlington Central HS and Lester B Pearson HS closes, Program change for Dr Frank J Hayden SS
Aldershot HS catchment area expands easterly to railway tracks, ESL program added to Aldershot from Burlington Central
Nelson HS catchment area expands west to the railway
Robert Bateman HS catchment area expands to include John William Boich PS catchment area and Frontenac PS catchment
MM Robinson HS catchment area expands to include Lester B Pearson HS catchment area.
FI is removed from Dr. Frank J Hayden SS and redirected to MM Robinson HS
CH Norton PS area that is currently directed to Lester B Pearson HS, to be redirected to Dr Frank J Hayden

Will Nelson high school students be on the streets next week?

Option 3b – Nelson HS closes: Dr Frank J Hayden SS and Burlington Central HS have a program change
Aldershot FI expands to include Burlington Central HS FI catchment
Burlington Central HS English catchment area expands to Walkers Line
Robert Bateman HS expands west to Walkers
FI program added to Robert Bateman HS
Lester B Pearson HS catchment area expands to include John William Boich PS catchment area and Kilbride PS catchment area. The Secondary Gifted placement added to Lester B Pearson HS from Nelson
Frank J Hayden SS FI program redirected to M.M. Robinson HS.
Frank J Hayden HS catchment reduced.

Earlier in the proceedings it looked as if the Board recommendation of closing two high schools – Central and Pearson was a go. The option to not close any schools had some traction during the first round of cuts but the Board staff original recommendation was at the top of the list.

The focus when the first cut was done shifted to hard lobbying by the Bateman and Nelson parents to ensure that they were not closed.

Nelson appears to be safe, but Bateman is still very much at risk.

When this process started Director of Education Stuart Miller said many times that the option that board staff put forward and the trustees agreed to might not be what the PARC committee would agree on and it might not be what the trustees decided on.

Staff had many choices – they felt that closing Central and Pearson was the best of the more than 40 options that were considered.

The sense at this point is that Pearson needs to be kept open to handle the overflow that is going to be seen in the northern part of the city. Pearson was a purpose built school – it is the smallest of the seven high schools and has more property than any other high school in the city. Hayden is already at close to 150% of it rated capacity.

Option 7 – a decision not to close any of the high schools had a bit of a battle to remain on the list. Some PARC members thought such an option voided the whole purpose of the PAR process while others felt very strongly that the public had the right to voice an opinion on whether or not they wanted any of their high schools closed.

Cussons and a number of other PARC members want to keep all the schools open – and they think there are some innovative approaches that can result in just that.

Scott P - close up

PARC chair Scott Podrebarac.

Chair Scott Podrebarac is bending over backwards to give the PARC people every opportunity possible to talk through every idea they have. He has gone so far as to revise the schedule that moves everything back by almost a month with a final decision to be made on June 17th.  That decision was supposed to be made on May 19th.

The critical dates going forward are:

Friday April 21, 2017 – Director’s Final Report released online at www.hdsb.ca

Wednesday April 26, 2017 (6 pm) – Director’s Final Report will be presented to the Board of Trustees at the Committee of the Whole meeting.

Monday May 8, 2017 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night.

Thursday May 11 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night. These evenings will be live-streamed on the Board website. Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line).

Wednesday May 17, 2017 (7 pm) – Board meeting. Final Report to Board of Trustees for “information”.

Wednesday June 7, 2017 (7 pm) – Board meeting. Final Report to Board of Trustees for “decision”.

Is the PARC going to be able to come up with some ideas that will make it possible to keep all the schools open?  Will all the PARC members show up for this final PARC meeting?

The process the city is in created the PARC as the link that would take all the options the Board came up with and communicate them to the parents.  The PARC has no authority – all it does it pass along its ideas.

Trustees - fill board +

The Halton District School Board trustees

The trustees are the people who will make the final decision.  They don’t have to accept the recommendation the Director of Education makes.  They do have to reflect the will of the people.

And, it is not just the four Burlington trustees who make that final decision; all 11 trustees have a vote.  The dynamics of how that vote turns out is going to make the 2018 elections very interesting.

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New dates for report delivery, delegation date and final school closing reports to the trustees who will make a decision on June 7

highschoolsBy Staff

March 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It isn’t over yet friends.

The 14 members of the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) decided last night that they wanted on more kick at the can – and while the Chair, HDSB superintendent Scott Podrebarac  wasn’t excited about the idea – it became evident that there were enough people who wanted to meet again to talk about innovation and how the Board of Education might look at different options when it comes to closing schools.

PARC Jan 27 full group

The PAR members deliberating with the public watching and listening.

As well, it had become clear that the original time table could not be met. So everything got bumped back by about as much as a month.

Monday, April 17, 2017 is the first date to submit online Delegation Request Form for the May 8 Delegation Night.

April 20, 2017 – First date to submit online Delegation Request Form for the May 11 Delegation Night.

April 21: Director’s Final Report will now be posted on April 21

April 26th: Committee of the Whole will meet on April 26 at 6:00 pm to discuss the Director’s Final Report that will have been distributed to the Board of Trustees.  The Committee of the Whole meeting will take place at the J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line, Burlington). This meeting will be live-streamed on the Board website. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

Engaged parents

It was standing room only at the information meeting in March.

May 8 delegation night

May 11 delegation night

Delegation Nights will be May 8th and May 11th.  There will be 25 delegations heard each evening.  A delegation lasts five minutes. Traditionally delegations are recognized on a first come first served basis.  Cheryl deLugt, a PARC member representing Pearson high school, asked if that policy would apply to the PAR matter and was told that there would be a different arrangement for this matter.

Monday May 8, 2017 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night. These evenings will be live-streamed on the Board website. The meeting will take place at the J.W. Singleton Centre.  Seating priority in the Boardroom will be given to delegates. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

May 11 (6 pm) – Public Delegation Night. These evenings will be live-streamed on the Board website.

Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). Seating priority in the Boardroom will be given to delegates. If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

PARC public - Dec 8 - 16

An early December meeting had some empty seats.

May 17:  Director’s Final Report Report goes Board of Trustees for “information”. Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

June 7: Final Vote by the trustees will be made on June 7.   Final Report to Board of Trustees for “decision”. Location: J.W. Singleton Centre (2050 Guelph Line). If additional audience capacity is required, it will be available at M.M. Robinson High School (2425 Upper Middle Road, Studio Theatre).

 

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Jane Michael explains why we have Catholic schools and why they will never locate themselves into the public school buildings.

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

March 24th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

During the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) deliberations taking place at the Public School Board, and in the comments made by people in the Gazette, mention is often made of how the 1800 empty seat problem could be solved if the Catholics just moved into the public schools.

Words like that reflect a serious misunderstanding of the country’s culture and constitutional history. The existence of the Catholic schools is far more than culture and constitutionality. We asked former Halton Catholic District School Board chair Jane Michael to explain the reason we have Catholic schools.  Here is what she had to say:

When my kids were growing up, I made it clear that to get anywhere in life, you had to set clear goals, have a very strong work ethic and you had to be honest. A very high value was placed on education. Coming from parents of immigrants, on both sides of my family, that value was instilled very early in life. In short, there were high expectations to work hard, learn and succeed.

We chose to send our children to Catholic school.

I have seen it written on many a wall –

Christ is the reason for this school. He is the unseen but ever present teacher in its classrooms. He is the model of its facility and the inspiration of its students.

St Anne Catholic elementary school

St Anne Catholic elementary school in the Alton Village

In the Catholic schools, in addition to the teaching of the Ontario Curriculum, a routine of praying is included, a respect for God and for the Church as well as for oneself. The students embody multiculturalism. The educators are united in teaching from a moral compass.

There has been a growing discussion around a one school system. Still, all three political parties are on record as supporting the Catholic school system as an integral part of publicly funded education in Ontario. In particular, the discussion revolves around a one board system. This ignores the fact that Ontario has four overlapping school boards.

Catholic education is part of Ontario, rooted in history. In 1867, the British North America Act guaranteed the educational rights held by minorities at Confederation. I firmly believe that the solemn promise made at the time of Confederation should be kept. It is hard to ignore the wishes of 650,000 children. Ontario is offering publicly funded French schools, Art schools, gifted schools, plus AP/IB schools.

Catholics have paid for their own system and despite changes in funding, still do so today. Catholics are more than one-third of the province’s population, and if I add up Catholic school board supporters, I may say that we are self-funded, as opposed to publicly-funded. Catholic schools have maintained their place in Ontario’s public education system for almost 170 years. It is the Constitutional mandate of Catholic schools to provide Catholic education to Catholic students.

The Catholic school boards have the preferential right to hire Catholic teachers, committed to the goals of the Catholic school system This right is extended to publicly funded social welfare agencies. Catholic high schools admit non-Catholic students, providing open access. Catholic education has grown to include a supporting strong infrastructure of Catholic organizations. Ontario’s French language school system is also divided into public and Catholic. The French Catholic system is supported by French Catholic parents and ratepayers. Ontario Catholic school boards consistently meet or exceed provincial expectations.

My kids’ Catholic elementary and secondary schools were and are, deeply invested communities. Our community, one of warmth and faith, prepares the mind and the soul for the future. Teaching combined academic lessons with those on morals, and good behaviour, and is consistent with religious instruction throughout the whole year. For my family, that was the best of both worlds. Everyone goes through difficult times in life, and going to Catholic school and having faith is very important in order to survive these times.

Catholic education focuses on the entire child; their mental, physical and spiritual selves, as well as core values we have attempted to instill at home. Education is, and always be, a priority in my home, and the school reinforced the need to study and be decent human beings.

Having God in the school makes these kids grow into pretty great people. And, it’s not about being indoctrinated into any one religion. Catholic schools teach the kids to respect others and their religions as well. Catholic Boards mandate that students in Grade 11 study World Religion. When our kids came home from school, they told us of their experiences with the Church and school. I think it helps with behaviour once they know what God expects of them. They want to please God as well as others and they want their parents to be happy and proud of them. Understanding other groups and others’ beliefs is an important part of Catholic education’s teachings; respecting and affirming the diversity of today’s world.

Immersion in Catholic school culture, where religious themes are woven throughout classes and extracurricular activities each day made God a consistent presence and force in the lives of my kids and their classmates. I will always choose Catholic schools. Education is an intensely personal family choice. Historically, the education of our children was always conducted by family. That remains today. Kids spend the majority of their day in school. I will always look for what is in my family’s best interest.

Speaking to a high school graduation class, a graduate came up to me afterwards and said:  “I didn’t really get it – why going to a Catholic school mattered so much. Now that I am about to leave, I know that God will always be with me, that He’ll always keep me safe, and He’ll help me whatever life has in mind for me. I’m not afraid anymore”.

It doesn’t get better than that.

jane-michaelJane Michael is a former Chair of the Halton Catholic District School Board.

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Board of education wants your input on the next budget - they make it quick and easy.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

March 23, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Spending as much as five minutes on what is normally the snooze of the season is not high on the things to do this week list for most people.

But the situation has changed and some people might actually want to spend some time on letting the Board of Education know what they think of the amount of money gets spent on education.

Parents and community members says the Board media release are encouraged to provide input on the 2017-2018 budget priorities. Input may be submitted online until Monday, April 17, 2017

They go on to say: The Halton District School Board values input from parents/guardians, members of the public, staff and students concerning the development of the 2017-2018 budget.

Individuals are encouraged to provide their input concerning the budget priorities for the upcoming school year online through the Halton District School Board website at www.hdsb.ca. Follow the link from the homepage or directly here. Input must be received by Monday, April 17, 2017.

Here is the direct link to the budget input page – get ready for a shock.  What you see below is it – one place to write some comments – click finish and you are done.  Part of the name in the url is “checkbox”   They seem to feel that they have asked for input – and having done that they can check off that box.

School board budget

This is the input page – nothing more. They do suggest in the media release that people might want to bone up on what the current policies are but they don’t provide easy to use direct links. The Board of Education web site is nothing to marvel at.

Before providing input, individuals are encouraged to review the Board’s Multi-Year Plan, Special Education Plan and Operational Plan. A key objective of the annual budget process is to align the Halton District School Board’s financial resources with these important documents. Information and updates regarding budget development are presented to Trustees at Committee of the Whole meetings.

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The number of people who completed the high school closing survey and the quality of the data has become a focus for the PAR participants.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Quantitative? Qualitative?

How many people responded to the survey and was there balance in the responses.

Tuesday evening the PAR Committee members were given a briefing on what the 1611 people who completed the on-line survey had to say about the six options to close high schools that were on the table.

The details on that survey were published as a separate article.

Hard working people PARC

PARC members writing their comments on large sheets of paper.

This PARC has had difficulty with getting good data and pulling information from that data that can be used to determine the best direction.

The process the province put in place to involve parents is now seen as deficient.  It is new and will no doubt be changed but the PAR committee has to work with what they have been given.

The chair of the PARC appears to b ready to loosen things up a little.  Scott Podrebarac, a Superintendent with the Board, is running meetings under a process that is new – he is sort of learning what to do each meeting.  Many of the PAR committee members want a more open process.

Last night the public heard the numbers part of the quantitative part of the data. There was a lot of discussion about the value of the data. The number of responders was small and it was a complex survey with the average time spent by those who completed it amounting  to 21 minutes.  The Board did no report on the number of people who did not complete the survey.

The qualitative aspect wasn’t discussed on Tuesday. There were tens of thousands in the way of comments. How do they get tens of thousands of comments from 1600 + responses? There could have been as many as seven comments from each person (7 x 1611 = 11,277) and the PAR committee wanted to see every one of them.

PARC the Aldershot delegates

PARC members from Aldershot and Central high schools.

There is a significant level of distrust between the Board staff and some members of the PARC. They are complaining about the quality of much of the information they are being given and unhappy with the Terms of Reference they have been asked to work within.

Some members of the PARC feel the Board staff will present just those comments that support their option – which was to close two of the seven high schools.

Board staff talked about privacy issues in releasing all the comments. Blank out anything that identifies anyone responded those PARC members who are unhappy with the way Board staff have been managing the flow of information.

It has taken the 14 PARC members time to begin to work as a group – almost from the beginning the PARC members spent their time and energy defending their schools. When it became evident that both Nelson and Bateman were being considered for closure their representatives became very vocal.

The committee began to feel that the Board staff had them working against each other to save their school when what many of them wanted to do was find a solution that could keep all the schools open

The parents wanted to be part of a process that was going to look for a solution and they felt they weren’t being allowed to do that.

PARC anxious parent

Lynn Crosby didn’t want to miss a word that was said. It was difficult at times to hear what the PARC members were saying

There might have been a bit of a change in the way the Board is managing this process. The trustees are meeting this evening – Wednesday and are expected to add additional meeting time for the PARC members to deliberate.

There is quite a bit more to take place – the real leaders should become more evident very soon.

And everyone is waiting to see what those tens of thousands of comments actually say.

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PARC members are told that they are in a dirty fight and are being forced to oppose their colleagues and parents from other communities.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The gloves are coming off!

While the Board of Education is considering adding more time for the PAR committee to continue their deliberations there are people who have been working on this file for more than eight weeks who are beginning to get very fed up.

“My personal view” writes an advisor to the Central Strong parents group is “ at this time is to STOP this nonsense immediately. It has become nothing more than another episode of The Twilight Zone.

PARC with options on the walls

The PAR committee members with the advisors.

“You, and other ALL other parents and concerned individuals from ANY High School who are VOLUNTEERING their time and resources, are ‎in an unfair fight against people who are getting PAID by you to fight against you and to make you fight against your colleagues and parents from other communities. All the while restricting access to information that they control.

“I strongly suggest that a meeting be called’ inviting ALL parents, concerned individuals, and the media but NOT ‎Board people or Trustees, to consider STOPPING this process ASAP.

Sharn Picken confering with a parentr at a PARC

Bateman high school representative on the PARC exchanging views with a parent.

“Do not issue a Report and refuse to participate in the BS any longer. Boycott this whole mess and send a petition, signed by everyone, to the Premier and Minister of Education, saying that ‘enough is enough’.
“No Report, No Decision, No Schools closed. All of the Parents and Students win‎ until a FAIR, OPEN and TRANSPARENT process is established by the Ministry of Education. “

The advisor has asked that he not be identified at this point, has been helping the Central parents get data and plan a strategy.

If there is a meeting held the Gazette will cover it.

The line that “No Report, No Decision, No Schools closed” is not accurate. The PARC members are not asked to write a report. The Chair of the ARC a school board Superintendent will write the report from the PARC to the Director.

The PARC members could all walk out tomorrow – won’t make a difference – the Chair will still write a report and mention (maybe in a footnote) that the PARC members chose not to continue.

Hold the meeting and be as public as you can. Then have several of the PAR Committee members write a report of their own and submit it to the Director of Education and demand that he include it in his report to the trustees.

Don’t expect all the PARC members to be part of this approach but if there are enough of them – a majority would b nice – it will have an impact.

This is getting a little feisty isn’t it?

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Parents reviewing school closing options might get more time to do the job they want to do.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 22, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was a very productive meeting and the Program Accommodation Review heard comments that several thought they would never make – the committee had found its voice – and for the first time ever there was a round of applause from the people – 30 some odd – in the gallery.

The meeting – the fifth to date, started with an overview of the data that was collected through an on-line survey that everyone agreed was not accurate and had no validity in terms of useful information. Nevertheless it did reveal something.

The members of the PARC are not at all excited about closing any of the schools – and they want to take a time out and pause to get a clearer sense of where they are going.

PARC Jan 27 - school reps

Cheryl deLugt, a nurse, told the PARC members that she felt they all needed to take a “time out” and determine just what it is they are supposed to be doing. Many other members of the PARC felt the same way.

Lester B, Pearson parent Cheryl deLugt, who works as a nurse, told her fellow PARC members that she felt the committee needed a time out and explained a procedure that operating room staff use:

1-is this the right patient, 2-the correct surgery and 3- is it the right procedure.

Many felt that the PARC had not really found its way and didn’t like how the process had gone so far. They want to review what they have done so far and determine how much flexibility they have on what they can put forward.

DeLugt wanted the board to call a time out – pause and look at what has been done and what hasn’t been done and what they might do better.  To follow the deLugt dictum they have the right patient; no one is sure they are doing the right thing and few are certain they are doing it the right way.

The Board of Education will meet Wednesday evening and the expectation is that they will revise the schedule that is supposed to have the Director of Education delivering his report to the trustees.

The sense is that more time is needed – quite a bit more, for the PARC people to offer some innovative ideas which they weren’t at all sure they could do.

1611 people responded to the survey. The details on the survey results are covered in a separate story.

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