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

highschoolsBy Staff

May 8th, 2017



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

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

Bateman hug

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Podrebarac and Ridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Girl with T-shirt LBPH

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unhappy parent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PARC Feb 9 Reynolds and Grebenc

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

How will the trustees follow up with their questions?

What impact will delegations like this have on the process?

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

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

  • Sharon

    Read the article in Monday’s Hamilton Spectator. The Opinion Section
    Link to that:

    • Mike Ettlewood

      Mr Elliott’s opinion doesn’t make it so. The worst optic, again in my humble opinion, is a City Council that sits on its hands and lets other jurisdictions within the Region decide what will happen in Burlington. It happened with the Beach and it will happen here. MMW has the courage of her convictions and I applaud her efforts. Bad optics, even if you accept them as such, do not constitute a conflict of interest. People should be very careful with their use of terms.

    • JQ Public

      Let us all understand that Ms. Meed Ward is a parent of a child at Central, was asked by parents to be one of their two PARC reps and finally, is only one of 14 reps on that committee. To suggest she has no right to be on the PARC is ludicrous. To suggest that her 1 vote counts for any more than any other PARC rep is also ludicrous.

      City Council dropped the ball badly by refusing to support communities and neighbourhoods in the discussion. They sent a representative that was the equivalent of a fly on the wall.

      So Council decided it had no say at all in this matter and Ms. Meed Ward had no “official” Council message to deliver. She had her own parental message and counsel to bring to the table. Which she did. Good for her.

  • Sharon

    When I called the Mayor at the beginning of the PAR. He told me that if the Code of Conduct was in place MMW would not have been allowed to sit on the PARC. He also told me that MMW knew how City Council felt about her being part of the PARC. Which was didn’t support her decision. MMW did anyways.

    • Mike Ettlewood


      I’m not sure whether you’re agreeing with me or not. Regardless, I don’t doubt that the Mayor saw a conflict but he is continually “conflicted” when it comes to meaningful and timely action. There is nothing in the “Role of the Ward Councillor” above that would conflict MMW or would have prevented her from participating as a PARC member. Nor is there anything in the diluted Code of Conduct guidelines that Council failed to pass, the latter being a disgrace in and of itself. This Council, with one exception, failed to effectively reflect and represent the interests of the community in the current PAR process. ‘Not my job’ is neither accurate nor useful but it seems to be their mantra. For what it’s worth and only my opinion.

  • Will

    I understand that if the councilors had signed their code of conduct there would not have been a councilor able to sit at the table. I pulled this from the city of Burlington page as a reminder. I don’t know how it can’t be a conflict.

    Role of Ward Councillor

    This abbreviated description for the role of ward councillor is based on the guide published by MAH:

    to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality;
    to develop and evaluate the policies and programs of the municipality;
    to determine which services the municipality provides;
    to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality;
    to ensure that administrative policies and practices are in place to implement the decisions of council;
    to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality; and
    to participate as a member of council for Halton Region.

    • Mike Ettlewood

      Ok – you and I must be reading something quite different or the same thing quite differently. Where exactly do you see the conflict? I see none.