Diane Miller asks provincially appointed Reviewer to revisit the decision to close two of Burlington's seven high schools. Claims it was a flawed process that resulted in a flawed decision.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 25th, 2017



It was dramatic!

Diane Miller, a parent with children in both Lester B. Pearson (LBP) high school and the Robert Bateman high school stood before Margaret Miller, the provincially appointed Reviewer to conduct a review of the process the Halton District School Board used to decide to close two of the seven high schools in Burlington.

“I was going to use my three minutes to stand in complete silence” she said.

“Why you might ask given the importance of our time with you and this Accommodation Review?

Admin rev 1st meet public

Diane Miller, a Lester B. Pearson high school parent, reading her delegation to provincially appointed Reviewer Margaret Wilson.

“Because I wanted my silence to represent how much weight, importance, and consideration that I felt my correspondence to the HDSB, Trustees, Local MPP, Ministry of Education & Premier meant. No matter what came out of my mouth or via email, I felt it wasn’t heard or listened to.

“No matter how much research, how many logical facts, how many ideas either myself or our LBP group or Bateman group presented, they were discarded. The five minute delegation, which I spent hours on, was discounted and forgotten by the time the next person came up to speak. I might as well have said nothing at all. That is how I felt.

“Today I am hoping you will hear me and that this terrible flawed decision, based on a flawed process, will result in a call for this decision to be revisited.

“Communication by definition is an of exchange of ideas. It is a means of connection between people.

“During the Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) review process there was no direct communication between the PARC representatives and the school trustees. The information was filtered or directed to/from the HDSB. While the trustees could attend PARC meetings or public meetings there was no discussion or Q & A with them.

“The public is unaware if there was ever a time when the trustees met to discuss the ideas presented other than at the public HDSB meetings. Trustees seemed to be discouraged from engagement.

“How is this meaningful?

“As delegates we were given five minutes to rush through our presentations. If the trustees had questions then one had the ability to expand on their topic. If not, that was all. No feedback. Nothing.

“The trustees indicated they read through 700 emails (so someone – HDSB? perhaps) was keeping track of that number. Good to know as only two or three trustees ever responded to my correspondence and then only one or two provided more than the automated, I have received your message response.

PARC public - Dec 8 - 16

During the first public meeting in December 2016 parents were asked to answer questions put up on a screen using hand held clickers. The school board was gathering data – the parents thought they were at a meeting where they could ask questions.

“During the first public meeting in December, which most participants seemed to think was a Q & A meeting, the discussion, led by the consultant, appeared to be one way. The audience was given clickers, very slanted questions were put up on a screen and the audience was instructed to click on one of the answers.

“Any questions were met with either silence or that the information was being collected. It was highly frustrating. The process got off to a very bad start.

“It was difficult to get information about the PAR / PARC process to the general public who were not online.

“The information on the HDSB took a bit of searching for some to get updates. It wasn’t until the second PARC meeting in January (2017) that the LBP PARC representatives contact information went up on the LBP website. Principals were under the impression that meeting space and other resources were to be made available. In fact, when I called to ask if a student council meeting, where our trustee would be attending, would allow for Q & A, the principal said she did not know and for me to contact the trustee.

“Community members, at their own cost, and during their own time distributed literature, held meetings, and tried to get information to the students that someone was fighting for their school and for them. It was difficult. The HDSB had all the contact information; the resources to disseminate their information. It was a tilted playing field.

“Is this what the board determines is “communication”?

“Community members were not the only ones who were led to believe that their input would be of value. Students also had that impression.

“In December, before the 1st PARC meeting, a student survey was sent out. The PARC members had no input into the questionnaire. The results of this survey were shared with parents, with the PARC members.

“However, while it is an appendix in Mr. Miller’s report, the contents do not appear to have shaped the decisions made. For example, LBP students marked the fact that teachers knew them; they were there to help them by a large percentage. They were known.

“That is important and impacts learning. It impacts social interactions and mental wellness. LBP is a smaller school. Yet at a HDSB meeting, when asked if he had considered a smaller school within the HDSB parameters moving forward (and I paraphrase here) Mr. Miller said, “no he had not considered a smaller school”. Students were told there would be interaction, yet none seemed to appear during the execution of the PARC phase.

Students doing survey

Survey stations were set up at one of the public meetings.

“Question – Why do a survey if you are going to ignore the data? Especially by the group that you say you are most interested in – the students.

“Teachers who have first hand knowledge into the learning behaviours of their students and interact with them the most had no seat at the PARC table. A survey to capture teacher input was done but with seeming reluctance by the HDSB. The information was given to the trustees but not to PARC members. The rationale was that much would have to be redacted as there would be personal identifying factors. Yet, even redacted, it was not made available to the public. One wonders if the responses did not fit the HDSB narrative.

“The PARC members met seven times yet it was just at the end they felt a positive discussion on innovative ideas was happening. The public, some of whom felt this was a done deal, was left wondering with a variety of both rumours and facts, as to what was going on.

“In a city that is growing why were two schools being targeted for closure? Given that LBP was on 12 of the proposals for closure is it any wonder that the population felt targeted. One still wonders if this process was done in good faith. Why do I ask that?

“a) Our school population, along with Bateman was left to starve of students with the reduction in the number of feeder schools

b) During the PARC a boundary review of a new build happened without LBP (the closer school) even being considered

c) Rumours abound that LBP is to be the home of the HDSB Administrative buildings – I have yet to hear an out and out denial of this rumour. If true, one wants to know when this decision was made. If made prior to the PAR/PARC review or during the review then this process was not entered into in good faith.

e) Bateman is a one of a kind school – yet was put on last minute as a closure and is slated to cost $12 M to replicate at Nelson (everyone knows this figure will balloon)

PARC Jan 27 full group

The PARC consisted of two representatives from the seven high schools; a trustee representative and a city of Burlington representative. The debated issues on one side of a room while the public sat on the other side. There wasn’t any

“PARC was going to be an island. Only selected participants were going to be allowed onto the island. Communications were to be minimal if non-existent at best. The HDSB wanted to meet the “minimum” requirements to say they went through the process.

Diane Miller Admin review delegation“On June 7th, delegations were heard, prepared speeches were read, a vote was held. Two schools were to close. Tell me did those delegations mean anything at all? Especially given the prepared statements that were read that night of why trustees were voting in favour of closure. Did the 10 day between delegations and a vote violation mean anything to the HDSB or the trustees?

“Communication is actively listening, speaking, considering, answering and responding. It is two way. This did not happen.

“The end result. The closing of two schools in a growing community. Schools that are overpopulated; schools that will be thrown into overcapacity with the two school closures.

“A flawed process resulted in flawed decisions.

“Revisit this decision.”

Margaret Wilson listened carefully – took copious notes and at the end of the evening, after listening to everyone who wanted to speak she said the the audience: “I have heard what you had to say.”

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