Does the Board of Education have a Plan B if the Ministry tells them the PAR has to be re-done?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 9th, 2018



Does the Halton District School Board have a Plan B should the Ministry of Education tell them to do the Program Administrative Review (PAR) all over again because they didn’t get it quite right the first time?

If the Ministry of Education does decide there were flaws and errors in the way the PAR was done by the Halton Board and believes it has to be re-done – it isn’t likely to be done in the very near future. The Ministry has all but admitted that the process they created was flawed and they put a hold on any new PAR’s being done.

If the process does get revised it will take many months for the bureaucrats to figure out what was wrong and then make the changes. The process of involving public groups has already begun.

PARC Jan 27 full group

Could there be a do-over of the PAR exercise. Pearson and Bateman parents hope so – Central high school parents are happy with the outcome.

Assuming the Halton Board is told to re-do the PAR – that would mean going through the process all over again. The Ministry does not tell the Board to close a school. The elected school board are the people who make that decision.

What does the Halton Board do in the meantime?

LBP George Ward

George Ward, a Pearson high school supporter thinks the Director of Education to have a Plan B.

George Ward, a parent going door to door to convince parents to fight back said he has been told by the Director of Education, Stuart Miller that there was no Plan B – they were moving forward on the assumption that they would not be required to re-do the PAR. Good luck on that one Mr. Miller.

If there were a Plan B – what would it look like?

Right now the plan the HDSB has is to close two of the city’s seven high schools – Bateman and Pearson. Bateman will close its doors in June of 2020 and Pearson is to graduate a class in June of 2018 and then close the doors.

The Board has begun preliminary construction planning for Nelson high school which is to take in much of the existing Bateman program.

There are some very strong reasons for not closing either school.

Bateman offers a program that isn’t available anywhere else in the Region. It is unique and serves a demographic that needs special help and consideration. Many, perhaps most, people were just not aware of the program. The parents with disadvantaged and dearly loved children tended not to talk about program at their school.

PAR banner

Despite the sign – the Bateman high school parents didn’t see their school at risk of being closed.

They weren’t aware that their school was at risk despite the many warnings that were coming out of the school board administration.

Senior staff at the school board admit that communicating with the community is not one of their strong points.


Playground at the nursery co-op attached to Lester B.Pearson high school.

Pearson high school is a school that was “purpose built”; it was intended to be a small high school with a community component built into it. The Nursery, a best practices model, is supported financially by the city. Losing this school would be a terrible loss – to close it because the makeup of the feeder elementary schools were reconfigured is just poor management. The trustees have to bear the responsibility for that happening – they failed to give the Director the policy he needed to run things differently.

To be fair to Stuart Miller, the current Director of Education, has had to work with was on his plate – the big mistakes were made by his predecessors.

The trustees don’t bring all that much to the table in the way of communicating for their constituents. The members of the Halton District School Board have difficulty with seeing the bigger picture and giving the Director of Education policy that he can work within.

There is a bit of a silver lining – the trustees now have a new chair and vice chair. Andrea Grebenc of Burlington, the new chair and Tracy Ehl Harrison, the vice chair have an opportunity to change the quality of the decision making and to do the job trustees are elected to do.

Out of chaos and disappointment it is possible for creative leadership to come up with solutions that not only solve an existing problem but create a path for a new direction.

In February of 2017 the Board of Education staff brought the trustees up to date on where things were with the need for an administrative office that would meet current needs. The Singleton building on Guelph Line has to either be replaced or undergo a major upgrade. There are nowhere near enough meetings rooms – staff borrow an office that isn’t being used for a meeting.

HDSB property

School board property – not enough space and a building that needs an upgrade.

There is no lunch room. When staff decide to have a lunch they clear off a number of desks and lay the food out on the surface.

There is so much traffic in the building that the stairwell gets crowded and people have to turn sideways when passing another person.

The space is not adequately air conditioned.

The Ministry of Education will not fund a new administrative structure.

Within all this there is an opportunity for this Board of Education to come up with an idea that breaks new ground, meets both an administrative need, satisfies the demands and hope of a community that wants to keep its high school and retains a very valuable nursery operation.

How does the Board of Education do all that?

Five level bldg

They are just concepts – but they drawings suggest there is some thinking taking place.

Sell the property on Guelph Line – the Board can do that because it is not a school. Build a new administrative office on the Lester B. Pearson site that would include the high school and the nursery and make all of it an integrated centre similar to the exceptionally popular and well run Alton complex.

Halton would have a complex of buildings that reflects the direction education is beginning to go in.

The complex in Alton combined a high school with a library and a state of the art recreation centre. Pay it a visit sometime – it is packed most evenings. The library is almost a mini community centre.

Halton ranks amongst the best with the grades the students get. It is a wealthy community that knows how to take care of those less fortunate.

Miller in a huddle with Grebenc

Director of Education with the newly elected chair of the Halton District School Board.

But – what has the Board done in the last five years that is memorable?  They opened Hayden high school which is the most popular in the city – all the students want to attend. It has far to many portables.  Grouping several services in the one location works – the Board has an opportunity to do that again – redevelop the Lester B.Pearson site in a radical way.

Trite as the phrase can be – there is an opportunity for the trustees to think outside the box. Andrea Grebenc and  Tracy Ehl Harrison, the Chair and the Vice chair, have an opportunity to create a school board that leads in the truest sense of that word.

Related news stories:

The Board of Education has been talking about a new administrative structure.

SwP thumbnail graphicSalt with Pepper is the Gazette publishers’ opinion column

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2 comments to Does the Board of Education have a Plan B if the Ministry tells them the PAR has to be re-done?

  • Stephen White

    Before investing time, money, resources, energy and effort into designing and building a bright, new and expensive edifice to architectural splendour let’s seriously consider two alternate options: 1) leasing space in an existing office building for some or all of the Guelph Line employees; and 2) allowing certain employees to work from home.

    Siemens’ Canadian head office is in Oakville. When they built the new facility they closed five different buildings in Stoney Creek, Burlington, Mississauga and Brampton, and amalgamated their employees in the Oakville facility. The facility has space for 700 employees, but over 2,000 employees are assigned to the complex. How? Hoteling.

    A significant number of employees work a portion of the time from home. In a typical scenario an employee may work three days from home per week, and two days in the office. If they need to be in the office they book a work cubicle online. While there are some employees and senior management who need offices not everyone does. That’s the beauty of modular design.

    This isn’t new. Dozens of companies such as IBM and Celestica do it. With new telecommunications technology you can connect online for meetings and webinars. And, of course, there’s that old standby, the telephone.

    Halton Board of Education officials really do need to start thinking “outside the box”. Their lack of imagination and realism is becoming more than a bit trying. As for the lack of a lunch room, well, there are lots of us out here in the real world who routinely grab a bite at our desks or work through lunch, and you don’t hear us complaining. Many are just happy to have a job!

  • Steve Atkinson

    I wish I shared the hopeful viewpoint. But I would remind the Gazette that Grebenc voted to close Pearson which she attended. In explaining her reason for doing so she used flawed data that was pointed out by a member of the public to be incorrect. Not confidence inspiring for me.