Lisa Bull gives her side of the story on the Steve Cussons opinion piece.

opinionviolet 100x100By Lisa Bull

September 18th, 2018



Hello All – As the “accused” in the article that is linked below (and another PAR “expert” and Committee member) I thought it only fair that I have a chance to respond. Not that I expect to change any minds that have been made up about what “really” happened but to share my perspective. As most intelligent adults know, there are always multiple sides to every story and there is no such thing as a “true” account. Accounts can only represent the perspective of the person sharing them. So – here’s mine.

PAR banner

Collard and Miller

Ward 5 trustee Amy Collard giving Director of Education Stuart Miller the evil eye.

As anyone who followed the PAR process knows it was wrought with conflict, misinformation and confusion from the start. And, this continued right until the night of the final vote to determine which, if any schools in Burlington would be closed. The tension of the night was palpable – it was clearly felt by the Trustees and all of us who attended in the gallery. I came to the evening hopeful. I knew that our Trustee – Amy Collard – was planning on bringing forward a motion to introduce some alternate solutions to closing Robert Bateman (the full motion is posted on the Save Bateman Facebook site) I – like many of the community members were hopeful that the other Trustees might be willing to give this motion a chance. Ms Collard had shared her planned motion with her colleagues in advance of the meeting so they knew it was coming.

I thought her brave, innovative and courageous for wanting to try AGAIN to look at another option other than closing a school. However, it became clear very quickly that none of the other Trustees were interested in this. Much confusion began to take place as ms Collard tried to introduce her motion. The Chair was incredibly rude to Ms Collard during this process and other Trustees – including Leah Reynolds appeared to be working hard to vote against Ms Collard’s right to be even being able to introduce the motion. All of this can be seen on the video tape of the evening. As I sat with a friend and fellow Bateman parent – in awe of what was going on in front of us – we noticed that Councillor Meed Ward was furiously typing away on her I-Pad in front of us. She was making no attempt to shield her notes and we weren’t standing our our chairs or peering over her shoulder to read.

What she was writing was clear as day and right in front of us. Was she saying “CLOSE BATEMAN?”. Of course not.

But, what she appeared to be doing was providing very directive advice to Ms Reynold on how to stop Amy Collard’s ability to make a motion and then to stop the motion itself. At first, my friend and I couldn’t believe what we were reading.

While the photos posted on social media were a bit blurry, the messages we read Councillor Meed Ward typing were perfectly clear. They included:

Reynolds with Roberts rules

Was trustee Leah Reynolds getting instructions from PARC member and ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward. The evidence suggest that might have been the case.

” DON’T VOTE IN FAVOR! “(caps on in original) Let it go – done your job”

“Do not support (uphold) the Chair’s ruling to allow the amendment”

“Okay – you have done your job”

I still have the photos and am happy to share if someone wants to invest time in having them enhanced.

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong?

However, from our perspective, it appeared very clear that Councillor Meed Ward was a/ telling Ms Reynolds how to act, vote and speak and b/ that she was attempting to influence the outcome of a critical Board vote.

In my experience as a member of the PAR Committee I’d tried at least once to collaborate on an effort to stop all school closures. I’d tried to bring the whole Committee together to write a letter to the Provincial government as a group and while most all of the other school reps agreed to this, Ms Ward and the other rep from Central waited until the last minute and then decided not to work together with the Committee.

This lead me to believe that Councillor Meed Ward was focused solely on keeping Central open and had no interest in working with others to keep all schools open.

MMW typing

Marianne Meed Ward at her iPad.

I add this only to explain that I had every reason to believe that Ms Meed Ward was working with Ms Reynolds to shut down any attempt to save Bateman from closure.

Was I right in my assessment on the night of the vote? Councillor Meed Ward argues that I was not, She argues that she was merely trying to help Ms Reynold navigate Robert’s Rules. I can tell you that from what I saw, her notes appeared to go far beyond this. I suspect that the full “truth” will never be known.

I made the decision to share this information publically because I was shocked by what I saw. As someone who lives in Ward Two I was already incredibly disappointed in Ms Reynolds decision to go back on her campaign promise of “Close No Schools” and felt that the communication between her and Councillor Meed Ward was unacceptable.

I know that Councillor Meed Ward has a small but strong core of avid supporters who will defend her and her conduct until the end. And, in our democratic society they will soon have their right to show that support by voting for her. I, on the other hand, will show my support for leaders who I believe have demonstrated a commitment and a willingness to support to ALL citizens of Burlington.

Packed - it was that packed

Lisa Bull in the purple scarf – Steve Cussons is to her left – short grey hair at a packed public meeting on the closing of two of the city’s two high schools.

One final thought for you all. I’m currently dealing with a serious health issue. And, while all of the activity around PAR and the election seemed so important and so critical months ago and inspired so much passion, rage and anger I am learning – unfortunately the hard way – that these issues, while are important, are certainly not the most important things in life.

So I leave this discussion by genuinely wishing everyone all the best.




Related opinion piece:

The opinion piece Lisa Bull is responding to.

Meed Ward and Reynolds 2014 election nightEditor’s note:  The Gazette did ask Meed Ward for a copy of all the notes that were sent from her to trustee Leah Reynolds.  There was no response.  We are in the process of getting all the photographs taken and having them enhanced so that what was photographed can be seen by the public.

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15 comments to Lisa Bull gives her side of the story on the Steve Cussons opinion piece.

  • Colleen A

    First of all, I sincerely wish Lisa Bull all the best with her health struggles. My husband lives with multiple chronic health issues, so I understand how life changing those struggles can be and how it totally changes your perspective on things.

    Having said that, I’ve always had 2 major problems with the allegations of collusion between Marianne and Leah leading to the closure of Bateman. First, the vote to close Bateman was 10-1. Even if the allegations were true, you’re talking about ONE TRUSTEE VOTE. What about the other 9?
    Second, I think Lisa posting the picture on social media and adding fuel to an already toxic fire was totally wrong. She said above that she might be ‘proven wrong’ and that we might never know the truth. That tells me she posted something that she wasn’t sure about. Hopefully Steven posting the correct times, backed up by meeting minutes will finally bring this issue to a close. I echo his sentiments that it is time to move forward and allow the wounds to heal.

  • Steve Cussons

    From Steve Cussons

    I chose to speak up about what I consider an undeserving attack on two elected officials because it was the right thing to do. This was a decision that was difficult to make because I knew that it would be met with some criticism and possibly twisted into something else. Putting aside any personal feelings and thoughts, I would like to present the facts and then exit the conversation with some information for the public to ponder.

    • The damage done to the communities in Burlington due to the HDSB Secondary PAR was tremendous.
    • Engaging in the fight to keep your community school open was emotional and difficult for all of those involved.
    • Resorting to slander and personal attacks as a means to bring attention to your cause is morally wrong.
    • Complaints were filed by a group of parents regarding the communications between a Trustee and City Councillor on June 7th 2018. All complaints were dismissed as it was determined there was no wrong doing. Please see the independent review conducted by Margaret Wilson
    • Page 27 of the PAR review by Margaret Wilson – “During the HDSB meeting on June 7, 2017 over 700 emails were received by HDSB Trustees from the communities they represent.”
    • Page 33 of the PAR review by Margaret Wilson – “The petitioners claim that Policy states that while the final decision on the future of a school or group of schools rests solely with the Board of Trustees, a City Councillor provided instructions to an HDSB Trustee during the June 7, 2017 final vote for closure of Robert Bateman.”
    • The picture of the “communications” claiming to have been instructions by a member of City Council to a Trustee on how to vote in the closure of RBHS was posted to social media at approximately 9:37 pm on June 7th 2017. There is a time stamped screen shot of the post that cannot be disputed.
    tried to submit the image with the time stamp here but comment section won’t let me.

    • At 10 pm the Trustees voted to extend the meeting. Prior to 10 pm the only subject discussed AND voted on was in regards to the procedural rules surrounding allowing a subsequent motion to be introduced. This was a time of great confusion. The HDSB Lawyer and a Parliamentarian were both consulted and provided contrasting opinions. The Trustees had to recess in order to discuss. The final vote on the closure of RBHS happened well after 10 PM. Please refer to page 7 of the meeting minutes from that evening to reference the order of events.,%202017-PUBLIC.pdf#search=board%20agenda%20june%2021
    • Media coverage that followed June 7th 2017 reported that “Lisa Bull took a picture where one message said: “don’t vote in favour”. She says she was talking about a motion put forward by another trustee, Amy Collard, to explore a partnership between Robert Bateman and Nelson high school, to save the school and some of it’s unique programs in skilled trades and special needs.”
    • The vote on the motion that Amy Collard put forward also happened after 10 PM, about an hour after the alleged coaching took place. Please refer to the meeting minutes included above.
    • The Admin Review conducted by a MOE appointed third party determined that
    o there were no components of the Board process that were “material to the decision”.
    o A disproportionate number of students a year request optional attendance to Nelson and are declined due to low numbers at Bateman.
    o Bateman has declining enrolment, low IB enrolment and the English Stream Students lose out
    o The focus of the PAR was to consider the current and future needs of ALL students in the city of Burlington.
    o The final vote in the decision to close Robert Bateman High School was 10-1 in favour, 12-1 if you include the student trustees.

    How is it right that the communications between only two people that evening have come under fire? If there is demand to see those communications and make them public, shouldn’t all communications received that night between all the trustees and members of the community be requested as well? Why is it okay to only viciously target one conversation out of over 700 emails received?

    I would not wish ill health or harm on any person and am truly sorry to hear of Lisa Bull’s personal health crisis. I wish only the best for Lisa and her family during these difficult times. My initial article called out Lisa Bull as she herself put herself out there in the media multiple times suggesting the collusion including newspaper articles, television articles etc. and submissions to the board and ministry.

    I sympathize with all families and community members associated with the two schools who were closed during this process. The emotional turmoil of going through this was difficult for everyone but to lose your school makes it is that much worse. This, however, does not excuse deliberately scheming to ruin the reputation of anyone to further your cause. Sitting back and condoning this when I can provide information to set the record straight was not something I could consciously live with.

    We here in Burlington need to demand respectful treatment of each other. It’s time to move forward, heal wounds and help our children to adjust positively to the changes that will occur in all our high schools.

    • Kerri

      Thank you Steve for pointing out key items from the independent review of the PAR process. I would suggest anyone who chooses to make comments on the PAR process read this first. Please stop the slander.
      I wish Lisa Bull strength and determination to face and fight her personal battle.

      • Tom Muir

        At the risk of beating a dead horse, I must add a little critical look at some of the information Steve outlined.

        First of all the 700 email messages to Trustees must be viewed closer than just taking it as a large number that is valid.

        This number was only cited after the fact of the meeting, and there is no basis provided to believe they all came in during the meeting, at the same time as the contentious messages.

        So this 700 total as material to the issue is suspect on several grounds.

        Second, the 700 messages claimed are in a different category than the contentious ones, especially on timing around a key vote, which in politics is everything, and that they appear to have been two-way communication near the key vote, which is not good optics.

        And importantly, there is some record of the timing and content of the contentious ones. This makes them more directly observable as evidence than the 700 which could very well be a fabrication in part because of the situation.

        Because of this they cannot be equated as having the same import to the issue at hand.

        The contentious ones then were timed and apparently aimed in real time within about an hour of the key vote.

        And with the recess called due to conflicting ignorance of proper procedure, puts it even closer to the vote, but at the same time can be viewed as explaining, and perhaps excusing, at least in part, the contentious messages.

        Given the reality that regarding real time devices communication at the Board, anything goes, it broke no rules, and filled the gap of so called “expert” differences of opinion.

        MMW knows procedure, so she did what she did because it was possible and in some way it was needed at the time.

        I myself would not have sat around seeing the fiasco about procedure, and knowing about it, without doing something.

        Since you can’t yell it out loud, new devices have filled the gap.

        Finally, you cannot cast MMW as a Councilor in this situation – she was a PARC member, with every right to be there in this independent role and she was screened as suitable.

        So my point really is that people need to be very critical in their reading of the information put forward. Try to avoid confirmation bias – reading information in a way that suits what you think and/or want.

        Again I say, like others, ban those devices. They have subverted the institution.

  • Pam Casey

    I also appreciate reading your response to the event. Two things i believe is that the HDSB is a separate entity from the Burlington city council and the second is MMW acted in the PAR group as a parent of students at Burlington Central High School. However MMW acting as a parent should not have been telling my Ward 1-2 school trustee how to respond during the entire PAR process. That is why we elected Ms Reynolds so she should could act on behalf of Ward 1-2 residents. I do not believe that any of Burlington City Council should be involved in the business of HDSB and so therefore MMW should have refused to sit on the PAR committee. As far as the closure of high schools in Burlington goes, i have been upset since the closure of General Brock. That was a great vocational school (i worked there and had a child attend that school), but then to close Bateman too and send the students to Nelson is a huge mistake. Lots of things to think about during the upcoming election!!!!!

    • Pam makes a valid point: It’s a PAR member trying to use procedural tactics to stop a motion from a fellow PAR member – by communicating under the table with a trustee.

      It’s like a lawyer texting the judge in the middle of a trial. Trying to tip them off on how to suppress evidence presented by the opposition.

      She should have been able to air her motion – then MMW or whoever can vote against it, but we have a public transparent process of who did what. That’s why it’s a public meeting – so it’s transparent to everyone what is going on.

      If this collusion happened – it’s a big deal.

      • Kerri

        Greg, your comments are factually incorrect. Par members had no power to put motions on the table. I suggest you read the facts above from Steve Or perhaps you should take the time to watch the Hdsb meeting and read Margaret Wilson’s report before you make such comments.

        • Sorry. You are correct my comment miss-states the situation, sorry about that!

          However, the actual situation is no better. Secret communications to a Trustee from a member of the PAR process to work procedural rules to stop another Trustee from succeeding in motion is totally unacceptable. That’s the accusation – right?

          When asked MMW said she was just “helping” Lisa. The quotes presented here seem to make that a lie. I get the timing of everything is very complicated, that’s why this paper asked for a transcript of the conversation.

          When asked by this paper for a transcript of the conversation, the request was not honoured. It’s a serious issue. Which could be easily cleared up with a transcript of the messages.

          It’s a reasonable request and no reason for not releasing a transcript has ever been presented. If nothing else it would put peoples minds at ease.

      • Tom Muir


        You are not quite correct – it was a PAR member trying to use procedural tactics to stop a motion from a Trustee, by communicating with another Trustee under the table, so to speak.

        Kerri is right on this count about PAR members having no formal power.

        However, the rest of your point is logically correct. I said much the same thing.

        What Steve said or what Margaret Wilson said is irrelevant on this logically following point.

        Margaret Wilson committed errors of fact in her report, and ignored other key things, but she had the power and there is no recourse.

        Did anyone really expect a different decision by her?

        Talking about statistics of decisions, she told us at the hearing that she had done 12 or 13 of these appeals and had ruled to uphold the citizen appeals only one of these times.

        In any case, this is done as far as I can see, like it or not. Moving on is the only way out.

        All that remains is the election to express what citizens as a whole really think.

  • Stephen White

    The PAR process was indeed a mess as Greg has noted. I attended a couple of the general information sessions and was appalled with the chaos and lack of organization and coordination. The end result (i.e. the closure of Bateman and Pearson) was not a welcomed decision.

    In fairness though, there were only two people on this Council who I saw do anything. One was Marianne who served on the PAR Committee, and who at least made the trek to Queen’s Park to speak with Patrick Brown about the importance of keeping open Central. The other was Paul Sharman who, to his credit, was and is a vocal advocate of keeping Bateman open.

    The question I asked before, on which I never got a satisfactory answer, was: where was our Mayor during all of this, and where the hell was our former MPP and Cabinet Minister Eleanor McMahon? Silence may be golden, but in the context of advocating for your constituents it sure didn’t serve this community well.

  • The thing that mystifies me is why when this came up MMW didn’t walk her phone down to the clerk’s office and have any relevant communications transcribed. You can’t have off the record comments in a public meeting – that defeats the purpose of the meeting and creates the appearance of impropriety.

    Elected officials are required to uphold the public trust by not creating the “appearance of impropriety”. The whole thing might be nothing – the bits quoted here seem damming, but you need the entire context of the conversation to be sure. The error in judgment and accountability that we can all see is that the messages were not disclosed immediately.

    What we were left within the PAR process is terrible decision making:

    1) There is no shortage of students for high-schools in Burlington. Hayden will go 800 plus overcapacity and require a field of portables.
    2) You can easily see a new surge of kids into kindergarten. 2 new portables at my kid’s elementary school this year.
    3) The closure of Bateman is completely disgusting. You had a place where kids who were struggling – were thriving.

    We really can’t let this defective PAR process stay in place.

    If you are a parent of Bateman and are angry – you should be.

  • Concerned Citizen

    Lisa, after reading your article, it became very clear to me that you resent the fact that Marianne was involved in any way. If I was a Ward 5 constituent my issue would be that your councilor, Paul Sharmin, and your Mayor, Rick Goldring (who previously represented Ward 5, who never lived there) did not assist their constituents in any way they could. I don’t believe that any school should be closed, they are an integral part of every community. I wasn’t at the at meeting so I won’t refute what you think you saw, and I can’t say you have no right to be angry or disappointed. Our elected officials should be held accountable for their inactions. Mr. Sharmin and Mr. Goldring are both residents of Burlington and have every right to have an opinion on the closures. They chose not to get involved. VOTE FOR CHANGE. I hope you feel better soon.

  • Tom Muir

    I must thank Lisa Bull for sharing her perspective.

    I am not a person to defend MMW and her conduct to the end. My previous comment on this was based on what I thought I knew at the time. With some reflection I would like to add the following.

    It may be that MMW acted in a defensible way to defend the school in her Ward when it came to that decision stage. What was she supposed to do? This is where the judgement comes in.

    Mayor Goldring and Council refused to get involved, and explicitly left it to the PARC process, the Board and Trustees.

    The Board PAR process deliberately turned school against school and PARC members against each other as well.

    In this arena at the final vote, with real time correspondence devices adding to the heat of the moment, what happened should not be a surprise.

    This technology, without which what happened could not have happened, created an ethical pitfall for everyone, and we are seeing the can of worms created emerge from that.

    I cannot judge the conduct of anyone in that scene, or what the truth really is.

    I agree with gardner that these devices should not be allowed.

    It looks to me like MMW was providing advice to her trustee about procedural matters governing motions of amendments and how to get them cut off if unfavorable, or not what you want.

    Whether she (they really) should have been doing this, or not, is as Lisa said, dependent on your point of view. It was possible, so it was done.

    Clearly, getting amendments to approve and allow further Trustee debate and options for keeping Bateman open on the floor were a threat to Central.

    These were the bloodletting rules of the arena created by the Board.

    I do not have the wisdom of Solomon to pass judgement on MMW, or anyone else thrown into that gladiatorial role.

    It really was kill or be killed, metaphorically speaking.

  • Louise F.

    I appreciate reading your account. That whole process stunk from day one. And then tossing Nelson into the mix just to pit parents and various interest groups against one another. I can’t imagine MMW will garner many votes from Ward 5.
    I hope that your health struggles improve.

  • steven craig gardner

    Reasons why all electronic devices should be band in city meetings and also reasons to vote for honest candidates who care about all of Burlington not just downtown. Glad to see this clarification as the previous read like a fairy tale.