Muir provides much more than a 250 wortd outline - at least the trustees know what they are going to hear - hopefully their questioning will be a deep as the information being put before them

highschoolsBy Staff

May 4th, 2017



The School Board trustees are going to get an earful from Tom Muir when he addresses them sometime next week – which assumes that Muir will be allowed to delegate.

Chair Kelly Amos asked each person who wanted to delegate to provide a 250 word outline. Muir gave her 1594 words.

Here is what Muir sent the Chair who now has to decide if what Muir wants to say meets the criteria for selection, which is: ” to have a “varied perspective” of delegations”

Notes for a Delegation to HDSB on Burlington PAR. May 2017

I note that 5 minutes to delegate limits the scope of the perspective and the topics that can be covered. My presentation will follow these notes suitably reorganized to fit the time allotted.

The perspective of my delegation will be an overview of the context of the PAR, and provide analysis of various aspects and criteria of the PAR planning data basis, recommendations, and options available to the Board.


Four of the eleven school board trustees listen carefully at a public meeting.

I will cover points related to planning, financials, fiscal, risk, future planning outlooks and needs, demonstrated student benefits from enhanced academic offerings as opposed to known negative impacts, the real net economic and money effects looked at closely with prudence, and the expressed views of the overall school community.

I will discuss the roots of the criteria and justification of the PAR as results of Board planning decisions in LTAPs, future enrollment projections, and so-called “business plans” done in the period 2008 to 2013, and now currently.

I will discuss the origins and makeup of the utilization justification criteria of the PAR.

I will also consider data on financial and fiscal impacts of options to deal with this situation.
Another topic is the increased and better program selection that constitutes the second criteria for having the PAR.

Other points cover how school closures reflect what the community and students have expressed as their wants.

Concluding points cover summary of perspective and points on the data and evidence offered in terms of Trustee responsibility and decision options on schools.

Presentation Outline.
I did not see anything in writing describing what the Board and Ministry had in mind about what a business case is, or what the thinking behind the business case was, as contained in the Capital Priorities Template sent to the Ministry in 2009. This seems to be the way business is done. Either there’s nothing in words, or it’s not available publically.


Hayden high school – Muir questions why it was built.

My first point is that Hayden was built with no seeming regard or public disclosure for the consequences that were built right into the plan from the start – surplus seats in the other Burlington high schools, and Hayden bursting at the seams. Data show this was done by the Board in their planning, boundary and feeder changes, and construction.

In the 2009 plan, submitted to the Ministry, it showed Hayden overflowing with students within 3 years of opening, and continuing this trend. In planned consequences, back in 2009, MM Robinson utilization was planned to decline, by 2022, from 93.7% to 53.4%, and Bateman to decline from 99.2% to 43.9%, by 2018/19. Nelson declined from 108.7% to 95.6%. Most of these declines coincided with Hayden’s projected opening in 2010. By 2022, 1567 students were in these declines, many transferred to Hayden.

The more recent data, shown by the Board, at the November PAR public meeting, and titled in a slide as, “Current Situation: Low Utilization”, paints an even worse picture of what has been done by the Board and only made public in this PAR. This data clearly shows Hayden continuously overfilled grossly with students transferred largely from the other schools, as part of the plan. And this is being facilitated with portables, part of the plan too.

From no students on 2010, Hayden goes to 129% UTG in 2016, and projected at 159% in 2020 and 141% in 2025. At the same time, the other schools continue the planned decline, but now there are 4 schools that are in that situation, not just the 2 schools identified in the 2009 plan, as I noted above. This data is as follows;

– From 112% OTG in 2010, Pearson declines to 61% in 2016, and projected to 55% in 2020, and 50% in 2025.

– From 87% OTG in 2010, Robinson declines to 53% in 2016, and projected to 47% in 2020, and 46% in 2025.

– From 107% OTG in 2010, Nelson declines to 75% in 2016, and projected to 83% in 2020, and 79% in 2025.

– From 95% OTG in 2010, Bateman declines to 59% in 2016, and projected to 55% in 2020, and 50% in 2025.

Looking at the option 23e, in Miller, and the overall plan for Hayden from 2009, and you can see that according to that option outline, Robinson is also overfull by 2020, as Hayden is now to the end of the planning horizon.

So why are we closing schools?
This is the actual data showing how building Hayden created new seats that then became surplus seats for the rest of Burlington schools. We now have a situation of overutilization and underutilization, the main cause of which is building Hayden and then over-utilizing it using boundary, feeder, and program policies.

This is the cause of the “Current Situation – Low Utilization, but this is being ignored and never mentioned, despite being obvious in the data as consequential to the year Hayden was opened.

I will also consider data on financial and fiscal impacts of options to deal with this situation.

The Ministry is not telling the Board to close schools – it’s our call how we spend that part of the money they give us for accommodation costs – keeping all buildings open. That’s a little more than $100 million of a $700 million total budget for 2015/16.


Director of Education Stuart Miller preparing to speak to parents at Central high school.

According to Miller’s report, it costs $564,000/yr to operate Pearson, and $764,000/yr for Bateman. Closing these 2 schools saves only about $2 million a year, when added busing costs, lost revenues, and staff reduction cost savings, are all accounted for (See Miller; busing costs noted there are incorrect – the report says 226, 286, and 96 more students bused, but only costs the 96). Transportation is a concern as student busing increases, and Hayden already has 580 students bused and is the second most costly in Burlington.

Whether schools close or not, all the rest of the Board budget (except admin and transportation) is for instruction, and this nets out to null savings. So closing 2 schools saves only $2 million, but more than $12 million alone is needed to replace Bateman equipment, somewhere else.

Then there is the cost of decommissioning buildings, mothballing, needed ongoing maintenance, what about the pool, day-care, and so many other transition costs that are just ignored.

So what kind of fiscal savings is $2 million out of a $700 million budget (0.003%), to be so concerned about?

And the fact is, the Director’s recommendation calls for the most expensive option of two closures, and this cost is uncertain, likely underestimated, and doesn’t account for planning errors and risk.

Given the provincial Growth Plan saying Halton must grow by 500,000 people by 2041, and the planning enrollment forecasting error and uncertainty, already experienced for Hayden enrollment, this seems to be a reasonable cost to invest in risk management for planning errors. There has been no risk assessment and management done by the Board. Having all our schools open and functioning provides this risk management as a low cost reserve.

The only other maybe money in this fiscal picture is the PODs, from any surplus asset value that may be realized in the future, and that is only a one-time cash-in, partly chewed up by transition and transaction costs. This will not go far for new schools in Burlington.

Another topic is the increased and better program selection that constitutes the second criteria for having the PAR. Since there is no increase in budgets for instruction, more programming cannot come from there, and more generally, there is no information provided by the Board indicating any details of the delivery of this aspect, and only abstract assumptions, but nothing convincing, that larger enrollments allow for this.

The closures impact students negatively for sure, and the impacts on Bateman students affect them in life-altering ways, as special needs students who have been bumped around in the system.

PARC - engaged onservers

Parents listen intently to the PARC members as they look at the more than 40 options discussed during the seven meetings held.

Other points cover how school closures reflect what the community and students have expressed as their wants. Obviously everyone wants their own neighborhood school kept open. But more generally, when asked for opinions, on two occasions, the public expressed their preference for the Board to spend the money, and implement measures needed, to keep schools open. However, the Board has more or less discounted these results showing public preferences, and it does not appear to have been given any formal consideration.

As it turns out the overall costs of keeping all schools open are a small portion of the Board budgets – savings from closing schools are 0.003% of the Total ($700 M) and less than 0.02% of the more than $100M Accommodation component.

Trustees - fill board +

It all comes own to how the 11 school board trustees vote on June 7th. will they go with the Staff recommendation that Pearson and Bateman be closed or will they decide that none of the schools should be closed at this time.

The Trustees do not have to close schools, and it appears that on planning, financial, fiscal, risk, student benefits from significantly enhanced academic offerings that are not documented as opposed to known negative impacts, the real net economic and money effects looked at closely with prudence, and the overall school community, it makes no sense.

The PAR Policy statement says that; “Decisions that are made by the Board of Trustees are in the context of carrying out its primary responsibilities of fostering student achievement and well-being, and ensuring effective stewardship of school board resources.”

I argue that based on demonstrated benefits to student achievement, and stewardship of school board resources, now and in the foreseeable future, there is no case to close any schools. The trustees have within their authority the means to move boundaries, feeders, and programs in order to undo the skewed enrollment caused by building Hayden without considering the consequences.

Hayden was built and filled with students by transfers from existing schools that can just as easily be undone.

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7 comments to Muir provides much more than a 250 wortd outline – at least the trustees know what they are going to hear – hopefully their questioning will be a deep as the information being put before them

  • Denise

    Tom, keep in mind that the $12-M to build the wing onto Nelson – and any other capital funding costs incurred in their recommendations, and there are many – would come from the province so they don’t care.
    Those dollars are in addition to the dollars they receive annually for their budget. So they don’t care. To them, it’s like free money and means nothing to them. Their whole decision comes down to the funding formula and because the province will pay for the Nelson wing but any bus money for busing Central students would have come out of their existing budget or own pockets, they chose the free money route. What they’ve totally forgotten is that it’s all taxpayer’s money.

  • craig

    The other factor I don’t think that has been mentioned is the quality of education being given today to the drastically over crowded Hayden. It is not a good learning environment I am told by students. So a ‘correction’ of boundaries to put less in Hayden and more in Pearson and MMR seems definitely in order if anyone cares about quality of education. As Tom acurately points out it is not a money issue.

  • David Fenton

    Great work Tom. Have they accounted for the births from the May 2016 census? Have you seen the amount of Mothers with strollers lately? We seem to be awash with young kids. Go to Ikea any day of the week and see young moms with One Two Three kids. Spencer Smith park overrun with pre schoolers.
    Where are they going to school? p.s. I still think its Central to be closed, as the land is worth the most.

  • Steve Atkinson

    Responding to our written complaint about the PAR, the Ombudsman of Ontario has informed us that there is a resource on the Ministry of Education website to list specific issues and complaints:

    “If during the course of the pupil accommodation review process, you become concerned that the board is not following its accommodation review policy, you may want to consult the board’s policy and advise the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) of your concerns. If at the end of the process, you believe that the board did not follow its accommodation review policy, then you can request an Administrative Review from the ministry. ”

    The response that I received from Premier Wynne’s office confirms that the Provincial government is downloading all of this onto the local school boards to take the heat, as mentioned in the Gazette previously.

    Tom’s report should be sent to all trustees, chairman, director, Mayor, Eleanor Mcmahon, councillors, et al. It is invaluable information and very well done. I certainly hope you are chosen to delegate, I wouldn’t miss it!

  • George

    Excellent Summary Tom!

    Keep in mind should the Halton Director of Education Mr. Miller, HDSB Executive and HDSB staff who have recommended the closing and should the HDSB Trustees vote to close two Burlington high schools this will reduce their administrative responsibilities by 2 of 7 Burlington high schools (i.e. 29%). It then follows that the salary of the Director, Executives and Staff should be reduced by 29% along with a reduction of at least two HDSB Trustees who have voted to close the two Burlington High Schools.

  • Hans

    Excellent! Well done!

  • Ya but Tom if you delegate this they will look like idiots – you having done a better job for free then why are paid for.

    So 250 words or better yet it should be 140 chars like a tweet. That way all the detail is lost and you just look like an angry person that can’t face up to the “finical realities” of school closing.

    It’s damming – good work Tom!