Muir wants the Board of Education to fess up and accept public responsibility for the decision to build Hayden high school and then revise boundaries to balance the population between the seven high schools.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

February 22, 2017



I had a good hour long conversation with Stuart Miller, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board earlier this month.

He told me he saw this Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) process as being about students, about what is good for them. However, when I raised some questions about how these benefits to students were being measured, this goal was not supported with data.

I asked for several forms of data (see below) but have not heard back from him.

Hayden High, named after a Burlington leader in the development of sport for the disabled. Grades 9 and 10 show up on Tuesday.

Hayden High, named after a Burlington leader in the development of sport for the disabled. Grades 9 and 10 show up on Tuesday.

The building of Hayden he agrees is the main driver for the mess. That is something that everyone knows, but unfortunately, for the credibility of the Board and the process you are in, nobody is talking about this. This needs to be rectified as it is key to the legitimacy of what you are doing.

Director Miller said he doesn’t want to go into how Hayden was justified – too political for him, he said. I asked for the paper trail, saying there had to be one, and I want to see it. I intend to follow up on this, and I ask for the paper trail below, but my own inquiry of all the available LTAPs finds that it smells bad.

I have looked into this deeper and it’s not transparent and there is no accountability. There was no justification, except, as Mr. Miller opined, the Ministry was talked into a new school there because the students up there should have a school. There is no justification in New Pupil Places, and Growth Pupil Places, using ministry concepts, anywhere in the LTAPs or Capital Plans.

There is no mention of a need for new pupil places, as the long term enrollment trends were consistently flat to trending down.

In fact, there was scarcely a mention of a new NE Burlington Secondary School to be found anywhere in the LTAPs, just that something about getting one was afoot.

It was clearly a transfer of students from the six high schools to Hayden that was used to fill it. Changing feeders to add to Hayden from Pearson. This much is mentioned, but very little attention was brought to bear.

There was no explanation that I found of why the school was needed, despite stable to falling enrollments, and no rationale was offered.

Gerry Cullen

Gerry Cullen, Superintendent of Facilities and Services; The complex that is made up of the Public Library, the Haber Recreation Centre and Hayden high school was his baby.

The significant issue here is that the staff people who planned and delivered Hayden are not being held accountable, or even explaining, but they are the staff body that is doing the analysis and providing information to the PARC right now. I don’t think you are getting a real drill down and detailed set of options.

The evidence in the LTAPs shows that Board staff basically and covertly fabricated a false rationale, to build student spaces that are not needed, for the opening of Hayden.

So my deep concern now is, that it’s not unexpected that these people can also design and fabricate a false rationale and process to close student spaces – to close schools.

As far as I can see this is what is happening.

All this does is cover up their gross mistake that created the situation, and they are just evading it in order to escape accountability.

Unfortunately, Director Miller, the boss of all this, is too politically shy to bring this accountability forward to the table, and so he countenances and approves this evasion of responsibility.

This leads directly to the conclusion that the Board lacks credibility, which depends on coming clean and being contrite.

Everyone needs to see this, and understand why I persist in raising it as a key issue in the resolution of the PAR.

We discussed information needs and what I would like to see.

Stuart Miller

Halton District School Board Director of Education Stuart Miller.

1. I essentially demanded the accountability paper trail and business plan of how Hayden was approved.

2. I suggested that empty seats be divided between all seven schools, and then six schools. Analyze what is needed to do this (boundaries), and the relative or net money savings compared to the closure and other options.

3. Show how any money savings will be spent for the benefit of students. I asked for detailed data on; number of additional subject offerings, in what schools and how many students gain. I want to see the entire accounting balance.

4. What are the variable operating costs of the empty seats in Central and Pearson.

5. Revisit student number projections downtown. It is another error to discount families moving into condos as affordable.

These are all essential questions I think.

Beyond these outstanding issues and questions, I have a few things to say about the progress I read about in the Burlington Gazette in the first two PARC meetings.

I think the options outlined so far are directing the PARC to closures. The dot-mocracy process from the Gazette’s latest story suggests to me that the PARC is voting, not to the student benefits, but to save their own schools. I think this is due to the framework the Board is using, that frustrates people to exercise the only power that appears available to them.

Two options that close both Central and Pearson are essentially the same in the biggest and most important outcomes and consequences. People are essentially voting for the same thing.

Having these two options and giving them votes, is like rigging the candidate list so the same candidate can be voted for twice.

You can’t add these votes to get a legitimate result.

This is pretty obvious, but perhaps not to everyone.

These closure options are the worst possible results for students, residents and the city of Burlington.

Dot distribution for option 28

Muir argues that the PARC members are being herded into choices that are not in the best interests on the students and the city of Burlington.

Just look at the criteria met, and criteria not met. Those met by closures are most often expressed in general, vague non-specific terms – there are no details. For example, the “no closures” option; “Does not meet a range of outstanding issues, which prompted the PAR.”

Those criteria unmet by closing schools obviously impact the students directly, in concrete and definitely negative terms. This happens in many ways that you are aware of and I will not repeat here.

These options are definitely not about the student’s welfare.

Unfortunately for the people of Burlington, in my opinion, the Board staff seem to excel at providing rigged and manipulated information and choices to get what they want. They did it for Hayden for seats not needed, and now they are doing it again to get rid of schools.

They have boxed you in to a process that is narrowing and focusing you to vote for what you see as the interest of your school and keeping it open. Since the five schools not really named seriously for closure outnumber the two focused on, you can see how the potential votes are translating to actual results reported in the Gazette.

By way of this message I am asking Director Miller, the Board, and the PARC to request and/or provide answers to my questions, explanations, and requests for information.

If you people want this, you will very apparently have to go after it and demand this accountability.

How else can the Board ever be credible and able to be trusted?

Muir making a pointTom Muir is a resident of Aldershot who has been a persistent critic of decisions made by city council. He turns his attention to the current school board mess. He recently suggested to Burlington city council that “If you are so tired of and frustrated by, listening to the views of the people that elected you, then maybe you have been doing this job too long and should quit.”

Muir challenges the decision to build Hayden high school and asks that the Board of Education accept responsibility for the mistake.


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37 comments to Muir wants the Board of Education to fess up and accept public responsibility for the decision to build Hayden high school and then revise boundaries to balance the population between the seven high schools.

  • C Reid

    Thanks Tom for bringing to light the information in your article. Now they want to close Nelson High School the #1 ranked school in the city of Burlington. My children go to John T Tuck Public School which is a feeder school for Nelson and they have portables as the school is over capacity, yet they want to close the high school that my children and their classmates would naturally feed into and now bus them to schools, less capable and with less curriculums km’s away. The system is flawed.

  • John j.

    Karen. I couldn’t agree with you any more on every thing you say. Unfortunately we are working with a broken system. I have experience working on PAR’s and I learned one main thing. Our school boards hands are tied so tight by regulations that any ability to plan beyond 3-5 years is stripped. The PAR is a bit of a schill to give the community a feel like they have input. In the end the school board will have to make a decision and that decision will be to close the old school that was never funded properly and the small Pearson school that is the wrong size and located in the wrong spot geographically. We can fight it all we want. It will happen. And it will keep happening. I go back to my point about needing to get rid of the Catholic school board. It wouldn’t solve all problems. But geography would become 50% easier to deal with. High schools could be placed every 1.5-2 km apart instead of every 3-5 km apart. The Catholic school board has destroyed any ability to maintain proper community schools. Not to mention how it divides our children in the community. Until we deal with mixing religion and schools, we will have this same discussion year after year..

  • Karen

    I disagree that Central needs to close based on age. Maybe if the board was filtering money and upgrades to this school in a timely manner as it did with the other high schools BCHS would have a little more sparkle. However the sparkle does not deter the education students receive at the school.
    In regards to bussing and community school why should the downtown kids get sent out of their community when no one else seems willing to do the exact same thing. Some of these students had most of their elementary education provided to them in portables. It is not reasonable for them to spend their secondary education in portables as well. As for bussing..why in the world would we burden our already congested streets with more busses and this does not even cover the lack of drivers. Kids are already late to school due to this shortage. Central parents and students deserve the same consideration as EVERY other school for keeping their HOME school open. Every program and placement program is moveable despite what people may think. Boundary changes and the removal of ALL portables should be the first order of business before any school is closed. With all the growth and intensification occurring throughout north Burlington, Aldershot and the downtown we are opening ourselves up for continued issues in a couple years. Funding is required in other Halton it seems our students have to give something up to give more to other neighboring towns.
    HDSB numbers are a nightmare. Local communities are fighting each other to keep their local school open and if when a school closes then students will be sent to the schools and communities they are fighting. Not very unappealing for anyone.
    Keep in mind that another PAR will be called and this vicious time consuming detrimental process begins again if Central is closed due to the 200+ 7/8 students students that attend this school..however they seem to be forgotten in this whole process.
    Equal Opportunity for all!

    • John J.

      Karen, I agree with all points you made. Unfortunately, the school board ties their hands, or has their hands tied so tight that they can not plan beyond 3-5 years, at best. I know this as I have participated in PARC’s. Reality is they must go for the easiest possible short term solution. I.e close central and Pearson. this type of conversation will continue to happen long into the future. As long as we have both a public and catholic school board. Truth is, if we had one unified school board the math and geography would work out so that almost no kids need to be bussed and portables would be minimized. Millions could be saved. Communities could be planned to preserve those communities. We could stop having these angry discussions, over and over. But of course, this basic fact of unifying school boards is too taboo. Unifying is and remains the only logical solution to the problem. I live within a 50 metres walk to a catholic elementary and a public elementary school. These schools should not back onto each other, they should be spaced 1 km apart so that all kids can walk to their school, not just mine……….

      • craig

        Totaslly agree John this is the ultimate solution, great note

        • John J.

          Thank you Craig…….Apparently the minister of education agrees with us….The following excerpt was taken from the Burlington Gazette today………..”Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is urging boards across the four English and French public and Catholic school systems to look for ways of sharing facilities with each other before resorting to closures”.
          Copied from article titled “Central high school parents take their fight to the provincial legislature – Premier doesn’t come on side the way they had hoped.”

  • John j.

    I am sorry to say but it is time for Central to close. It is just too old. As a student in the final years of the 100+ year old OTHS in Oakville, I can confirm life goes on and the old school becomes a fond memory. Communities adapt. What seems horrific at the moment quickly becomes an excepted situation that somehow will work out just fine. OT a downtown school when closed meant many students that walked to it had to be bussed 3 km to the new school. Of course the students that were bussed to the old OT and now could walk to the new sight were excited. I happened to not qualify for bussing to the old school but still had a 2.75 km bike ride. Somehow made it work. Point is. Close it. Move on. They built Hayden because Burlington is growing north. An opportunity arose that they likely needed to jump on while they could. Until the Catholic board is collapsed and proper community school planning can take place, somebody will always get the short end of the stick.

    • Andrew

      OT wasn’t a downtown school. Totally a different scenario, cannot be compared.

      I also went to ‘old’ OT. As did my Dad. Central is needed for Burlington growing core population, for generations to come. This fight is for them. Not my kids.

  • Dee

    Thanks, Tom, for taking time to check the facts and meet with the Director to ask questions. It is just bad planning, based on poor quality data, to have a brand new school so overpopulated that it requires a ridculous number of portables and extra bus transportation. If there is capacity in other schools, then redraw the boundaries and/or relocate programs to even out student placement.

    Also, if the Ontario Ministry of Education has new guidelines, these should be presented in the public meetings and explained on the PAR website. Maybe we should be asking MPP’s to look into this process as our representatives.

    I have been reviewing the 6 options and some seem like they shouldn’t even be on the table since they will overpopulate the remaining schools. Crowded schools are not a good learning environment.

    Last point -A social cost that the data fails to capture is with option 23d – it states they would move the special needs students (SC-SPED, ESS programs) to Nelson, but since the school would be overcapacitated at 121% in 2018, the actual plan is to BUS all those students into a Milton school until they can get funding to build the extension wing onto Nelson. That is not listed on the report, but we were told at the last meeting that the student’s would be ‘taken care of’. By taking vulnerable students out of town????

    More bad planning …..

  • Mike

    As a resident in the Orchard community, and closely following the many boundary reviews and school requirements of our community let me provide you with some details. The sole justification for Hayden as was presented to us was that our community and Alton Village was a huge populous with no school in the community. The property where JW Boich was built was originally to be a high school, but as the area was developed the property became too small to support a high school and with the severe over crowding in the two elemetary schools, a third elementary school was built. When Hayden was in the planing stage, Steven Parfinik (not sure on the spelling), was able to justify to the MOEd that the school was needed. Yes there was enough OTG capacity available but the students that are at Hayden would be bussed and split up over all the other high schools. The ministry agreed on the condition that after 4-5 years the excess OTG spaces had to be eliminated. So this PAR has been coming since then. As for the current PAR, the board is following the new MOEd guide lines. While I don’t like them either, the board is navigating as they have been directed and this is the first time thru the process as I understand. It’s the ministry that needs to be aware of how dissatisfied the public is with their process.

    • Andrew

      It is sad the same reason that Hayden was built is the same reason that Central parents are fighting to keep ours open. Why the change in the board? Hayden deserves a community school. Central deserves to keep theirs.

  • Tom Muir


    Assumptions and questions do not an argument or conclusion make.

    Rather than assume busing numbers, how about doing what I did and research the correct numbers.

    And for the credibility of the process we are in, the fact that Hayden was not built based on a need for new seats, but in fact built the excess seats that are the current mess, is of central importance.

    It makes no sense to just say, as you say, let the Hayden mess just go, with no accountability, and let’s move on. People will just have to accept this corruption of the education institution of the HDSB.

    If nobodt says anything maybe it was just fade out of people’s view, and they can fight with each other in the battlefield created by the HDSB, and supported by you.

    The Board has no credibility and cannot be trusted in the process exactly because of Hayden.

    But that you say is alright with you.

    • craig

      I was not using this space to either Argue or make a conclusion rather to gather information to answer questions i had as it seems people out there have all the information and I do not have the luxury of time to di things out again especially if i has already been done. As for busing others have said 8% or Central do not walk nad at Hat=yden about 1/3 dont walk. I still do not understand how your digging into why Hayden was built will help the current issue of too many seats. If Hayden had not been built we would not have a empty seat problem rather a too many too far busing problem. But Hayden is built so what is the solution to 1800 empty seats that is the fairest to the most kids in Burlington. Unless we can think of a way to fill the empty seats and not close any schools. We elected the trustees if we have no faith in them that is or fault if we do not like the hired staff that is again an issue for an election. To say because no one can explain Hayden to your satsifaction (I think Mike did so today) the board and current process has no credibility sounds like a cop out unless you feel the province will step in is that your thought? If not the process will be what decides the outcome.

      • Tom Muir


        The Board is responsible for Hayden and in fact they have made no effort to explain Hayden in any way, to anyone’s satisfaction, not just mine.

        It’s not that no one can explain, but that no one WILL explain.

        I have formally asked the Board, Director Miller, and the Trustees, 3 times in writing for the Hayden paper trail and got nothing. If you had been paying attention when reading here you would have seen that.

        That’s the reason I have persisted in raising the Hayden issue – no answers. You call this a cop-out? Seeking the truth? The truth you say you don’t have time to seek?

        You just don’t seem to get that building Hayden, creating the mess, and not explaining it in any manner to residents, is central to how our city and institutions, and this process, are on dubious grounds to be trusted to operate.

        Instead, you are just willing to give this intolerable and untrustworthy behaviour a free pass because they did it, and it seems to suit your standard of trust and acceptable behaviour just fine.

        You say that you are not here to argue or make conclusions, but you telling me I’m a cop out is not arguing or concluding by you?

        What you then just did was cobble together bits of assertions that you say you gathered here and there, from who knows who or where, that conveniently support several conclusions of yours (on yeah, you don’t make conclusions or argue), that suit what you want to say.

        I will have to look at Mike’s piece and think about it some more.

        An initial read indicates that the Board did just what I said – planned and built Hayden, with no detailed public business case/rationale or explanation, (residents might have wanted a school, but we in Burlington want our schools too), no data on busing, current and future, no concurrent PAR, no public warning of the possible consequences down the road, and in this PAR, and the mess, and no willingness even now to explain why and be accountable.

        Mike describes things as he recalls, but this isn’t a substitute for the full explanation, with the data and information on population, locations, busing needs and actuals, a simultaneous PAR, and so on, so as to substantiate Mike’s recollection and story.

        In the end, the Burlington south 6 schools are getting screwed so Hayden could be “justified”.

        • craig

          I’d love to sit some time and chat over coffee with ypou on this as obviously my notes are not expressin my thoughts very well. My main unanswered question for you is if you get the truth (yes I like the truth as much as the next guy) how will it help the current process that is what I am not getting from any of your notes. My solution would be the option that impacts the least number of kids as any solution will have some impact. If Hayden had not been built what would have bene impact to Alton and Orchard neighbourhood who knows same as we dont really koow neighborhood impact of any closings or do you know?
          I do not have the answerof course to what to do but am hoping the least hurtfull option prevails and wish ut did not have to pit school vs school as it has.

          • KJ

            Craig: I think Tom is saying that the current school board can’t be trusted to oversee the PAR process *because* of Hayden. So there is a reason to keep mentioning Hayden from his point of view.

          • craig

            Accept aren’t the players different people both at elected level and at board level than those who made Hayden decision 4 or more years ago?

  • Hannah

    Students do not need stuffed into classrooms like sardines. Re draw the boundaries and keep all the schools. The benefit and privledge is to have space and elbow room. More 1:1 with students and walkable neighbourhood schools. Stats say bussed teens are more likely to drop out and have mor social troubles. More risks. This will change family living in Burlington. We can still have the peace we have now. We needto tell our comitees closing -any- Burlington school is unacceptable. Tom…. this same comitee approved a back door option never presented to the public about the FI programs in Halton last year that represents nothing done anywhere else in Ontario. No one else has Grade 2 entry. They are comitting suicide to the program in favour of teachers they can pay less. I’m pretty certain they will come forward with a back door option again. Get ready.

  • Great post Tom. The only thing I would add is the following.

    If a course can not be run with 20 students at a school. Then if 40 kids sign up and the max is 30 then either you have 2 classes of 20 – something we just had to close schools to avoid. Or 10 can not take that class anyway.

    If its all about student choice and “what is good for them” then run the class with 15 or 20 students. Man the teacher might get a whole minute to work with them instead of 30 seconds a kid. Why if this process is NOT about money and IS about what’s good for the students is that unacceptable?

    I’m with you Tom: This “we have to have 1,500 students at a school to run these special course” seems very suspect to me. It’s easer and might be cheaper I get that, but the process is advertised as not being about that.

  • Will

    If we are looking at bussing it is interesting when you look at the one that has Nelson closing that it adds about 300 students on the bus to go to Central.This one also busses all the french immersion kids at Central on a bus to Aldershot or Bateman.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Excellent work Tom,too bad you had to be the one who unearthed the absence of facts/justification for Hayden that started this mess.

  • Dan

    Please make note that there are also two options which would see Bateman close. It is most certainly not only Central and Pearson finding themselves in this predicament.

  • craig

    As i understand it Hayden is over full how many students are bused to Hayden of the total population? If Hayden did not exist how many of those same students would be bused? Seems the isue of closin Central is alot about walking to school so we need facts on Hayden population as well before we say it should not have been built. There are a lot of homes north of dundas with a lot of kids maybe more kids than go to central??

    • John


      Currently Hayden has about 1654 students, 460 in portables and 585 students being bused.
      To put that in perspective Central has about 597 students.

      • craig

        does any of the data show for each option how many more or less students will be bused than are bused currently as I figure that would be a worth while metric of student impact as that seems to be at the heart of the save central campaign?

        • John


          That’s probably one of the metrics considered by Tom when he rationalized Hayden should not have been built.

          • craig

            Not sure if Tom considered busing in justifying hayden as if Hayden not built about 1000 of 1500 Hayden students who aren’t bused would need to be whic is almost twice the entire population of Central.

        • Tom Muir


          The only option showing busing comparisons is Option 19. This is in the Directors Preliminary Report.

          The first number is existing, second is Option, third is change – increase/decrease.

          Aldershot High School 162 419 +257

          Burlington Central HS 5 0 -5 (closed)

          Dr. Frank J. Hayden
          Secondary School
          472 369 -103

          Lester B. Pearson HS 5 0 -5 (closed)

          M.M. Robinson HS 67 244 +177

          Nelson HS 95 287 +192

          Robert Bateman HS 194 260 +68

          Total 1000 1579 +579

          In the summary you want most it seems is – Central students are essentially all bused from only 5. Do the numbers please.

          Hayden goes from 472 to 369, losing 103. That is, Hayden already has 472, and despite closings only goes to 369. Hayden has about 1400 students and is increasing.

          Overall increase in busing is 597 with Option 19.

          This does not support the idea that if Hayden not built bused students of 1000 to 1500 more would exist.

          Craig, no offense, but I have noticed that you pose a lot of questions, as arguments, to make points you like, which of course they don’t, but you don’t provide many answers to prove them.

          You can help here if you do your own research to support your points.

          • craig

            I thouht some one had reported that of the 1500 or so students at Hayden currently 500 are bused and 1000 are not. Is it a crazy assumption that if Hayden not built most of those 1000 that currently walk would have to be bused as Pearon is 4 kms from Hayden? I guess point I am trying to make is Hayden exists so it does not matter in current disiussions why it was built it exists so we can’t go back and waste peoples engery showing why it shold or shouldn’ have been built> we also can not only concentrate on saving Central if that is not the best decision for all students in Burlington. It must be the big picture looked at for the city as most students likley think their school is the best. If the savin all schools will not work then need to pick hhe option with least disruption to fewest number of students across all of Burlington with all schools considered equal.

      • Gary Scobie

        John, if your Hayden figures are indeed correct (and these numbers seem to change weekly), then this re-enforces Tom’s contention that there is such an overflow at Hayden (both housed in portables and bussed to Hayden), that a halt in the PAR should be demanded and the north school catchment areas adjusted to use the excess capacity at MM Robinson and LB Pearson to house this excess. No saner solution seems to be on the table at this time.

        • John

          Hi Gary

          I got those figures from the board’s site, up or down a few students is splitting hairs.

          If Hayden was removed from the calculation the two remaining schools in the North, MMR and Pearson, do not have the capacity for all the students currently enrolled.
          As craig said above, that would require a large number of students to be bussed, something Tom may have reviewed when he rationalized Hayden.
          The reality is Hayden exists, interesting debate but doesn’t change the issues the board and PARC are discussing.

          I have seen a few numbers adjusted, but nothing that would change the work of the PARC or warrant a halt to the process.

          • Gary Scobie

            John, I didn’t mention closing Hayden in any way. I said move the “excess” (of students), in other words the students in the portables and some of those being bussed to Hayden, to MM and Pearson instead. This would bring Hayden back to its OTG number and move MM and Pearson closer to their OTG’s. Hayden is here to stay. Just change the north catchment areas.

            And also of course, halt this poorly run PAR until it can done in a fair and impartial manner.

          • John

            Sorry, just wanted to provide the scenario of Hayden no being built and that that would impact bussing.

            Changing the catchments in the manner you say does little to resolve the issue at hand, about 1800 excess spaces and program distribution.
            At best that would result in about 480 excess pupil spaces in the North and still leave about 1200 in the South.

            I have not seen any specific or compelling reasons that indicate the board has been anything other than fair and accommodating through the PAR process.
            I have heard a little quibbling however, those complaint’s don’t change the overall picture.

            We sat beside each other at the fourth PARC meeting, see or hear anything impartial from the board or PARC?

  • Concerned Parent

    And who “talked” the Ministry into a new school in North Burlington? Could it have been the developers and their lobbyists? Could there have been some incentive from the Ministry? What exactly transpired in this plan we may never know.

  • John


    As always your opinions are interesting.

  • Hans

    Thank you Tom. Well done!

  • StoneyCanuk

    I agree with Tom Muir regarding the Boards accountability. As I’ve posted before, I believe that the Board’s goal is to stack the odds against Central. I don’t trust or believe anything that the Board says. Their attitude is let’s just drive this through as quickly as possible, ignore the students and pay lip service to the downtown community. By selling Central they get a quick fix for their long term financial mismanagement and incompetence.