Resident expresses an opinion that appears to be held by many - when 194 of 213 parents in a school sign a petition - the numbers have to tell you something. Might be something the ward trustee would make a note of.

opinionandcommentBy Tony Brecknock

October 30th, 2017


Resident expresses an opinion that appears to be held by many – when 194 of 213 parents in a school sign a petition – the numbers have to tell you something.  Might be something the ward trustee would make a note of.

In 2009 Lester B. Pearson high school didn’t appear to be targeted – or did it? The sudden rush to build Frank D. Hayden Secondary School, and the need to fill it too, without a doubt led to the sacrifice of Lester B Pearson high school. The following are the actual utilization (UTZ) numbers for 2008/9, along with projections.

In the 2009 Application numbers, Pearson was at 120.2% UTZ and fell to 90.3% UTZ in 18/19 – neither a radical change, nor a tip-off to later. Lester B Pearson enrollment went from 768 to 577. This is more than sustainable.

M.M. Robinson band - both popular and energetic.

M.M. Robinson band – popular and energetic. Their school was spared serious consideration for closure when the data suggests they should have been looked at.

It would appear that MM Robinson high school wasn’t even considered for closure, why? MM Robinson high school (MMR) was at 93.7% and fell to 53.4%. Enrollment went from 1262 to 719. Why was MMR spared?

All the others are as noted in the 2009 records, and Robert Bateman high school is given the lowest UTZ at 43.9%, projected in 18/19. and seems targeted, as it is bolded in red in the application numbers, but still has 588 students, down from 1327. Perhaps with its’ regional programs the Halton District School Board (HDSB) feels it is an easier target with moveable student sections. This would indicate that the HDSB did not look at the school population as a whole, but rather at the school/students as segments to be moved at will.

Note that in the 2009 Application numbers, the UTZ projections are more muted than in the PAR numbers, with Central, MMR, and Bateman all below Board targets of 65%.

Pearson is again at 90%, and Nelson is at almost 96%.

In the recent 2016/17 PAR data, things change to Pearson parent’s alarm. From the sudden removal of Kilbride students and their redirection to Hayden, to what was just the beginning of the intentional depletion of Pearson’s student body – what happened here between the application projections, and the PAR numbers?

What else except the building of Frank J. Hayden Secondary School and the HDSB planned draining of students to fill it? Choices were made on who got hit, and that changed the numbers. Why then, were school trustee Peggy Russell’s warnings ignored that Hayden’s build would create the exact situation we found ourselves in?

These planning choices were made by the HDSB in advance, and were not really on the agenda for the parents.

This raised the issue that these choices should have been on the table if the PAR for Frank J. Hayden secondary school was done when, and as it should have been, prior to the decision to proceed with the build of Hayden was made, sometime before 2008/09.

Absent the performance of this PAR, it appears to me, that no one wants to be held accountable for this decision, and for erroneous or short-term planning which causes long-term ramifications. So it is reasonable that parents and members of the community are arguing for the need for transparency and accountability for this.

HDSB Parents at PARC 1 Jan 26-17

Parents from Central, Pearson and Bateman high schools were active observers in the PAR process.

Parent engagement on these choices could have been enabled by not structuring the PAR process the way it was by the HDSB. This structure mostly consisted of various closing scenarios and this pitted parents against parents. Only one option was about no closures, but this was overshadowed by 19 plus options in total, mostly about closures.

At outside PAR meetings, consensus said it should have been done differently, to avoid the conflicts that were built in. It was felt that something like opening it up to the PARC and parents, describing the problem as a whole, and asking for options and possible solutions to solve the problem, would make sense and that kind of process would work for parents.

Board school utilization - justificationInstead, the HDSB predetermined ahead of time what the problem was – low utilization and surplus seats – but would never acknowledge that this was caused by them in their deliberate plans and concealing of the facts. In fact, the PARC members were presented with the problem of which school(s) to close as their starting point, not as one of their potential outcomes.


Hayden high school is part of a complex that includes a library and a recreation centre plus a dozen portable classrooms. Many believe that the opening of Hayden resulted in the need to close Pearson.

So, the HDSB’s “solution” was to close schools in the south to eliminate the surplus seats and overcrowding they created by building a new school in the north without a Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) to analyze and determine current and future needs in an open and transparent way. This did not work for parents, created crisis and conflict, and as such, the evidence of this presented by Lester B. Pearson and Robert Bateman high school parents was successful in convincing the Ontario Ministry of Education to conduct an Administrative Review.

This confirms that the appeal for an Administrative Review has merit, the PAR conducted late was inadequate, and the process followed did not accord with the PAR policies. This was a main effect of not having the PAR before the build of Hayden.

The HDSB made the decisions on allocating the enrollment before the PAR. In these PAR-based numbers, Lester B. Pearson high school goes from 112% UTZ in 2010 (actuals) to 61% in 2016, and to 50% in 2025. Big swing here from 90.3%. MM Robinson goes from 87% to 53% to 46% over the same time. Robert Bateman continues to fare the worst on UTZ – all the numbers are available.

central-stusdents-in-sanata-claus-paradeSo, Robert Bateman high school was chosen as well, and it appears that having had Central high school as the focus early on in the PAR process, was simply in an effort to create a distraction from the real agenda. What were the UTZ numbers, and arguments, that changed the initial closure of Central to Bateman?

I also wish to note, that somewhere between the 2008/09 application, and the PAR data presented in 2016/17 to justify two Burlington high school closures, Lester B. Pearson’s numbers were slashed in UTZ from 90.3% by 18/19 in the 2009 application, to 55% in 2020, then 50% by 2025 in the PAR numbers. Student numbers went from 577 to 319.

pearson-high-school-signIn addition, there is no explanation – it was a subjective HDSB decision. As you know, with the changes made in boundaries, feeders and programs, Lester B. Pearson was chosen to close, with premeditation… was Robert Bateman.

These policy changes were recognized as a key finding of our meeting as possible solutions that existed if partial reversals were undertaken. However, these changes were never seriously considered, as the HDSB was fixated on the empty seats and low utilization that they had themselves created. The HDSB never considered the actual board’s own data put forward by a community and the PARC members, looking at enrollment, and how the student experience and program offerings, depended on optimal allocation of enrollment, not maximizing utilization.

This fixation was apparent right to the final discussion and debate by Trustees at a Board meeting near the end. Options put forward, or questioned about, were dismissed by HDSB staff as not getting rid of all the surplus seats.

Incidentally, this dismissal was made by the same staff member that had supported, back in 2009, the building of these very same surplus seats through the build of Frank J. Hayden secondary school without a PAR analysis. It was suggested that since this enrollment focused option was factual, and based on the actual data from the Halton District School Board, it thus needed to be explored before a decision was made. But written delegations to support this analysis were ignored.

Remarkably, some Trustees had already written a school closing speech, and read it aloud, expressing their support of the decision to close our schools, prior to the final decision vote.

Voting by hand

The night the school board voted to close two of its seven Burlington high schools the meeting went so late that the vote recording software had gone off line and the votes were done by the raising of hands.

The final deciding vote was was made on the same night as more delegations were presented (against HDSB’s own 10 day procedural rule). Written delegation statements read that night had been prepared, submitted, and approved to present by Chairman Amos. So how much input did the final delegates even have?

This violation of HDSB policy, should without a doubt negate the final vote as they did not comply with their own rules.

The Pupil Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) really didn’t have much say in solving the real problem, as a member of the community put it, of optimally allocating the enrollment, and having that as a key discussion option on the PAR table. They did not get to communicate directly with the school trustees or vice-versa. All conversations or information was filtered through the board. Some PARC members certainly were hindered in sharing information with the community, all of which were PAR requirements.

It seems that the chief characteristic of this 2016/17 PAR is the planned sacrifice of two Burlington high schools, for a school planned and built without any PAR, in the north.

This was guaranteed to breed crisis and conflict, as it did.

So you see…..“There Is Merit To The Administrative Review”

Brecknock TonyTony Brecknock is a Burlington resident who is passionate about the school in his neighborhood that his School Board has decided to close. Mr Brecknock believes the Board is being less than candid with the people it is in place to serve and has set out his opinion on the Administrative Review that is now taking place.

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5 comments to Resident expresses an opinion that appears to be held by many – when 194 of 213 parents in a school sign a petition – the numbers have to tell you something. Might be something the ward trustee would make a note of.

  • Sharon

    The build of Haydon did not only hurt Pearson. Before Haydon, Alton, Orchard, and Millcroft came to Bateman. Originally Millcroft was not supposed to go to Haydon but with parent pressure on the HDSB, that decision was quickly changed.
    It was brought up many times at the PARC table, Haydon was built and now 2 schools are closing. Haydon should have never been built in the first place, and now all that has to be done to fix the empty seats and the busting at the seats Haydon is boundary changes. That is common sense but as we have seen over the past year HDSB don’t have any.

  • Marshall

    HDSB is not known for it’s wisdom. I recall the closure of Breckon PS which in my opinion was used merely as a cash grab in order to build a school in Georgetown. Today, instead of moving the Breckon boundary west, which would have been easy, I see that Tuck PS has several portables. Children still need to cross Walker’s line on Spruce Ave to reach Tuck but would have been spared this with Breckon. It would be interesting today to know the number of Tuck students who live east of Walker’s line and whether their numbers along with the demographic shift to young families around the former Breckon site would result in there being two elementary schools with greater than 80% occupancy rather than a bloated Tuck and bussing for those near the Breckon site.
    The Hayden fiasco is just another example of the HDSB’s lack of planning. Hopefully this folly will be corrected.

  • George

    Hopefully the facilitator the Ontario Ministry of Education appointed for the Administrative Review Ms. Margaret Wilson will read this well written article.

    Hopefully she will use this information plus the many other excellent articles in the Burlington Gazette from concerned parents and citizens that expose the deceptions by the Halton District School Board (HDSB)to enable the closure of two Burlington high schools.

    Citizens of Burlington you need to look back through the many excellent past Burlington Gazette articles to get the truth.

    It does not make sense to close two Burlington high schools and over load others to 130% capacity with plans to increase to 150% with more portable classrooms.

    The Halton District School Board must have some ulterior motive to get the land from Lester B Pearson and Robert Bateman plus want to build a new $29.6 million dollar Administration Building for themselves not for needed space but for nicer space as seen in previous Burlington Gazette articles.

    I wonder what the HDSB intent is for the closed schools they are closing – the land?

    Citizens of Burlington you need to make your selves aware of the HDSB plans and do your part to stop this HDSB nonsense.

  • Stephen White

    Well done Tony! Great article and research!

    Putting aside the PARC review and the recent decision to close Bateman and Pearson, perhaps it is time that the decision to build Hayden back in 2009 was re-examined. It would be interesting to re-evaluate the data, suppositions and arguments that were used to justify the decision to build Hayden in the first place. If, as has been suggested by several writers such as Tony and Tom Muir, that the logic and justification were specious at best why were millions of dollars spent to build Hayden? Looking at the data we could have met existing and projected student enrolment needs by busing students to other schools or by building a smaller facility.


    • Tom Muir

      Good comment Stephen and on the mark.

      Since you ask about how the build of Hayden was justified, let me restate some of the explanation of this that I have given in the past.

      Despite my several formal requests, I was never provided with any response, and any of what I asked for was only provided through an FOI, and even that was obstructed.

      This experience is documented in my writing at the time, and submitted to the Board and trustees, and/or published in the Gazette, all to no avail.

      The problem in trying to find a justification is a convoluted path, and in my experience yields nothing of substance. Despite my reading of every LTAP and other report on the Board website, as far back as they go, and my FOI, I was never able to find any referrals to mid-1990s discussions of a school for Alton and Orchard, or any other discussions, explanations, or rationales for this build. The first reference I found to this school was in the 2008-2012 LTAP.

      I have always started from the position I found early on that it was the way the build was planned and executed that I found compellingly wrong. This is what caused the scenario and process that caused the crisis and conflict we are in.

      I have consistently said from the start that the NE Burlington secondary school (subsequently, Hayden) was built deliberately, with planning of, and full knowledge of the consequences we face now. And most importantly, done with no PAR, to let everyone in the Burlington community of schools know what the implications are.

      The PAR was warranted at the time of the planning, back then, when the consequences were so clearly known.

      I did comment that there was political backroom collusion going on to get the NE Burlington build planned and approved. This is where I see the political and Board collusion acting to get the build done, without a PAR, as that would have interfered with what was wanted, by having to involve all the schools, and the public, in PAR discussion, resulting from the public disclosure of what was being planned..

      Hayden effectively built almost all of the excess capacity we have now (1500 to 1600 seats), with no available record of a written rationale based on new pupil place needs, in terms of the Ministry requirements of enrollment greater than capacity, and the need for additional program and learning opportunities.

      These are the usual requirements to get a new build. In fact, at that time of 2009, overall enrollment trends were flat to down, and utilization was at high levels.

      Also, related to this, I cannot find any discussion that decided that this new build would be done without a PAR, despite the known consequences of excess capacity Burlington-wide.

      And that would result in the PAR we just had, but 10 years after the fact of knowing this, and too late to plan a more suitable option to build, as you suggest.

      Or any records that provide information describing how a new SRA 101, created for the new build, was discussed and rationalized. Information I got from the FOI, and that I submitted to the Board, and the Gazette published, indicates the new build funding application of 2009 has the build included in SRA 100.

      In followup questions to the FOI, on this point, the HDSB refused to answer this question, saying it was outside the scope of the FOI request

      I also cannot find records of discussion that the new build could be decided using a boundary review, and not a PAR, and how this was rationalized. I wanted to know if this creation of SRA 101 was used to justify a boundary review instead of a PAR.

      The point being that the due process was knowingly and willfully corrupted so as to put the day of reckoning off until after the build was done, and the students to fill it were drained from the existing schools to levels that would then be used to start a PAR.

      That’s why some people see this corruption of process as a swindle of the south Burlington residents of two schools to help pay for the surplus seats built at Hayden.

      Data I only got through the FOI, because the Board did not respond to my requests, show that this deliberate and knowing plan that had the consequences we are now suffering, was built right in from the start – Hayden bursting at the seams, and all the surplus seats created in the other Burlington high schools.

      The data show that this was all done by the Board in their planning, boundary and feeder changes, programs, and construction.

      So there is absolutely no trace of what common sense would say is a justifying business case based on need.

      THe HDSB used, or abused if you will, their authority to plan and build this school.

      And as Tony says, no one at the HDSB wants to be held accountable for this, or even recognize that these actions occurred and are compellingly wrong.

      Unfortunately, they are getting away with it because there is no accountability at the HDSB.

      Perhaps you or others can test this, and ask again for answers to your questions.