School board trustees get an opportunity to make a far reaching decision on the kind of education that will be delivered.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

March 6th, 2018



There is something good that will come out of the Program Administrative Review (PAR) that resulted in the closing of two of the city’s seven high schools – the Aldershot high school will get a complete makeover that could turn it into a place that has all the buzz and excitement that Hayden high school has today. That is not to suggest that the other high schools don’t have anything going for them.

During the PAR debates the Board administration put out the idea of re-making Aldershot into a school that would attract people from other schools as well as other jurisdictions – a covetous eye was cast toward Hamilton. The original impetus was to increase the enrollment.

The program that is being put forward will increase the enrollment and significantly improve the profile of the school.

Steve Cussons Aldershot

Steve Cussens, Aldershot resident and PAR committee member.

Steve Cussens, one of the PAR members has been cultivating this idea since its inception. He was one of the PAR members pushing the idea of more in the way of educational innovation. His efforts have borne fruit.

There wasn’t a clear idea – other than to describe what might be done as a magnet school, a themed school, an alternative school, and/or an incubator school, when the plans were first talked up.


Terri Blackwell, Superintendent of PAR implementation

Stuart Miller, Director of Education assigned Terri Blackwell to the task. She took a very proactive approach and cast the net for participants on the discussion widely.

She went to the community – and they responded very positively.  Her report to the trustees last week was one of those meetings where every question asked was answered and then some. It is an exciting opportunity that is now in the hands of the trustees.

If the trustees buy into what they heard Aldershot will see students enrolling in the grade 9 class of what will be an ISTEM in the fall of 2019.

Some of the ideas that came from the public.  All of the themes suggested are set out in a link below.

Social justiceEnvironment - EcoEntreprreunership-businessArts



The Board was shown a short video on the way education has not changed – it set out just what the ISTEM initiative is setting out to achieve.  It certainly tells what advancing innovative practices is all about?

The objective is to create learning opportunities and support the development of transferable skills: Critical Thinking and Problem Solving; Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship; Self- Directed Learning; Collaboration, Communication, and Citizenship.

That is a tall order – but it is what education is all about.  Can the Board of Education administration pull this one off?

concept symbol

Graphic that sets out all the parts that come together to result in a new student program offering.

If what the trustees were told in February has merit this is a project that is being done the way a project should be done. Blackwell is doing a great job working with a team that is as broad based and inclusive.

They are already thinking through how they want to market this opportunity.

They have thought through how students from across the Region can use public transit to get to Aldershot.

Blackwell + Tuffen as a team

Superintendents Terri Blackwell and Gord Truffen during the presentation of the ISTEM proposal.

Gord Truffen, Superintendent of Education explained that the ISTEM program is a high school offering and will not impact the grade 7 and 8’s that are at Aldershot.

Aldershot parents are said to be halfway to reaching the $125,000 needed to upgrade the auditorium. They might want to reach a little further and allow for some state of the art communications for the space. If they are going to prepare students for the world they will work in – including the high end visual communication should be part of the experience.

Trustee Leah Reynolds mentioned that the Aldershot high school rent out their facilities more than any other school in Burlington –

They are looking at a budget of about $1.4 million to “repurpose” some of the rooms. The labs which are in good shape may need some upgrading.

If the questions from the trustees are any indication expect Oakville and Milton to want an ISTEM program offering in their community.

Current educational research acknowledges the need to recognize societal changes and how education addresses this landscape. The emergence of new technologies is disrupting how businesses operate and interact with their customers, how people work and the careers they pursue, and even how citizens relate to their governments. More and more, personal and national success depends on effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. The Halton Board has recognized this and taken a low enrollment problem and turned it into a growth opportunity.

design workshop

The process used to create new student course offerings.

process graphic

The driving forces that bring new ideas and programs to the public.

The ISTEM concept was refined through a consultation process which includes generating ideas, drawing on pedagogy (research and practice of teaching and learning) and looking at themes. Many of the generated ideas are reflected in the ISTEM Program Framework which draws attention to the process elements of the program.

Students will be engaged in a variety of learning processes – Project-Based Learning, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship and Partnerships. The outer ring of the framework reflects HDSB’s current working definition of innovation as “the capacity to enhance concepts, ideas, or products to contribute new-to-the-world solutions to complex economic, social, and environmental problems”. The contentedness of the framework includes explicit connections to critical thinking and creativity in that “critical thinking and creative thinking work together to create innovation in the Design Thinking process. These thinking processes all work together to bring forth creative innovation and problem solving.”

The ISTEM program will open to all interested Grade 9 students in September, 2019. Subsequent years will see the program extend to Grades 10, 11 and 12.

The ISTEM program provides the Halton District School Board with an opportunity to explore and implement a thematic approach to a secondary school. It further allows for an evaluation of ISTEM’s efficacy and its possible expansion to other regions of the Board. Teaching and learning is an ever- evolving process. This endeavour in part reflects the nature of this evolution.

Related news story:

Themes submitted by the Aldershot community for a new course offering.

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4 comments to School board trustees get an opportunity to make a far reaching decision on the kind of education that will be delivered.

  • Colleen A

    This is just the beginning of the positives that we will see coming from the decision that was made last June and confirmed by the Administrative Review. I’m already hearing about English track students & their families who finally felt like they were heard and excited about going Nelson.

    Lorne Coe, the PC education critic is going to meet with those still fighting against the decision. For those of us who support the process & decision, it is crucial that we reach out to him so that he’s not just hearing the fear mongering of some. His email is

  • Sharon

    Nothing good came out of the PAR!

  • Cheryl

    So the school board chooses to close two amazing high schools. Trying to replicate Robert Bateman at Nelson at a cost of 12 million likely that will be closer to 19 million when the plans are finalized. The cost to renovate MM Robinson and then now 1.4 million to purpose Aldershot. This is so not fiscally responsible. I am apalled by these leaders that we entrust our children with. Shame on you halton district school board

  • Sharon

    This is a complete joke! The HDSB took the ideas of the PARC of innovation that we discussed at the the last PARC meeting we requested. These ideas were to be used in all the high schools in hope to keep ALL the schools open.
    But instead the HDSB chose to close Pearson and Robert Bateman and now they are going to spend $12 million which will be closer to $14 million to build some sort of a wing onto Nelson and $1.4 million for Aldershot. And we haven’t even calculated the money in for MM Robinson and Central. This absolutely irresponsible spending of tax payer money!! I will keep this alive for the election next October!! And by the way Leah Reynolds should check the records of how much Robert Bateman High School is rented out!!