School closings: Who said what to who and what influence did they have? Parents to demonstrate outside MPP's office.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

May 23th, 2017


There were errors in an earlier version of this article.  Corrections have been made. A link to the circumstances that led to the errors appears at the end of this article.  The Gazette regrets its mistakes.

Some of the back channel meetings that are reported to have taken place are beginning to come to the surface.

Ontario’s Minister of Education Mitzi Hunter has managed to make time for two lengthy meetings with delegations from Burlington.

Denise Davy - Bateman supporter

Denise Davy

Denise Davy and Steve Armstrong met with the Ministry officials last including two policy advisors last week and a representative from the office of Burlington MP Eleanor McMahon. That meeting lasted about an hour.

Steve Armstrong + Cheryl deLught - Pearson

Cheryl deLught and Steve Armstrong

Davy works with the Bateman parents, Armstrong was a member of the Program Accommodation Review (PAR) Committee representing Pearson high school.

Closing both schools is part of the revised recommendation Director of Education Stuart Miller sent to the trustees.

More than 50 people delegated to the trustees earlier in the month. The trustees are now in the “information” stage – the last step before they meet June 7th to make their decision. The information session, a meeting where the trustees get to ask questions of the Director and his staff took place last week; that meeting was recessed until Wednesday of this week. They were not able to complete their questions before 11:30 pm when everyone just wanted to go home.

The final decision is made by the 11 trustees.

Among the issues discussed at the meeting with Davy and Armstrong and the Minister of Education was a reported request for a “cleaner, scandal free process”. Both parents wanted to get the Bateman and Pearson arguments before the Minister of Education and point out to her that they felt the whole PAR process was flawed.

Flawed it may be – but the decision making power is with the elected trustees and that process has to follow its natural course.

It is clear now that the trustees are struggling with the recommendation that was sent to them by the Director of Education.

Where things get interesting is with the meetings that took place in March when Central high school parents trooped to Queen’s Park and demonstrated in front of the Legislature.

MMW with T - shirt

Marianne Meed Ward at a Queen’s Park media event with Leader of the Opposition Patrick Brown Brown.

Meed Ward then held a press conference with leader of the Opposition standing beside her while she complained about the flawed PAR process.

Meed Ward then had a lengthy meeting (reported to have lasted two and a half hours) with the Minister of Education and Burlington MP Eleanor McMahon.

Managing to get two Ministers into the room for a lengthy meeting is not easily achieved.

McMahon - First public as Minister

Burlington MPP Eleanor McMahon.

When the Director of Education changed his recommendation – he hasn’t given a reason for the recommendation change – the Bateman parents began to mobilize and tell their story.

The obvious argument for closing Bateman is that it is 1.9 km from Nelson. There is much more to the Bateman story than its distance from Nelson.

Many had serious concerns over the appointment of Meed Ward to the PARC. If the expectation was that she would deliver for the Central high school parents, she appears to have done so.

Many Bateman parents refer to a comment from a Central parent who said: “We continue to believe that Central is not the problem; the problem lies in the southeast end of the city where Nelson and Bateman have significantly overlapping catchments, 1.9 kilometres apart on the same street, and Bateman has declining enrolment….”

One of the reasons for the PAR being held was that there were too many empty seats in six of the seven high schools – with the seventh, Hayden high school, operating at 130% + capacity.

Many argue that the building of Hayden is the reason the problem of all those empty seats exist.

The decision to build Hayden was made in 2008 when Peggy Russell, a perennial NDP candidate, was a Halton District school Board trustee.

Peggy Russell is a very forthright speaker, she makes her point and seldom backs down. Expect her to excel at the all candidate meetings

Peggy Russell former NDP candidate and a Halton District School Board trustee – she served as vice chair for a period of time.

Russell, who says she was never a push over for Staff, said she felt a need to speak out, saying “you know there is a great deal more to this whole picture than meets the eye and staff are not the ones you should be looking at here, nor should they be vilified in this manner, the individuals who set all this in motion should not be allowed to become a Hero in this whole debacle, it is really very simple.”

The Gazette was not able to actually speak to Ms Russel – the communication was via email.

Did Miller meet with MPP McMahon?  He did not.  As the MPP McMahon would want a briefing from the Director of Education.


Stuart Miller during a Q&A that took place on-line.

Did McMahon influence Miller so much that he changed his recommendation?  She did not.

Miller has said in the past that the recommendation to close some of the high schools in Burlington should have been made years ago – today he certainly wishes that had been done.

Has Meed Ward delivered for the central parents? – most certainly. Has that accomplishment hurt her desire to become the Mayor of Burlington? – only time will tell.

The issue right now is ensuring that the 11 trustees have all the information they need and that they have the wisdom to decide what is best for the city of Burlington.

Related article link
Gazette erred.



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11 comments to School closings: Who said what to who and what influence did they have? Parents to demonstrate outside MPP’s office.

  • Glenda D

    I don’t have children so I’m not for or against any school…however….I did not know about kids originally going to Bateman being moved to Hayden because of boundary changes. Why the boundary changes?? Was it to fill up Hayden that now has a “huge” overflow….if reverting the boundaries sends kids back to Bateman then why is that not being done….If Bateman has so many special programs why close Bateman….decision should be made on what’s best for students, not what’s best for the Boards budget….maybe get rid of some overpaid bureaucrats.

  • Cora Selles

    When Hayden was built kids originally going to Bateman were moved to Hayden, so why not change boundaries back to help with huge overflow at Hayden and get Bateman numbers back up.. Taking French immersion kids out is not going to help with huge overflow at Hayden, but changing boundaries back will. Bateman has many programs not offered anywhere else, it has recent renovations and also a pool. This reminds me of Oakville where they saved The oldest school Oakville Trafalgar only to have to build a new one to replace it while closing the newer Queen Elizabeth school. Better planning and foresight are needed.

  • Stephen White

    I live in southeast Burlington. The character of the neighbourhood is changing significantly. There are a lot more younger families with children moving into the area. To expect theses kids to walk to Nelson is unreasonable, and to bus them is hardly conducive to environmental sustainability.

    Frankly, none of these schools should be closed. Demographic changes are occurring in several neighbourhoods across the city. The trustees need to stand up and oppose any school closures and seek out alternate uses and accommodations. The decision to build Hayden was unnecessary, and given all that has come out in this forum regarding boundaries and population estimates it is truly disturbing that it was ever build in the first place. It is almost deserving of an inquiry into the planning around it.

    Once again, our MPP has been noticeably silent on this issue. Not exactly a model of stellar leadership.

    As for Marianne Meed Ward, I have to agree with John. It sure looks like a conflict of interest to me, whether real or perceived. She might just have scuttled her chances for the Mayor’s office in 2018.

    • Tom Muir


      I say that building Hayden more than almost, it absolutely does, deserve an inquiry into the planning around it.

      If building what is now about 1500-1600 surplus seats, using only political power to get it, is not against the rules, or illegal by any administrative code of conduct, then tell me what is?

      To top it off, the Board covers it up.

  • Sharon

    Grade 7 and 8’s belong in an elementary school. Not in a high school. The reason the Grade 7 and 8’s are in Central and Aldershot is to make up numbers. But at the PARC those numbers were not included in the student body population.

    You talk about Grade 7 and 8’s cohorts being split up. How many elementary schools will they go to before they reach high school?

    Central has a state of art theater. Bateman has a state of heart EVERYTHING! You should go visit.

    Robert Bateman High School has the Top 3 students in the HDSB. According Fraser Institute Robert Bateman High School is #2.

  • John

    Meed Ward participating in the PAR process was a conflict of interest. Whether it was a legal or moral conflict doesn’t matter it’s still a conflict and poor judgment on her part.

  • Glenda D

    Craig….Central High is the only school with state of the art facility for theatre…has been ranked as #1 academically….to have people pound the drums to revisit and start over with wanting Central to be closed is a tragedy…Central is just that…central to all other locations….any of the new builds are straw and paper compared to Central brick and mortar….give another 25 years and Central will out last any of the other schools in Burlington…there was no “dirty power politics”..just strong make sense submission of facts.

    • Teri

      Actually Glenda, Nelson and Pearson are ranked #1 and #2 in the HDSB. Central is ranked #3.
      Is Central really central to all locations? Is it central to those people living at Appleby? Central needs 3 million to make it AODA compliant and there will still be areas of the school not accessible.
      I’m not sure about ‘dirty’ politics but it is interesting that the Director changed his recommendation after pressure from politicians….

      Editor’s note: Link to the matter of “dirty politics”

    • Kerri Vane

      Agreed Glenda. I don’t understand why these few people constantly bring up Central like it is a personal goal of theirs to see it close.

      I’d also mention the significant numbers of grade 8 cohorts who would be split up at high school, Aldershot facing 140%+ capacity and the failure to recognize the current grade 7 & 8’s at both Central and Aldershot. No power politics were required. The huge hole in Burlington’s geographical map says it all.

  • Jeremy Skinner

    On June 7th, each of the six Recommendations proposed in the Director’s Final Report will require majority out of 11 HDSB Trustee (not just the 4 Burlington Trustees) votes to accept, to accept with conditions, or to reject.

    They are:
    1. Robert Bateman High School to be closed June 2019 and students re-directed to Nelson High School and M.M. Robinson High School.
    2. The International Baccalaureate Program to transfer from Robert Bateman High School to Burlington Central High School, effective September 2019.
    3. Lester B. Pearson High School to be closed June 2018 and the students re-directed to M.M. Robinson High School commencing September 2018.
    4. French Immersion program to be moved from Dr. Frank J. Hayden Secondary School as of September 2018, beginning with the Grade 9 program.
    5. Students from the “Evergreen” community (currently undeveloped) will be directed to M.M. Robinson High School.
    6. Aldershot High School will be explored as a site for a magnet program or themed school.

    Tell your Trustee (and cc to the other Trustees) how you would vote for each of the 6 recommendations and if any of the Recommendations to be accepted would require any conditions to be met. The non-Burlington Trustees will likely side with the Burlington Trustees if there is a consensus amongst the Burlington Trustees.

    We all (including the Trustees and HDSB staff) find ourselves in a sub-optimal environment whereby the school system has been inherited from those who are no longer amongst us. Hence the uncomfortable decisions we face to best serve our students.

  • craig

    If the trustees have to close a school I assume they can cut thru the dirty power politics and go back to closing Central if they want to is this correct?