The original option to close Central and Pearson got changed to a recommendation to close Pearson and Bateman. Best decision? - then why wasn't it the original option?

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

April 23, 2017



Few will differ with the Director of Education on the decision that lets Central high school remain open.
This will be third time that Central has overcome a decision to close the oldest school in the city.

The evidence the school parents brought forward was evidence that was already there – the Board staff either didn’t see it or didn’t want to see it.

MMW with T - shirt

Meed Ward went to Queen’s Park – as a lifelong Liberal she nevertheless stood beside the Progressive Conservative leader to make her point. The words on that T shirt would serve her well in the 2018 municipal election.

Some have suggested that Ward 2 city Councillor Marianne Meed Ward choosing to accept the parent request that she sit on the PARC was what made the difference. Meed Ward wasn’t all that effective – a better way of putting that is to say that she has been much more effective at city hall than she was during the PARC process.

Did Meed Ward save Central? Certainly not. She has had to put up with a lot of undeserved political heat for the decision she made. This isn’t the first time she has had to put up with the small mindedness of her city council colleagues. She has prevailed.

The Central parents put out a statement earlier today saying:

“We strongly support a no school closure option and are disappointed that any schools have been named; we feel for the Bateman and Pearson communities as well as the Hayden FI community as we know first hand what it feels like to sit in this position.

Silent auction Joe Dogs

The Central parents held a silent auction – raised $14,000 and had a war chest to dip into.

“We do acknowledge that the Board is in a position where the Ministry leaves little choice but to close schools in order to maximize funding. We feel that the director and staff have done their best to ensure that the new recommendation considers the best interests of students in all of Burlington. Maintaining schools in every community will benefit the greatest number of students by providing maximum opportunity to allow students to walk, bike and participate in extra- curricular activities as well as keep busing to a minimum which is also fiscally and environmentally responsible.

“From day one we have stressed that impacting the least number of students negatively should be a primary focus and feel that this option does reflect that goal. We also stressed the impact on the students in grade 7 and 8 who are currently housed at Burlington Central and who were not being considered as part of the process.

“We took effort and care to prove that Central was not the problem beyond a shadow of a doubt. The new recommendation outlines all the reasons that Burlington Central should never have been named in the first place. We will continue to delegate and push forward to remind the trustees of this until the final vote on June 7th.

“We want to thank all of the Central Strong Community for the support and commitment over the past few months, with a special thanks to our PARC representatives as this was no easy task. This has been an emotional roller coaster and we wouldn’t have had this success without the help of each and every one of you.”

Meed Ward herself was not available for comment

The Director’s report chose to say that the overflow into Nelson made it necessary to keep Central open. A specious argument if there ever was one.

Closing central would have left such a huge hole between Aldershot and Nelson that would require hundreds of students to be bussed at a cost that was estimated to come in at $400,000 a year forever.

Map #1 - all schools

The strongest argument Central had was this map. The picture was worth more than one thousand words.

While city council wasn’t prepared to take a position on the evidence that was on the table Meed Ward was. The political blow back on that Meed Ward choice will continue for a while but longer term the public will see that she not only was capable of walking into turbulent political water she actually did just that. Not something the current Mayor is inclined to do.

On this occasion Meed Ward didn’t just “talk the talk” – she “walked the talk”. The city is the better for that choice.

The closure of Robert Bateman High School and the associated redirection of the English program students to Nelson High School, as well as the relocation of the Regional Essential, LEAP and CPP programs, will result in a substantial increase in enrollments at Nelson High School. In order to provide some accommodation relief at Nelson High School, a review of the existing boundaries was undertaken to determine if there were any opportunities to redirect some areas out of the Nelson High School catchment area.

The existing Tecumseh Public School Grade 8 cohort is split between two high schools: those students residing east of Guelph Line attend Nelson High School, while those west of Guelph Line attend Burlington Central High School. In order to ensure the Tecumseh Public School Grade 8 cohort would remain together, the entire Tecumseh Public School catchment area is designated to be redirected and included within the Burlington Central High School catchment area. Unifying the cohort would provide accommodation relief to Nelson High School, and enhance Burlington Central High School enrollments by providing additional students to that school’s population.

In order to ensure an appropriate transition, grand parenting will occur. This will result in the redirection of all Tecumseh Public School students entering the Grade 9 English program in September 2018 to Burlington Central High School, including those east of Guelph Line. As of September 2018, Grade 10, 11, and 12 English students currently attending Nelson High School from the Tecumseh Public School catchment area will be grand parented to remain at Nelson High School until they graduate.

Now – what does the Board of Education do with the Central facilities? The school was neglected for so long that its condition was terrible. The students put up with a lot. It was a little like a slum landlord letting a property deteriorate to the point where it had to be demolished.

Central property aerial

Could an indoor swimming pool be placed on this site? Could the high school be designated as an historical site? Can Central be brought back to the condition it should have been put in 15 years ago.

The set up on the property at the corner of Brant and Baldwin includes everything from junior kindergarten to grade 12. The addition of the International Baccalaureate will make the school complex just that much more complete.

The facilities need to be upgraded to the level that exists at Hayden. The property to the west of the school – now a playing field owned by the city, is just the kind of location for an indoor swimming pool where there is a more than dense enough population to ensure very heavy use.

While the decision was the right one – the question Lisa Bull, a Bateman parent asks – is still very relevant.
“I am extremely curious about his (Miller’s) change from recommending Central (and Pearson) for closure in his first recommendation to Bateman (and Pearson) in today’s report. I question the influence of a sitting City council member on the PAR Committee and want to better understand the role this played in Director Miller’s change of heart.”

PARC anxious parent

Was it the power of prayer that brought about the change in the Director of Educations final recommendation? Lynn Crosby at a PARC meeting.

What was it that brought about the change in the minds of the Board staff and the Director of Education (it certainly wasn’t a change of heart) that resulted in the decision to keep Central open?

That is a question the trustee’s will have to determine when they confer with the Director; it might well be an issue that the Bateman parents delegate on as well. The matter is in their hands.

The Central parents are breathing a huge sigh of relief however this is not the time for them to rest on their oars. The building is in poor shape – it needs the treatment the old Laura Secord property on Lakeshore Road got (now the Paletta Mansion) that brought it back to what it was intended to look like.

Is the high school a heritage site? Should it be one? The parents might want to go after that designation as they work towards that point in time where the school is never threatened with closure again.

Part 1 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Part 2 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

Part 3 of a series on the recommendation to close two Burlington high schools.

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8 comments to The original option to close Central and Pearson got changed to a recommendation to close Pearson and Bateman. Best decision? – then why wasn’t it the original option?

  • Super Special Needs Parent

    The Central statement is ridiculous. Did anyone see their first post of celebrating their “victory”? They won that victory by targeting Bateman and our most vulnerable students. Have they ever transitioned a child to a new school who has difficult transitioning from one class to another? I have 5 times, every 2 years and yet again if this decision stands we are shuffling these students around the board with little regard to the impact it will have on their education. I don’t care if my child can walk to school, I care that my child gets educated, is safe and happy.

    No school should close and to be stating that now, when your strategy all along has been any other school but mine is an insult to our intelligence and to the fight that parents of children with Special Education needs have fought for years and years! This is not done, we are used to fighting injustices and we are ready to go now

  • Concerned Parent

    Tom, unfortunately all of us have had to live and die by the idiotic provincial process, which put us in a position with only 2 choices – to defend our school or have it close. The CentralStrong team spent months doing just that, against all the bad data and ideas from the Board on why Central should close and now that they have changed their mind we are basically saying ‘good for you Board, you finally got it”.

    Because although we all wanted the ‘no school closes’ option, we had to fight for our school first given the position we had been placed in. And as a rep on the PARCommitte said at the PARC table, “#7 will never be chosen, otherwise why would we be here?”.

    We began fighting the initial recommendation with a broader city-wide scope but had absolutely no support from any other school except for Pearson and one other individual on the committee. Therefore we quickly saw we had to save ourselves first. And we did so by bringing forward to the Board verifiable data, studies, professional opinions, updated costs, corrections to their data, new thoughts, etc etc etc. Along with, but not limited to, the stories from our students and community about our attachment to Central.

    We will continue to stand for Central and for all Burlington High schools, as we believe that the Board and all its previous iterations have led us to where we are now, as you say, but we had to break down the work into logical parts to make any headway at all towards the task at hand. The ship was sinking and we had to plug the leak first – before we talk about who put the hole there in the first place.

    • Tom Muir

      Concerned Parent,

      I realize everyone was put into the Board box and forced to fight each other. I have said that many times.

      Please understand my beef is the Central letter in the story here actually sympathized with and congratulated the Board for this ordeal.

      Don’t put all the blame on the province. The Board chose how the PAR was structured, and put 2 schools on the block to start. They could have made it wide open, with all schools in there to start.

      This biased the process and participation and numerous study results completely, as you know very well.

      This went overboard, when all that had to be said is we are glad that Central was not named. Nothing more was needed.

      The Board deserves nothing but our everlasting enmity, and our continuing fight for accountability for the bungled planning of Hayden without a PAR that led to us having to deal with their resulting mess.

      Closing any schools is a gross injustice and the plan and fault of the Board. They must be held to answer for this, and not allowed to shirk it off, and ignore it, like they have done, with a misuse and abuse of their authority.

      This is the sentiment that must also be taken to the Trustees – we can never trust Board authority.

      This is what they have coming – a call to accountability to all of us – not a pat on the back.

      When you come to the public meeting to delegate before the Trustees, remember to bring this sentiment with you, not just another defense of your school against a possible caprice of the Board.

      What people really want, and you should too, is for them to keep their hands off of our schools, all of them.

      Please everyone, expressing that to the Trustees is all I can ask of you.

  • Dan Nolan

    Thanks Pepper. keep up the good work.

  • Terry

    This article is quite balanced in many ways but the statement about the physical conditions at Burlington Central is inaccurate – “The school was neglected for so long that its condition was terrible.”

    Central was built and added onto at times when buildings were built sturdily. The roofing and brickwork have been maintained. The science labs were updated and there were renovations to the Phys. Ed. change rooms and cafeteria in 2001 when Central became at Grade 7-Graduation school. In recent years, the fixed-seat auditorium (a real asset to the school) underwent a beautiful renovation and the outdoor track was replaced. The library has had updates in its configuration. Many of the classrooms are large and bright – much more so than classrooms in more recently built schools. It has often been at the forefront in its access to computers and has an innovative mathematics lab. Its machine shop supports an outstanding Robotics program.

    Of course, there are areas for improvement. It needs to be made more accessible by installing an elevator – this is one area where it has been neglected. It is not fully air-conditioned but that is also true of 3 of the other Burlington high schools. And it requires on-going painting to keep it fresh-looking!

    • Tom Muir


      I agree with you, so please don’t misunderstand me. I support keeping all schools open, and I think I have made that quite clear during the PAR.

      Your eloquent description of Central, along with several other location factors, shows clearly the Board should never have fingered it to close.

      The decision to spare it now underlines the ill-thought planning decision to list it to begin with, and then change their mind. Duh

      I think that it was chosen at first to attract attention and fire, and to lull the other schools into passivity, which was successful indeed.

      My beef in this comment above is the Central committee being completely insensitive to the other schools, with sympathy and compliments to the Board that has tortured everyone with this PAR, including Central.

      They could have said anything else, but this was troubling.

      Why they would then capitulate to the Board with language that is unbelievably lacking in empathy, and an accurate description of the PAR process that happened, is over the top to me.

      I supported them, but not to see this.

  • Tom Muir

    I am really disgusted that this Central parent group uses the language of capitulation to the Board – they actually provide excuses for the Board’s actions, and forgive and congratulate them for doing their best.

    “We do acknowledge that the Board is in a position where the Ministry leaves little choice but close schools in order to maximize funding. We feel that the director and staff have done their best to ensure that the new recommendation considers the best interests of students in all of Burlington.

    What a bunch of self-serving and boot licking crap this is. It’s just like self-congratulation, with back-pats all around.

    I never heard or read even one word of this BS during the PARC process. I only heard of lies, misinformation, incorrect data, manipulation, incompetence, and a slew of other complaints.

    What happened to that fire in the belly? And concern with observed facts?

    The Board did not do this for financial reasons – money was never stated as the compelling problem in the PAR criteria – read Miller’s report. This is not done to get money, but to save some money, and gain saleable surplus assets to get even more.

    And there is no information and data to show factually how these closures are in the best interests, that ensure the best interests, of students in all of Burlington.

    The bungled planning and secret consequences of Hayden made sure that could never happen long ago, in 2008. That’s when the plan to drain the 6 existing schools to fill Hayden was hatched, but they didn’t tell us what the future held by having a PAR then. They had PARs for two Oakville schools planned at the same time. Why?

    It’s pretty clear now that having a PAR back then would have got in the way of that plan and raised the consequences into public view and consciousness. Now it’s a done deal, so too bad.

    It’s apparent that a lot happened to Central thinking as all parents, of all schools on the block, were slowly led down the garden path by the Board. Just like I said at the start would be done.

    It now reads about Central retreat with seeming victory, but protect your flank – it’s not over till it’s over. Take no chances.

    Give yourself a shake Central and look in the mirror.

    Did you really mean to say what you said?

    Sad indeed in my heart.

  • I'm alright now

    Second oldest trick in the book, “Bait and Switch.”
    I guess nobody buys automobiles anymore, P.T. Barnum apparently was correct when he posited that, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”
    Best be giving that Slick, Gaelic speaking shill out of Toronto Rosedale a biiig pay raise, before we lose him to some Liberal hack posting in WSIB, Metrolinx, Mohawk college, or wherever they dump their trash now.