Muir goes after the Board of Education for what he calls their ethical and moral failure.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

October 21st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The timing of that PAR in relation to the timing of the Hayden build was perfectly orchestrated by the Halton District School Board (HDSB). The lack of a PAR for Hayden was denied as a point for discussion and the HDSB Board and Director of Education Mr. S. Miller worked extensively to keep it hidden.

Was there any transparency when it came to the Hayden build? Well, members of the community had to go to the Freedom Of Information in order to get any information at all to learn more about how Hayden was planned, approved with known consequences, and built regardless. It appeared that this consequential matter was buried by the Board at the very first Pupil Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) meeting. The parents never had a chance. Just having to go Freedom of Information (FOI) says a great deal about the motives involved.

sweg

Hayden high school – sen as the nicest high school in the city – Muir thinks it was foisted on the public ti justify closing two high schools south of the QEW

This decision by the Board to hide the facts of this was an ethical and moral failure. The PAR was started with dishonesty about how they planned and got us to that position, in the direct, known consequences of the Hayden build, and then it was hidden and covered-up throughout. The partnership with the city for more facilities is not a credible excuse, as this was something that happened after the fact of the build plan getting approved. The conception of the build, and the plan, had nothing to do with the partnership, which only came because the build was basically underway.

Reading through the Boundary Review of 2012, it is obvious again that Hayden could go to 1800 students, and that a PAR was justified then, on these grounds alone. Added to this, it was evident that most of the other schools were sure to be driven to much lower numbers. No warning was given to parents of these consequences.

While Lester B Pearson HS remained at 83% UTZ (utilization), there was no warning that this would change as the boundaries and feeder schools were chosen to feed and justify Hayden. MMR was projected at 48%UTZ, but was then favored with more students. A Bateman parent expressed her concern that her child’s special program would be moved, but was assured by the HDSB that programs would not be moved. These are just some of the reasons why parents are objecting to what was done.

Among other things, the FOUR top criteria of the Boundary Review (BR) were:

1. Balance of overall enrolment in each school in the review area to maximize student access to programs, resources, and extra-curricular opportunities.

There were no efforts to achieve this one, including in the PAR. With Hayden projected to an 1800 student enrollment in a 1200 student OTG, how can this criterion be claimed to be acted on and key?

This criterion was analyzed by many members of the community, revealing that balanced, optimal enrollment among schools would provide the best and maximal access to programs etc. – better than maximizing utilization, which is what was factually implemented. Again, how does this fit?

2. Proximity to schools (walking distances, safe school routes, natural boundaries)

Hayden has the second highest busing costs and moves 580 students, almost half of the On the Ground (OTG) capacity, and 1/3 of the high projected enrollment of 1800. On page 4, last line, in the Boundary Review report, it states that The majority of students attending the new Burlington NE high school will be able to walk to school. So how does this fit, as the busing data says it’s not so?

3. Accommodation of students in permanent school facilities and minimal use of portable classrooms

As noted again, there are 12 portables at Hayden and 6 more are stated as needed in future. These will house up to 600 overfill students. So how does this fit this key criterion?

4. Stable, long-term boundaries

SRA 100 as at 2015Certainly, it looks like no matter how overfilled Hayden was projected to become, and in fact did so, with portables, busing and 151% UTZ, the boundaries chosen, and feeders, that generated this result remained unchanged. This outcome, despite several other schools becoming under-filled and under-utilized, seems to reveal again the Board premeditated plan to close schools – the boundaries chosen by the board were kept stable, regardless of the cost of 2 schools.

SRA 101 as at 2015So they delivered on this criterion, even in the PAR. Again, how does this fit what the parents I think would consider a trustworthy and rational decision to contribute to the benefit and well-being of the students, and the community of schools?

Overall, the issue is not so much building Hayden, but that it was done without a PAR to provide information and analysis of the consequences for all the schools in the review area covered by a Boundary Review (BR). This BR was clearly inadequate and people were in effect deceived by a lack of dire warning of what was to be.

Admin Rev requests

The Halton Administrative Review requests were the only ones to be approved by the Ministry of Education

The “timing” of that PAR in relation to the “timing” of the Hayden build, and the resultant planned and deliberate building of seats that became surplus in south Burlington, is what inevitably led to the decision to close two schools. It should also be noted, that the two Burlington requests for Administrative Reviews are the only ones that have been approved out of the 12 applications from across the province so far this year.

Muir with pen in hand

Tom Muir

Tom Muir, a retired federal civil servant has been a consistent observer and critic of civic government.  He resides in Aldershot where he is an astute commentator on development in that community.  His views are his own. 

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11 comments to Muir goes after the Board of Education for what he calls their ethical and moral failure.

  • Colleen A

    Hi Tom,

    I’d like to put forward some “on the ground” information around Hayden and my understanding of why we are where we are.

    1. A group of parents & I requested (& received) through FOI the paperwork entailing how Hayden came to be built, including the boundary review. There was evidence of community involvement including requests for optional attendance. One thing that was obvious to us right away was the large number of feeder schools approved for Hayden. If it was obvious to us, it would’ve been obvious to the community at the time.

    2. Bussing costs. It’s my understanding that before Hayden was built, the feeder schools in the Millcroft neighbourhood were bussed to Nelson. Those schools were not connected to Pearson in anyway even before Hayden was built. So any costs associated with bussing that neighbourhood would’ve been borne by the Board even if they didn’t move to Hayden. In fact, the bussing costs associated with that neighbourhood are probably less because some of those students are within walking distance of Hayden.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Hayden was intended to address the growing needs of the Orchard & Alton communities. The Alton community is quite large, which means there are students in that community that fall within the distance criteria to qualify for bussing. There’s no other high school nearby, so again, the bussing costs associated with those students would be borne by the Board no matter where they go.

    As for the Orchard, it too is a very large neighbourhood with A LOT of homes within that large area. One thing that needs to be made clear is that a sizeable portion of those students ARE within walking distance of Hayden but because of safety issues (no sidewalk for part of the way) those students are being bussed. This cost will come to end this year because Amy Collard announced at one of the Board meetings last year that a sidewalk is being built, meaning those students will not need to be bussed after the current school year. As for the rest of the Orchard, those kids would need to be bussed no matter where they went. Having said that, I want to make very clear that Hayden was built to meet the needs of that community, and the teaching in the Orchard elementary schools prepare them for high school at Hayden. Sending those students anywhere else, especially those with special needs, would put them at a significant disadvantage.

    One final thing I want to address is the mentality of some that criticize the size of Hayden, not wanting to become part of an XXL school and just become a number. I understand that thinking as I fought hard to keep my kids (who all have Autism) in small schools when they were younger. My perspective on that has changed since becoming part of the John William Boich, and now Hayden, communities over the last 4 yrs. My children are not numbers to the staff that work with them. The staff are very engaged, passionate about advocating for their needs and more than willing to go above & beyond to support our family. Is it perfect? No. But I have more hope for my children’s futures and a big reason for that is the hard work of these professionals. I would also add I’ve had great support from the administration (the principal & vice principal) despite the size of the school. So please don’t knock it based on what you imagine the difficulties will be. Thank you.

    • Tom Muir

      Colleen,

      I think that you keep missing my point. This is not about Hayden per se, but the fact there was no PAR when it should have been held, and this was never allowed to be the subject of discussion, but was deliberately avoided.

      In any case, since you only seem to be concerned about yourself and Hayden, and don’t care at all about the rest of us having a school that we love, you should take some solace in the fact that Hayden will not be closed, although you seem adamant that it should be touched at all despite how packed it gets.

      Anyways, that said, given that you say you got FOI information on the Hayden build and the boundary review, you should know that everything I have said here, and elsewhere is true.

      You now know that the NE school was identified in the 2009 LTAP to open in 2012 (later in 2013), and there was no PAR to show a need in terms of needed pupil places or needed program needs.

      It may be that some parents and others wanted a new school there, but that is not the point, and it still needs a process to show the need as noted. Given your own sentiments, I hope you can understand why other parents whose schools are scheduled to close now, due to you getting what you wanted in a new school, without a PAR to inform everyone what was happening, are taking what actions they can in objection to this closure decision, while looking at Hayden turning into a stuffed pig, while their schools are choked to death. Try walking in their shoes for a change.

      Regarding your point 1, I had another look at the boundary review of 2012. THere were 7 elementary and 4 secondary schools involved.

      This report indicates that of 19 members on the BRC, there was only 1 representative for both Bateman and Nelson, due to circumstances, and 2 each for Pearson and MMR. There were also 2 at large Alton area committee members. There were also 5 staff and 4 trustees. THere were 3 meetings structured by the HDSB, and there is no mention of possible closures or other consequences.

      So, of 28 effective members, there were 6 secondary parents, of which there was just 1 for Bateman. I don’t think that this exactly represents the community, and I don’t know if you were a member of the BRC, so I don’t know how you became informed of the feeders. If others did not see this, okay, but I saw no consequences spelled out in the BRC report, the BR was implemented, and now here we are 4 or 5 years later with a PAR and closures stuck in our face.

      2. On busing, I mentioned it in the context of the BR report saying that the majority of students at the new school would walk, and this was a key criterion of the BR. However, the busing data show this is not the case.

      That was the point, not all the possible reasons and excuses that you offer rationalizing this outcome in terms of other possible busing scenarios. Busing happens, but the BR report said, as the very last point, and I quote, – “The majority of students attending the new Burlington NE high school will be able to walk to school.”as I said

      Overall, as I said, my points are not about whether you and other people deserve or need a school in your neighborhood, or that not having one, or changing things, will put your kids at a disadvantage, as you put it.

      Again, what about the other parents and students who just want the same thing that they already thought they had – neighborhood schools and care for students that also were already disadvantaged but found a home for their needs in Bateman and Pearson, with their own caring and passionate teachers and supporting administrators. What about them? They matter less than you?

      Finally, I did not say anything about the size of Hayden, or it being XXL with students who are just numbers. You are confusing me and my story here, with another recent story, on a much broader narrative, in the Gazette by Rory Nisan, a Pearson alumni. He advanced that view.

      Since you brought it up, I will say that I agree with him for a lot of reasons. But I don’t think you are listening, and that’s okay for you I guess, and so the air is already full with your opinions on this.

      I will defer to others to decide for themselves, and retreat from this field.

      • Colleen A

        I do understand your point. You believe that Hayden was built without enough public consultation (a BR instead of a PAR) and poor planning, and as a result 2 schools are closing, Hayden is overcrowded and there’s an increase in bussing costs. I’m just trying to give you another perspective because what you see on paper & what is actually happening can look very different and I believe you have to take ALL those things into account in order to truly understand what is going on.

        Of course the students at those other schools matter…I’m not heartless-I realize that having your high school close can be really hard and very sad. You’re saying goodbye to something that’s been a large part of your life, or past, etc…and of course I understand their desire to have passionate teachers & supportive administration. I’ve been in their shoes to some degree (not a school closure, but due to life circumstances beyond our control, we had to leave 2 smaller schools that were extremely supportive). It turned out that my suspicions about larger schools were wrong & what I fought so hard against actually turned out to be wonderful for my kids. I just think it could the same for those families.

        So anyway, I am just entrenched in my opinion as you are in yours Tom…when I see an opportunity to bring some understanding to a discussion about Hayden, I’m going to speak up. Take care.

  • steve

    Excellent article. Seems there is so much corruption in politics, and not just at the provincial and federal level.

  • Steve

    Thanks for digging even deeper into what always seemed a self created problem by the school board. The boundaries, portables at a brand new school, higher busing costs all point to the board being fully aware of the fall out from these questionable decisions far in advance. The fact that it required freedom of information act requests to find out details about a school being built is highly concerning and certainly shows a desire for secrecy to try and shield their flawed logic from public view.

    One wonders if part of this was that the Halton Board were envious of the Catholic School Boards newer high schools in Corpus Christie and Notre Dame and felt they needed their own new shiny building, never mind the functioning buildings already serving students. I guess they didn’t have anything they thought looked quite nice enough to put on the front of a brochure.

    That saddest part of all this is the specialty programming at Bateman being put at risk by these cynical, self serving actions.

    In the not to distant future we will no doubt see the land Pearson and Bateman currently occupy rezoned residential and sold to developers. The city gets to pocket some nice development fees and the school board budget gets a boost. Looks like a win/win for everyone except the students and parents that these institutions supposedly serve.

  • Stephen White

    Unbelievable! I would be interested in hearing how Stuart Miller responds to these observations. I would also be interested in hearing his justification for why HDSB needs to spend $29 million on building new administrative offices when there is no substantive need based on safety or capacity.

    The HDSB is out of control, and it is seriously time to rein them in. That will require trustees who have some business smarts and the ability to speak truth to power.

  • Cheryl Delugt

    This is absolutely appalling that the people we entrust our children with have destroyed Burlington with the decision to close to amazing high schools in Burlington. This was brought up time and time again through many peoples delegations including mine. Why did the school trustees close two amazing schools in Burlington which did nothing for the overcrowding at Hayden leaving it at 135% overcapacity. It is absolutely shameful that students in that school have gym in the halls, cafeteria and the Burlington public library. Burlington citizens can’t gain access to that library because of the overcrowding of students taking over that library over lunch hour. It’s also a huge health and safety issue with the portables overtaking the parking lot and if there was a true medical emergency on the football field fire and EMS would not get to the patient in a timely fashion. But to hear that the school boards going to put six more portable in is appalling. What kind of education is that director Miller?? Just go sit at Hayden at 8:40 in the morning or at 3:10 in the afternoon to see the pure traffic chaos of the 21 buses that are arriving and departing that school with over 500 students in it. Those students easily could’ve been rerouted to Lester B Pearson High School and MM Robinson and that certainly was brought forward in my delegation but the school board and the elected trustees ignored all delegations and all citizens of Burlington. Shameful is all I can say director Miller and the elected school trustees you have destroyed Burlington

  • George

    Tom

    This is an excellent and well thought article exposing the improper and shady actions of the HDSB (Halton District School Board), the HDSB Director of Education and HDSB Trustees.

    It appears the HDSB Trustees are under a “Rasputin Like” influence of the HDSB Director of Education who is also the Secretary of the HDSB Trustees (is this not an apparent conflict of interest? Aren’t the Trustees responsible for the control of the HDSB and its Director of Education? or is it possible the Trustees are under the apparent control of the Director?).

    This article and numerous prior articles are exposing the stink of closing two Burlington high schools on a discredited and faulty process.

  • Steve Atkinson

    As Tom points out so well in this article, the parents and students of Burlington were swindled. No local representative has come forward to help us. It seems they all hoped this was going away. No public statement from anyone about the province-wide halt of all PAR just after HDSB voted to close schools. We trusted that our “Trustees” represented our best interests. A complete failure of the process.

  • Catherine

    Thank you Tom. Your research uncovers what we know – the HDSB has not been transparent with its motives, with the impacts of its decisions and the damage to our children. Real solutions don’t have those who win and those who lose. This process and the outcome to date have been shameful. Thank you for keeping the issue at the surface. Elected officials and un-elected staff will be held accountable for this failure.

  • Diane

    Thank you Tom. I think that is all the parents and community wanted and expected of their elected officials – that they been transparent and accountable for decisions rendered. That they tend to deflect; claim inaccuracies (for material taken from their own minutes); refuse to take ownership for causing the situation two communities now find themselves in; leaves a very bad taste in the mouth of this taxpayer for one.

    The run-around you were given in trying to obtain information is appalling. If they stand behind their decisions why were you forced to obtain/request FOI for documents/information?

    While one situation may have worked out for one parent and her family that doesn’t necessary mean it will be the case for others. Some students at Bateman have had to make 5 school changes. Given some of the special needs issues, most professionals would tell you that consistency certainly is a key to learning for them. That did not bother the HDSB when rendering their (all but 1) decision to close Bateman. Nor did it take into account what would be best served for the students in the north (given under-utilization and over-utilization).

    Failure on so many levels.

    Thank you for being so eloquent in pointing it out.