PARC members getting the short end of the stick and then expected to deliberate wisely without data and faulty information.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

March 20th, 2017



The leading news story this past few months has been the work being done by the Halton District School Board to close two of Burlington’s seven high schools and the work being done by parent groups to keep their local high school open.

It is no surprise that the two are at odds much of the time.

Part of the process required to close a school is a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) that crates a committee of people, two from each high school, who are tasked with being the official conduit for information shared between the Board of Trustees and school communities.

They were given a framework to guide their deliberations.  They had no input on what those guidelines were.

Central and MM question at PARC Feb 9

PARC members putting their choices and comments on large sheets of paper. This was part of the process of whittling down the 30 options that came forward down to the six that are now before the committee.

The fourteen people chosen to do this work, which is proving to be close to exhausting, have a tough job to do – and the HDSB doesn’t make it any easier.

The biggest issue appears to be the data that is collected and the information the Board staff pass along.

PARC public - Dec 8 - 16

Parents at a December 2016b meeting entering their choices on hand held devices as they responded to the 25 questions that were asked of the audience. The data had little relevance because it lacked any balance – more than 50% of the respondents were from the one school.

Two surveys have been done, the first on December 8th at the New Street Educational centre where those in attendance got to use clickers to indicate their choice on 25 different questions.

The problem with the data that came out of that questionnaire was that more than 50% of the people responding were from central high school. The data was severely skewed to the Central high school view of things.

The survey was prepared by IPSOS Reid, a world class organization that found itself struggling to maintain their reputation – admitting that the December 8th event was not one of their finest moments.

The second survey was done on line and ended March 13th.

Students doing survey

The second survey was released at the first public meeting. It turned out to be less than scientific – anyone from anywhere could do the survey as often as they wished,

The data was in the hands of IPSOS Reid at the end of that day. Unfortunately the results are not in the hands of the Board yet – this being early Monday afternoon.

That data will have to at least be looked at by Board staff and then sent along to the 14 PARC members who have just the one evening to go over the data and arrive at their own conclusions.

The 14 PARC members are all volunteers with jobs that keep them busy during the day.

It is both unfair and unprofessional to drop a long data dump on these people at close to the last minute and expect them to make reasonable comments. There is no time for them to talk to their parent groups and get feedback.

Hard working people PARC

Members of the PARC entering data on large posters. These people have worked long hours and are not being given the respect they are entitled to nor the information they need to form opinions and arrive at conclusions.

The PARC was created to act as the official conduit for information shared between the Board of Trustees and school communities. In order for the PARC members to do this they need information on a timely basis – and that just is not happening.

The Ministry of Education Guidelines on the PAR process are new and there are clearly some changes needed.

Consideration might be given to changing the timeline these people have been forced to work within.

The Gazette had hoped to have the survey data in hand and be able to do an analysis so that the public could be aware of that the PARC members are working with.

When a public is shabbily treated by a publicly funded organization they get angry, feel they are being mistreated and look for ways to vent that anger and disappointment.  That produces events that are pictured below.

Engaged parents

The turn out at the first public meeting where parents could see what the Board of Education wanted to do had hundreds of people show up. The second public meeting has Board staff limiting the number of people who could be in the very large room – they were close to exceeding Fire Marshall limitations.

Unhappy parent

Unhappy parents who are not given the information they need get angry – resulting in outbursts like this – no one winds and the reputation of the Board gets badly tarnished and the democratic process take a huge hit. Can you imagine what the next election of school board trustees in 2018 is going to look like

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1 comment to PARC members getting the short end of the stick and then expected to deliberate wisely without data and faulty information.

  • Lynn

    When the Ipsos Reid person stood up at the PARC meeting and said with a straight face that the survey was “non-scientific” and could be done by anyone in the world and in fact one could pay someone in India to do it hundreds of times, we knew the Board would be 0 for 3 on surveys.

    I expect the Board will choose some comments that they like and highlight those and that will be that. The fact that the comments chosen could have come from Board staff themselves for all we know makes it more ridiculous.

    However, the Ministry has a requirement that the Boards must seek public input, so this will tick off that box and the Board can write in the Final Report that they conducted a survey. It isn’t spelled out anywhere that the survey has to be done properly or produce actual, useable results. Even if the survey gave a clear outcome, the Director does not need to use that data for anything anyway. This is another of the many ways the Ministry’s Program & Accommodation Review process is deeply flawed and really quite a waste of time.