Trustee Reynolds provides her rationale for voting to have Bateman and Pearson high schools closed.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 10th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette has been communicating electronically with Board of Education trustee Leah Reynolds about the texts that took place between Reynolds and Marianne Meed Ward, a PAR member while it existed. The texts were exchanged during the Board meeting at which the decision was made to close two of the city’s seven high schools. That request for that information has yet to be reported on.

While waiting for the text data, Ward 1 and 2 Halton Board of Education trustee Leah Reynolds sent in the following comment on her controversial vote for the closing of two of the seen high schools in Burlington.

Leah Reynolds with students

Board of Education trustee for \Wards 1 and 2 Leah Reynolds in discussion with students from Central high school.

Reynolds represents Central High school which was on the original list of schools recommended for closure. The Director of Education revised his list of recommendations and removed Central and added Bateman, Pearson was on the original list and remained on that list.

Reynolds provides some background on the decision making process she went through.

“In October of 2016 I did not support engaging a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) . My concern at that time was the recommendation excluded an important stakeholder (representation from grade 7 and 8). Notwithstanding that roughly one third of both schools population receive programming directly within Aldershot and Burlington Central schools, this group had no right to voice opinion on the high school closure at the PAR discussion table.” Reynolds said at the time that “This revised motion does not negatively impact these Grades 7 and 8 students.”

“Through the PAR discussions, I learned the extent in which Burlington students lacked equity of opportunity in program and as pointed out by my trustee peers – also across Halton. Low enrolments at 5 out of 7 high schools meant students can’t get the classes they need. Since the future of our children depends on what they are exposed to having a variety of course selections including skilled trades in every high school is paramount. We know that critical mass is important to allow students voice and choice and to provide multiple pathway options and to graduate. To obtain needed courses, Burlington students are confronted with the prospect of changing schools, taking classes online, attending summer schools or even taking another year of school.”

“This report (the revised recommendation) speaks to the importance of maintaining a community school in each area of Burlington. The overlapping geographical catchment of Bateman and Nelson and MM Robinson and Pearson allows students to receive programming within their local community. It also provides a new state of the art purpose-built composite school in the South and increased programming in the North. This report speaks to the values of delivering education closer to where students live, thus reducing bus ride times. All of the changes are meant to improve the delivery of the mandatory Ontario English curriculum.”

“Currently, we are spending money keeping underutilized buildings open that could be used to improve programming for all students. In light of the information learned throughout the PAR including the many emails and phone calls I have gotten from parents and students, I believe this recommendation puts the best interests of all student first, for the long term.”

“I recognize” said Reynolds that “ some will not be happy I have changed my position on school closures and weighed my decision on sound facts. This is not about me, it’s about what is in the best interest of all HDSB students.”

MMW + Leah Reynolds

City Councillor Marianne Meed Ward at her nomination meeting in 2014 with Leah Reynolds who was nominated at the same time for the Board of trustees

Full disclosure: During 2016 I spent time with Leah Reynolds mentoring her on the role of a city Councillor. Directed her to significant city of Burlington publications: Procedural bylaw, copies of the Operational and Capital budget binders and discussed with her the Standing Committee structure as well as what was entailed in serving as a Regional Councillor.

Reynolds was interested in moving from her role as a trustee to that of a city Councillor. We met on five or six occasions – always in a coffee shop for several hours on each occasion.

Those mentoring meetings ended when the PAR process began.

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9 comments to Trustee Reynolds provides her rationale for voting to have Bateman and Pearson high schools closed.

  • Feeling betrayed

    Truth of the matter…..you voting to close Bateman and Pearson ensures Central will not be put back on the block…period. It’s the only truth that makes any sense given the research and data that proves otherwise.

  • William

    Calling Reynolds vote “controversial” reflects the myopia that’s infected the school closure discussion. It was a 10 to 1 vote to close Bateman; Reynold’s vote is hardly extraordinary. Getting the closure vote overturned requires the support of the Oakville and Milton councilors and that’s unlikely. Oakville has 50% more students than Burlington and one less high school. Milton’s schools are busting at the seams.

    Burlington is fixated on its own perspective and needs; yet, not one article or comment has been written about how Burlington should support these other communities. If we’re not prepared to go to bat for them, why would they do so for our community? Because we’re Burlington doesn’t accord us special consideration.

  • gordon

    Look at the picture, so outrageous…these are 2 women who took an oath to uphold the public trust. Go figure…you know who to NOT support in fall 2018!!

  • Sharon

    When Leah Reynolds was running for School Trustee she said she was against school closures. I think she meant she was against closing Central. She says that Burlington needs a composite school in the North and South. There is already one in the South – Robert Bateman High School.

  • Diane Miller

    Those under-utilized schools are board inflicted/boundary driven. What about the over utilized schools? So much for the platform that Reynolds ran on of no school closures. That lack of education you speak of could have been minimized by re-adjusting boundaries as a start.

  • Roger

    Marianne just kissed the mayor’s office good bye

  • Steve

    The two most under-utilized High Schools in Burlington are Pearson and Aldershot HS. Bateman has the third highest enrolment (behind Hayden and Nelson) and has the best facilities for vocational and Special Ed in Halton. How in the world will you move 600+ students from Bateman to Nelson and duplicate what already exists at Bateman? Leah let’s be honest, this decision was politically motivated and is not the best option for Burlington, Halton or all of the tax payer dollars that we will waste!!

    • Steve Atkinson

      Steve;

      Respectfully, utilization at Pearson is 65%. Utilization at Aldershot is 78%. Utilization at MM Robinson? 54%.
      ( All Data provided by HDSB ). So you can understand the frustration of Pearson parents when their community school is being constantly downgraded by misinformation and misunderstanding, and faulty data. And targeted for closure in 12 of 19 options.

      This separation from reality was consistent through the PAR, and is why an Administrative Review is necessary. It is the same separation from reality displayed by Ms. Reynolds when she ran on a platform of no school closures, then voted for 2 school closures. The same separation from reality was used to suddenly switch Bateman onto the chopping block, with no explanation.

      We all knew Federal Politics and perhaps Provincial politics had little connection to reality. It is extremely disappointing to see this behaviour in local municipal politics. Somehow I expected more. Fool me once, shame on you…etc.

  • T Francis

    Steve, would Option 19 – the one originally proposed – have been a better option concerning
    taxpayer dollars?

    Things to consider:

    -closing a complete walk-to high school and busing 600+ additional students at a time when a sufficient
    number bus drivers is an ongoing concern. Many students are already being bused to Bateman; having a
    vocational facility in the north will decrease the amount of busing; plus Bateman and Nelson are so close to
    each other
    -if Central had closed, there was no plan for the Grade 7 and 8 students that are part of that Grade 7-
    Graduation model. There is no room at the Central catchment elementary schools (Lakeshore, Tom Thomson
    and Central Public) to house the Grade 7 and 8 students. That’s why they have actually been housed in
    the high school building since 1987. If Central were to close, there would be a need for an addition to one
    of the elementary schools – taxpayer dollars!
    -Option 19 predicted that the influx of the secondary students west of Brant St. at Aldershot would send it
    over capacity with the possible result that the Grade 7 and 8 students at that Grade 7 to graduation
    school would need to be relocated. More taxpayers dollars for an addition to King’s Road, Maplehurst
    or Glenview to accommodate them?

    Also, to say that Bateman currently has the third highest enrolment is misleading. It does not have the
    third highest enrolment of students from ITS OWN CATCHMENT area because of the number of students
    that are bused there from across Burlington. Time to go back to the final report, the statistics and look at
    the big picture.

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