Two groups of high school parents await the recommendation of the report Margaret Wilson is writing.

highschoolsBy Pepper Parr

December 4th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly said that Tom Muir had aligned himself with the Bateman parents.  He was very sympathetic with the Bateman situation but worked with the Pearson parents

Margaret Wilson, the Reviewer brought in by the Ministry of Education to do formal review the Halton District School Board (HDSB) decision to close two of the city’s seven high schools has said she expects to have her report in the hands of the Ministry well before Christmas.

She is perhaps on her second draft of the document.

Margaret Wilson PAR Admin Review

Margaret Wilson

Being the professional she is Mrs. Wilson did not tip her hand during her conversations with media.

She is reported to have said to one of the participants during the second evening of public delegations that she “would recommend a second PAR (Program Accommodation Review)  if she had very good reasons.”

The HDSB PAR review will be the 13th that Wilson has done – she is an experienced hand at this game. Wilson noted that the only time she recommended that a PAR be done a second time was when she did one at the HDSB – and at that time she recommended to the Ministry that a second PAR was advisable.

Many of the Pearson and Bateman parents are hoping that she does the same thing again.

All Wilson can do is make a recommendation. It is the Minister of Education who can order the Director of Education to hold a PAR. It is not clear if the school board trustees can choose not to proceed.

Voting by hand

Halton Board of Education voting to close two of the city’s sven high schools.

The trustees voted on June 7th to close the schools. Parents from both Bateman high school and Pearson high school appealed to the Ministry of Education for a review of the process the HDSB went through in making that decision.

The Board held a PAR – a Program Accommodation Review and created a PAR committee consisting of two parents from every high school in the city. That committee was scheduled to meet on five occasions – and met on seven occasions when the Director of Education felt the additional time the PARC people wanted was justified.

The PARC was never able to arrive at a consensus. The structure of the PAR was such that the two high schools had to fight within the PARC to keep their school open.

Hard working people PARC

PARC members placing small paper dots beside their preferences when the committee was eliminating some of the options.

Central high school was exceptionally well organized – they held a fund raising event that put $14,000 into their war chest and then did a tremendous amount of research that pointed to some serious flaws in the board of education staff position.

What turned the tide for Central was their research that showed it was going to cost $400,000 a year basically forever to bus students from the Central community to other high schools in the city. Somehow the Board of Education staff failed to figure that out on their own.

With that information in had the Director of Education revised his recommendation to have Bateman closed instead of Central high school. That put the fat in the fire and had the Bateman parents howling – claiming that the Central parents had thrown them under the bus.

Protesters PARC

Central high school parents demonstrating outside the school board administrative offices.

The result was that parents were now fighting to save their school – rather than looking at the serious flaws in the process and convincing the Board to take an approach where everyone could work together to find a solution that worked for everyone.

The Bateman parents were asleep at the switch. They should have seen that their school was at risk but they did nothing in the way of organizing until they had to and by then it was too late.

The Bateman community that is leading the Administrative Review request has difficulty sharing information. There were reported differences of opinion within the group and they were not able to work with the Pearson parents on a combined approach.

Denise Davy - automotive guy

Denise Davy, c0-chair of the Bateman high school parent group,standing talks to the representative from the auto body industry at an Administrative Review meeting

Bateman had a great story to tell – few people in the city knew of how strong a program there was at that high school for students who faced personal challenges coping with traditional school programs.

It didn’t help that few of the trustees visited all the high schools to see first-hand what was being done at Bateman.

What was, by contrast, really interesting was that Wilson visited every high school and made a point of visiting the two model shops that were operational at Bateman.

The most significant flaw in the PAR process was the way the Board trustees handled their vote. On June 7th – their meeting went until well past mid-night while they heard the last of the delegations.

The PAR rules call for a period of ten days between the last of the delegations and the vote. That didn’t happen.

To make the situation just that much worse – the province, realizing that the PAR process was a mess, ordered a moratorium on all PARS on June 28th. Using the 10 day rule the Halton situation would not have been saved even if the Board had followed their own rules. There for the sake of 11 days went two high schools.

pearson-nursery-playgropund-full

Will the nursery at Pearson high school be lost to the community when the high school closes?

Pearson, a smaller high school that had been stripped of most of the elementary feeder schools was basically starved to death by board boundary reviews.

They needed more time to get themselves organized but never did have the mass that Bateman and Central were able to pull together.

Their argument was that there is a place for a smaller high school in Burlington and that they needed the feeder schools put back in place.

The Director of Education is of the view that a high school enrollment should bet at the 1000 + level.

A piece of corollary damage is the impact on the exceptional nursery that has been run at the school since it opened.

Should Mrs. Wilson decide not to recommend a second PAR be held the city will have to adjust to that reality?

Part of the solution is to elect better trustees and get a Chair in place who understands what the job is and then how to do it.

Burlington has also to come to terms with the fact that it has just 4 of the 11 votes – its trustees need to reach out and develop coalitions with the trustees from Milton, Oakville and Halton Hills.

The decision to close the Robert Bateman high school was more a blow to those parents who had their children in special needs classes.

Muir with pen in hand

Tom Muir – an inveterate delegator.

Tom Muir, an Aldershot resident who doesn’t have children aligned himself with the Pearson contingent and worked with them as they prepared their request for an Administrative Review.

Muir is of the view that “closing Bateman is a disaster for these needy kids and their parents. It will be life-altering. It can’t just be “moved” and “transitioned”. Nelson he added is no place for Bateman kids.

“It is clear that closing any school will stress many students, overcrowd others. MMR will be over capacity by 2020 and will need trailers. Hayden remains pig stuffed and will be for the foreseeable future, with 12 now, and maybe 18 trailers, in future.”

Muir believes there is sufficient material grounds to recommend a voiding of the 2017 PAR, and to replace it with another PAR or suitable process.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly

1 comment to Two groups of high school parents await the recommendation of the report Margaret Wilson is writing.

  • Tom Muir

    I must correct this statement of the Gazette that I aligned myself with Bateman.

    I have always been an advocate to keep all schools open.

    Bateman never reached out to me, but Pearson did, and I joined their team, and represented them in evidence gathering and explanation, the AR, and to Mrs Wilson.

    They are an amazing group, and worked tirelessly and cooperatively to do what was an equally amazing feat to get the AR approved.

    They have continued to work very hard for months to get their story out there. I am proud to have been associated with them all.

    In doing this though, they were really getting the story out for all the schools, and how it was a compellingly wrong, and flawed process that was a PAR that pitted everyone against each other.

    The Gazette point is something I wrote, but it was in a context, not an alignment or choice of Bateman versus Pearson. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    I feel for, and was speaking for the Bateman students, as needy, but also the Pearson students in some part are needy too.

    Closing these two schools is a crime against these students and their suffering parents. And really, with the bad blood let by the process the Board chose on purpose, the community of Burlington schools will never be the same if this crime is not held to account.

    That’s the full story that I told.

    It is fully correct that the binder of material evidence that I provided to Margaret Wilson, on the conduct of the PAR throughout most of its duration, is in my opinion sufficient material grounds to recommend a voiding of the 2017 PAR, and to replace it with another PAR or suitable process.

    Editors note: We mistakenly said Muir had aligned himself with the Bateman parents. The story has been corrected.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>