April 18th, 2017
The Halton District School Board Program Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) has been wound down and thanked for the superb job they did. The community now waits to see what impact their deliberations will have on the report Director of Education Stuart Miller delivers to the public and the trustees this Friday.
The report is to be published on line by Board Staff at 6:00 pm on Friday. (Hopefully the web site will manage to handle the demand for the report.)
It was a committee that required a couple of meetings to find itself – many of the people did not know each other very well or at all.
Many of the people on the PARC had serious concerns with the process that was being used. Central high school parents challenged the Board on the approach it was taking to what was a new process put in place by the provincial government. The high school parents lost that argument.
Add to this the significant concern with the Central high school choice of Marianne Meed Ward as their nominee to the PARC. Being the member of council for ward 2 and agreeing to serve on the PARC did not sit well with many.
Burlington city council was firm on not getting involved – that was until Bateman high school was listed as a possible school closure – that brought Ward 5 council member Paul Sharman into play. He strode into one of the PARC meetings to observe for he now had political skin in the game.
He then brought a motion to have the city write a letter to the Minister of Education to bring a halt to the PARC that was meeting in Burlington. That vote at city council lost 5-2.
But Sharman had shown that he would go to bat for his people – which was his purpose from the get go.
Meed Ward has always been a feisty member of Council – she was one of the more active delegators to city council before she was elected and she was the member of council who asked more questions than any other member of council once she got herself elected in ward 2.
She would call for recorded votes frequently and on one memorable occasion she had her colleagues on their feet five times for recorded votes. It was at that point that we saw just how much the members of Council could roll their eyeballs.
Many hoped the same “in your face” Meed Ward would be seen at the PARC meetings. For the most part that Meed Ward didn’t show up.
She was active, she asked solid questions and was supported by a parents group that did some fine research and supported her with demonstration after demonstration.
But the voice we heard at the PARC meetings wasn’t what many had expected.
Was Meed Ward curtailed at all by the objections to her being one of the Central high school PARC members? Curtail isn’t a word one would normally apply to Meed Ward.
Her colleagues on city council weren’t the least bit pleased – they have never been pleased with the way Meed Ward does politics in this city.
Some felt that if Meed Ward could lead the charge to save Central high school she would be seen as a shoo in for Mayor when the 2018 municipal election takes place.
The woman who has led many charges at city council wasn’t seen that often – if at all – at the PARC meetings. Admittedly she wasn’t in an environment she was familiar with – but then none of the PARC members knew much about the workings of the school board.
During a meeting of Central high school parents Meed Ward reported to them and said that while she was basically an optimistic person – she was concerned about the direction the discussions were going in.
Shortly after that meeting at the Lions Club – an at first subtle shift began to take place within the PARC and the option the Board Staff put forward to close both Central high school and Pearson began to lose to the idea of not closing any of the high schools.
That option was the clear choice of the PARC committee when it was disbanded.
The Director’s report will be released Friday – if the recommendation Director of Education Miller makes to the trustees is to not close any of the high schools the PARC will get much of the credit – Meed Ward will be seen as just another member of that committee.
If Miller, no matter how reluctantly, recommends closing Central, that community will erupt. What role will Meed Ward play in that eruption? It is not going to be pretty. She is no longer a member of the PARC – there is no PARC – it was disbanded.
She will certainly protest as a parent but the clout she had as a PARC member will have evaporated.
There were several members of the PARC that were exceptional in the way they moved the agenda; at times they came close to taking it out of the hands of the PARC Chair, School Board Superintendent Scott Podrebarac.
It will be interesting to see just how Meed Ward handles herself when the report is released on Friday.
Everyone will be reading the report carefully – we do know that it is going to be a lengthy document with every department at the School Board having a significant impact.
Burlington can expect to see two things during the weekend: what kind of a Director of Education is Stuart Miller going to choose to be and how will a candidate for the office of mayor position herself on the most significant decision about the health and long term welfare of the city we have had to face in the last 15 years.
It will be interesting.