Why didn't the public school board trustees ensure that the Pearson high school parents know the full story behind the leasing of their school?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

May 4, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with leasing out a school that is empty and not being used.

What is wrong is not telling the public what you have done.

The Halton District School Board leased the Lester B. Pearson high school to the Halton Catholic District School Board.

Pearson high school is schedule for closure in June of 2017 due to poor enrollment.

The parents at Pearson high school didn’t agree with that decision and argued vociferously that there school could be kept open if the Board kept the elementary feeder  schools in place.

Delegation May 8 HDSB

Pearson high school parents at a Board of Education meeting – they did everything they could to keep their school open.

The trustees didn’t see it that way and voted to close the school and have the Pearson students begin attending M.M. Robinson high school in September of 2018.

Merging the two student populations has not been an easy task. How well that merging is going to work will be known in September when the former Pearson students begin showing up at M.M. Robinson in September.

Some of the parents at Pearson have always felt there was some other reason for closing their school. Those suspicions were given some validity when the Board of Education, without any public discussion, met in a closed session to decide to lease the school the Catholic Board.

Some questions:

Who called who?

Did the Public school board call the Catholic school Board or was it the other way around?

When did the discussions about a leasing possibility take place?

The when is critical – and that may be the reason for the HDSB handling this matter in private session.

It is understood that the Catholic school board wants to do some major renovations to one of their high schools – Assumption, and that they wanted to close their school while the work was being done. Nothing wrong with that.

But did the Catholic School Board talk to the Public School Board before the trustees had made a decision to close Pearson?

Did the availability of an opportunity to lease the school have any influence on the decision to close Pearson?

And why is the public learning about this now?

At the May 2nd meeting of the HDSB, vice chair Ehl Harris read into the record two resolutions that were passed in the private session to:

Approve the resolutions from private session respecting property matters.

Ehl Harris moved the motion, Oakville trustee Kelly Amos quickly seconded the motion. There was a bit of confusion whether trustee Papin wanted to be the seconder of the motion (Pearson high school is in her ward)

Board Chair Grebenc said to trustee Papin “You don’t actually want to speak do you?”

Miller while motion being read May 2-18

Director of Education Stuart Miller during the vote to approve resolutions made in a closed session of the Board of Education.

When it was clear that Papin didn’t want to speak – she just wanted to be the seconder of the motion, the chair then asked if anyone else wanted to speak.

Not a word from anyone.

They voted and that was that – Pearson is leased to the Catholic Board for a year.

Everything was going according to whatever plan was hatched in the private session- this Board of trustees was going to make sure they stayed on script.

Get the resolutions on the record as quickly and as quietly as you can and move on.

There is no surer way to lose the trust of the public than to try to fool or hood wink them; and without public trust there can be no growth and without growth the students who enter those schools lose and cynicism takes over.

Why did Stuart Miller not tell the public how the opportunity to lease a school he no longer needed to another school Board came about?

Burlington has a community that just doesn’t trust it’s school board trustees. And there is, on the surface, very good reason not to trust them.

This story isn’t over.

Related news story.

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10 comments to Why didn’t the public school board trustees ensure that the Pearson high school parents know the full story behind the leasing of their school?

  • Carey

    Cheryl is the educated, well-spoken and passionate parent that spends much free time working on our kid’s behalf and showing up when parents like myself can’t. There is no way I would be able to do what she has done. I don’t have the ability. I am so glad to have had Cheryl at the school of my children. Always there. Leading. Helping. Caring. Involved. This safety issue she speaks of is a very scary and real concern. More and more accidents happen now due to careless driving. Distracted, speeding. Also, Cheryl’s professional background allows her to use what she’s seen with her own eyes… pedestrians struck by vehicles. People succumb to those injuries. They die. Why we can’t preventatively and for the safety of OUR CHILDREN lower the speed limit to 40km KNOWING there are 300 PLUS extra students heading to MM is the most backwards thing I’ve ever heard. You need to do a survey first? Why don’t we just wait until a child is hit and then look back on how this “accident” was preventable. I live in a school zone myself. Hardly anyone does 40km. So I hate to think what speed at posted 60km people are barrelling down Guelph Line at. 70???

    KICKING Our kids out of Pearson so it can be used by another school board is the most maddening thing. You are destroying a community and rubbing it into our faces. I’m really glad I chose Burlington to raise my family in and hope my sarcasm is picked up on here when you read it. One of the most important thing in a child’s life is education. How can you sit there and say you’ve done what’s best for our kids. You can’t. Because you haven’t.

    I hope you are all fired.

  • Brian Jones

    Seems we have school boards as well and councilors that through long processes of debate and delegating, deaf ears reign supreme.

  • Sharon

    I just came up with a great idea! All of the Pearson students transfer over to Assumption.

  • Sharon

    I have always been involved with my kids’ education. I was on Parent Council both elementary and high school. And all the years my kids were in school I trusted that the people that worked at the HDSB had my kids best interest at heart. I trusted that the ELECTED Trustees also had the students and parents in their Ward best interest at heart.
    I was on the PARC last year, and when I began I believed Stuart Miller that all that mattered was the students. I took my white binder home and read it and believed the numbers. I at the time believed that 2 schools had to close. After all, we had 1800 empty seats. As the meetings progressed numbers changed with no explanation, questions went unanswered, PARC minutes were never corrected when it was pointed out that there were mistakes. There were suggestions/ideas by PARC members that were ignored. I only wish I knew then what I know now. In hindsight, all of the PARC members should have stood unified and said NO school closures. Change the boundaries especially for Haydon. But the PAR wasn’t set up like that it was set up so that parents would be against parents all of us fighting for our school.
    The Trustees heard 65 delegations of why Bateman and Pearson should not close. There were emotional stories and black and white data. But every single one of them except Amy Collard voted to close Bateman and only 3 Trustees voted not to close Pearson. 21 days after the Trustees voted the Provincial Liberal Government called a moratorium. Letters flooded the Trustees pleading with them to reverse the vote until a new PAR had been written. All the letters were ignored. Administrative Review was held and we failed at that too.
    I believe that at these Private Session meetings decisions are made long before the Public hears about it. I believe that it was decided on June 7th in the Private Session that it was all planned. I believe that in Private Session that the decision of Administrative Review was decided.
    The HCDSB did not just decide in the last few months that Assumption High School needed renovations. Why wasn’t this brought up at the PARC?
    The Trustees are elected by us, why do they need Private sessions? We as the taxpayers and parents of the students these people are entrusted with deserve to know what is going on at all times!!
    People are complaining that Burlington City Council is not listening, they also had delegations that were ignored.
    In October we need to change all this. We need to have Trustees that are honest and care about the young lives they are entrusted with. We need Trustees that are not afraid to tell their constituents in their Ward what is going on. We need Trustees that will keep the Director and Superintendents accountable and if they don’t they can go join the unemployment line.
    The secrets and scandals have to stop and they need to stop NOW!

    • Phillip

      The trustees sadly failed in their legal responsibility–to represent the community comprised of students and parents. Instead, they became mere pawns of Stuart Miller, a “man” who presided over a shameful, dishonest process. Tom Muir’s excellent in-depth and researched analyses showed what a fraudulent process this PARC really was; these closed-door sessions which involve information and documents that the public should be privy to merely reinforces Tom’s conclusions.
      Kelly Amos (firmly in Miller’s hip-pocket) and Stuart Miller–if they had any integrity, would resign. At least, we can try to work with the election of Oakville trustees to get rid of Amos. And don’t get us started on the role of our MPP, Eleanor McMahon, who was missing-in-action on this whole fiasco.

  • George

    Dear Cheryl,

    You are absolutely correct the situation is appalling! In fact I believe it is beyond appalling and into deception and chicanery.

    Burlington citizens now wonder if the offer or request to lease or rent Lester B Pearson high school to Assumption high school was made prior to the Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) that was initiated late fall 2016 or prior with the unfair boundary changes to the collection area for Lester B Pearson being severely reduced to result in a low attendance?

    The Halton District School Board (HDSB), the Director of Education, and the obedient Trustees have caused disruption, discontent, and dissatisfaction in Burlington through forcing the Lester B Pearson high school students to be displaced from their community based school. Thus enabling the HDSB to profit through leasing their school to the Halton District Catholic School Board HDCSB.

    The history of the apparent deceptive process includes:

    1. The boundary changes to change the student catchment area of Lester B Pearson to stop at Upper Middle Road a few meters north of the school and result in reduced attendance and overload Frank Hayden high school plus add 12 portables with 6 more portables planned.

    2. The HDSB Director of Education’s initial report to the PAR that favoured closing Lester B Pearson high school from the start.

    3. The Director of Education’s Final Report and plan recommended closing two Burlington high schools, namely Lester B Pearson and eventually Robert Bateman.

    4. The process to close these two Burlington high schools was initiated through the chicanery of the HDSB, Director and obedient Trustees through changing of school catchment areas to impractical boundaries.

    5. This scheme was followed by a predetermined and manipulated Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) process and the HDSB management thereof.

    6. Concerned parents presented some 65 delegations to the HDSB Trustees opposing the Director of Educations Final Report. These delegations were effectively ignored by the HDSB & Trustees.

    7. Concerned parents then submitted a request for an administrative review to the Ontario Ministry of Education which was granted but the administrative review appeared to be bent after final consultations by the facilitator with the HDSB as indicated below.

    8. The concluding statement by the Facilitator Ms. Margaret Wilson of the Administrative Review said, “Based on my review and consultations, I conclude that, while there were violations of the Board PAR Policy, they were such that they had no material effect on either the deliberations of the PARC or on the final decisions of the Board.”

    9. As well within 3 weeks (June 2017) of the HDSB Trustees voting to close Lester B Pearson and Robert Bateman high schools the current provincial Liberal government called a moratorium on all school closings until the PAR processes were improved.

    10. The leasing of Lester B Pearson high school to the HDCSB has been rumored for several months and now there is the evidence. Attempts to discover the agreement dates have been hidden despite a thorough search of both the HDSB and HDCSB web site data including the minutes of both board meetings.

    11. It appears all of the deception and secretive HDSB Private meetings & decisions were made out of the public eye in HDSB Trustee Private Session Meetings.

    12. However the key question is what was the date of the initial agreement and/or proposal?

    The closure of Lester B Pearson High school and the recommendation to close Robert Bateman high school remains questionable, unwarranted, and unjustified, despite what the board reports.

    So we have another scandal to add to the many scandals of the current provincial government that include our local Halton District School Board.

  • Cheryl

    You’ve got to be kidding!!!! If this is not a damn slap in the faces of all the students and parents of Pearson I don’t know what is……. Was this whole fiasco called a PARC that has destroyed and divided Burlington all based on lies and deceptions of the School Board and the Board of Trustees?????? Did they have this decided well before the initiation of the PARC…. Why all the secrets???? why was this decision performed in ‘Private Session” without public consultation???

    This is such a slap in the face of the students at Pearson who have been struggling with this decision of their school closing. There has been a lot of stress and anxiety around moving to a new school and then they hear their school will stay open and leased out to the Catholic School Board WHAT!!!!!

    The Halton District School Board has done nothing to heal any wounds in the Pearson Community but this ridiculous incentive move is like you have just ripped open our wounds and poured salt into them. Director Miller and the Board of Trustees can you advised us parent what we can say to our teenagers who are struggling with their school closure? Shame on you.

    This secretive actions is just like how the School Board continues to try to silence parents such as myself who was part of the Integration Committee to ensure that the transition of our children will be smooth. Because a parent had a safety concerned and some great ideas to ensure of the safety of all of our children and took matters into my own hands such as reaching out to the Mayor of Burlington, Chief of Police, Halton Region and my City Councillors that I get removed from this committee!!! WHAT????? You will not silence us great parents

    We were told that being part of this integration committee you needed to come with a smile on your face and be positive- You are kidding right!!!! not sure what rainbow and unicorn world the School Board and Trustees are living in.

    This whole PARC, the School Board and especially the Board of Trustees are a bloody shame and a disgrace. These Trustees who really haven’t thought about the students except Amy Collard need to to seek other job opportunities and get people around that table who will actually think of the students first and actually have a voice for their communities because many of the trustees sure did not have any voice and we all know who they are!!!

    THIS IS APPALLING

    • Pria

      I don’t understand. Would you rather the school remain empty? They’re finding another valid use for it so good on them. You really think a 1-year lease to the HSDSB is some pre-conceived conspiracy from “well before the initiation of the PARC”? Also, you contacted the Chief of Police over a transission committee concern and wonder why you were removed from the committee? WHAAAT!!!

  • So the rule you need here is that school board “excess” land and building assets should immediately go to the municipality. Thus the question of land sales goes away and I think we would all of the sudden find that daycares and all sorts of other uses would pop up in these schools.

    These buildings were and are paid for by us – the local taxpayer – they need to stay in public hands.

  • Stephen White

    Great that Pearson is being kept open and re-purposed. The bigger concern though is why the need for all the high drama around leasing it in the first place.

    Schools belong to the public and are paid for through taxes. All taxpayers, regardless of whether they are public or separate school supporters, have a reasonable expectation that these physical assets will be shared and their use maximized wherever possible. So what if public school and separate school kids attend different classes within the same physical building? So what if that same physical building also accommodates a medical clinic, an ambulatory care centre, a not-for-profit charity, etc.? For that matter, why not have one school board comprised of public and separate school trustees who are mandated to cooperate and share resources?

    I don’t always agree with the Green Party, but I’ll give credit where it is due. Their provincial leader raised the issue of one board and one education system during the last provincial election, and it is time this issue was seriously debated.

    Closing schools may be necessary if the costs of refurbishment are prohibitively expensive. However, when we close schools that could be re-purposed, shared or converted into multi-use facilities that doesn’t strike me as a “win-win” solution for either taxpayers or students.

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