Special Report: Education

Pattern of Secrecy in School Board Process

It's time for the School Board to rethink its tendency to conduct business behind closed doors and hide their process from constituents who might otherwise bring desperately-needed community perspective.

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 15, 2012

I argued yesterday that the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board's (HWDSB) plan to sell the Board of Education building at 150 Main Street West and move to a new facility on the Crestwood school site is a bad decision based on a flawed process. So far, I have received responses from three HWDSB Trustees.

The first came from Ward 6 Trustee Laura Peddle, who wrote to say she opposed the Crestwood plan and will ask the Board in March to rescind the decision and "then properly, transparently reconsider the criteria applied."

The second came from Ward 1/2 Trustee Judish Bishop, who wrote that Jackson Square was taken out of consideration because a lease agreement would be more expensive over the long term and that the Ministry of Education would see it as "too risky".

Bishop added that the Board had already decided in 2007 that a renovated and expanded Education Centre at 150 Main Street West would cost too much - $55 million. I asked if there is a detailed cost breakdown for this option and await a response.

She also told me to expect a response from Board Chair and Ward 3 Trustee Tim Simmons. I expected it to be a defence of the Board's decision making process and conclusion, and I wasn't disappointed.

Simmons wrote a response very similar in tone and reasoning to a previous letter from Bishop that RTH published on February 2.

Therein lies the crux of the problem. Against widespread and steadily building public disapproval of their Crestwood plan, the Board's reaction has been to double down on the very process the public is complaining about.

Secretive Decision-Making

The Board makes too many decisions behind closed doors at in camera sessions and even at private pre-meetings, and it releases its reports and planning documents only reluctantly and after weeks or months of delays.

How ironic that Peddle was the Trustee charged last March with violating the Board's code of conduct for allegedly disclosing statements made behind closed doors, criticizing other Trustees and undermining the board's authority when she protested the in camera decision to exclude Westmount and Saltfleet schools from the South ARC review.

A legal report on the propriety of the decision was delivered to Trustees in May. It concluded that the decision to exclude the schools was acceptable under the Board's authority, but that it was inappropriate to have made the decision in camera.

Meanwhile, the investigation continued against Peddle for disclosing the contents of that in camera meeting after it was determined that the meeting should have been public in the first place.

Missed Opportunities

That was just one of the many opportunities the Board has had in the past year to stop and reconsider their approach.

At a May 30 committee of the whole, the Trustees voted unanimously (Peddle was not present) to amend the code of conduct so that Trustees must put the corporate interests of the Board ahead of their constituents and must "represent the board and its officers in a positive light" in public communications.

After the predictable eruption of public outrage - legal scholars argued that it would violate the Charter right to free speech - several Trustees backed off in June and the Board referred the policy back for more consideration before final approval.

It comes as no surprise that the governance committee charged with updating the Board's code of conduct regularly met in camera and withheld the minutes from many of its meetings.

When the legal report against Peddle was finally released, it found Peddle guilty of one of the three charges - disclosing information from an in camera meeting - but argued against any sanctions. The Trustees voted to let the matter rest.

Of course, the price tag for the 172 page report was redacted and the Board refused to say how much it paid the law firm that prepared it. Finally, in mid-December, the Board acknowledged that it cost $39,000, plus thousands more in legal opinions.

We can add this to the $42,000 the Board paid for the earlier report on the decision to exclude Westmount and Saltfleet from the South ARC, a price tag the Board also initially tried to suppress.

ARC Process

Meanwhile, the South ARC has been a procedural mess, exactly as Peddle argued. The volunteer committee overseeing the process actually resigned en masse last March in protest over the Board decision to exclude Westmount and Saltfleet from the process.

Like so many Board decisions that feel pre-determined, the fix appears to be in for Sherwood School. The Board recently decided to allow students living inside the Sherwood catchment area to attend Saltfleet instead, even though the ARC is ongoing, Saltfleet is already over capacity, and Sherwood's low enrollment numbers make it a target for closure.

(A whole separate issue is the North ARC recommendation to close Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. MacDonald to replace them with a new warehouse consolidated school. Never mind the evidence that packing large numbers of students into big regional schools is harmful for academic performance and leads to lower high school completion rates and higher rates of disciplinary issues.)

More Secret Decisions

Board Chair Judith Bishop stepped down last November from that role, near the end of what must have been a difficult, stressful and tumultuous year.

The Trustees decided on a replacement Chair ... at yet another private meeting that took place prior to the public meeting in which the decision was formalized.

One of the first things new chair Tim Simmons announced was that the Board's practice of having private pre-meetings would continue. A couple of weeks later, after another predictable outpouring of public outrage, the Board again backpedaled and announced the private pre-meetings would stop.

Time to Open Up

The best thing the other Trustees could do at this point is acknowledge that Peddle was right all along to fight against the Board's self-destructive inclination to secrecy.

Now is the time for the Board to rethink its tendency to conduct public business behind closed doors and hide their process from constituents who might otherwise bring desperately-needed community perspective to their deliberations.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 13:58:12

Ryan: Any idea of the estimated size of the lower-city, Delta->Sir John A catchment-areas school?

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By 1250-1500 (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:03:36

School building size 1250 Actual projected number of student on opening 1500 Its based on an assumption that enrolement will decline in spite of the projections that the area population will intensify

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:04:32 in reply to Comment 74418

...in spite of the projections that the area population will intensify

Where are these projections?

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By 1250-1500 (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:20:01 in reply to Comment 74419

http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/arc/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/NorthARC_Public_Meeting4_Dec6_2011-Final.pdf

School Capacity 2010 2014 2020
Delta 1,431 Enrolment 775 0 0
Utilization 54% 0% 0%
Glendale 1,122 Enrolment 930 883 809
Utilization 83% 79% 72%
Orchard Park 1,290 Enrolment 1,137 1,087 1,133
Utilization 88% 84% 88%
Parkview 534 Enrolment 266 0 0
Utilization 50% 0% 0%
SJAM 1,569 Enrolment 1,122 0 0
Utilization 72% 0% 0%
SWC 1,089 Enrolment 1,191 1,275 1,005
Utilization 109% 117% 92%
New School 1,250 Enrolment 0 1,496 1,397
Utilization 0% 137% 128%
Total Utilization 77% 100% 91%
31

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By 1250-1500 (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:11:16 in reply to Comment 74419

The population intensity projections are those used for GRIDS and LRT

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By Panopticon (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:14:00 in reply to Comment 74421

Ourobouros R Us

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:26:32

With regards to the North ARC report.

Sadly, Delta, Sir John A and Parkview are projected to have 44%, 51% and 46% utilization by 2015. The report proposes to create one 1250 - 1500 capacity school by 2015. Is this a warehouse mega school? Delta's current capacity is 1400, is that a warehouse? Sir John a has a 1500 student capacity. The school I attended had a 1200 student capacity and I don't remember it being warehouse like at all. I'm not sure that this warehouse school that Ryan tries to picture is actually out of the norm.

http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/arc/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/NorthARC_Report_Jan10_2012-Final.pdf

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 16:25:28 in reply to Comment 74425

Sir John A is at 75% right now, even after the flight to the burbs in the 70's-90's. Look at the newest census...downtown is growing again! They project the school enrollment to go down based on previous census numbers, not reality. 75% is really that bad??? Imagine if they can get it up to 85%. Nothing wrong with that. Does every school need portables?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:41:04 in reply to Comment 74425

Pssst, look farther than 2015.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:58:34 in reply to Comment 74429

Yes. 2020 projects a further decline in enrolment of 6%. The number of children living in the lower city has been declining for decades, this will not turn around by 2020.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 16:26:18 in reply to Comment 74430

actually, yes it will. Look at Strathcona and Central Public...enrollment is up in the past decade. All those middle schoolers will need a local highschool.

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By Nanny State (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 20:14:20 in reply to Comment 74436

Traditionally, Westdale or HSC if their parents gave a toss about their education.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 15:04:28 in reply to Comment 74430

A 6% decline is hardly precipitous enough to warrant this kind of drastic consolidation - a consolidation that will no doubt have the self-fulfilling effect of causing a decline in enrollment.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 15:15:02 in reply to Comment 74431

The 6% decline is not the reason for the consolidation. The 3 schools mentioned are at right now or forecast to have occupancy rates of less than 50%. It is irresponsible and unsustainable to keep 3 1000+ capacity schools open for ~1400 students.

In 2023 my first son would have attended Delta if it was still slated to be open. Lest you think I don't have a horse in this race.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 21:13:46 in reply to Comment 74432

Sir John A is 74% right now according to Bishop. And with high enrolment now in Strathcona and Central, and a growing downtown, I don't think we need to worry about it hitting 50% anytime soon.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 15:22:55 in reply to Comment 74432

Declining enrollments are always a factor in the board's school closure plans, and unfortunately their enrollment projections are notoriously unreliable.

I agree though that utilization rates under 50% are not sustainable. I just think there are more creative solutions that the board is culturally incapable of considering.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 15:34:33 in reply to Comment 74433

I would in all honestly like to hear about other solutions because I also don't like having to close Delta. It's a magnificent building for one thing but I don't see an alternative that doesn't involve consolidation.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 22:07:36 in reply to Comment 74434

But it would be IRRESPONSIBLE to keep it open right?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 16:58:23 in reply to Comment 74434

Here's one: right now, Westdale is home to several special programs, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) and French Immersion. The school is also significantly over 100% capacity - so much so that students attending the SageQuest program of choice at Ryerson middle school from out of catchment are being told they won't be able to continue on to Westdale when they graduate.

Why not move around some special programs to a school running below capacity to help rebalance utilization levels?

It's the same situation on the mountain: Saltfleet is over 100% capacity, but students living in the Sherwood catchment are allowed to attend Saltfleet instead, further depressing Sherwood's enrollment while the school is on the South ARC chopping block.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:28:15 in reply to Comment 74438

I'm always surprised how few special programs are running at our downtown schools, considering how accessible they are for bus-bound students.

My wife teaches at Westmount, which is another school that's a home to numerous special programs... and the school is something of a hike from the nearest College bus stop (although the Mohawk runs close).

It seems to me that, as the centrally-located school, the city should be getting as many of these System-wide programs into Sir John A as possible.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 12:12:38 in reply to Comment 74483

I partially agree but why Sir John A? As far as I see high-level for the SJAM area, you have the Barton that drops students off a few blocks away at James St N, the Cannon which does about the same, 8 & 9 from the west looping around it, not to mention quite a few options on King/Main from 10 series to 51, 1A, etc. but Delta is a 'front door' drop-off in both directions instead of a 'bus across town then also walk a few blocks to get there' location. It is fairly well serviced by bus. SWC is too but nicely tucked a block away from main with big open fields. Delta unfortunately has to utilize Ivor Wynne for it's home football games. Well, not sure how unfortunate that is. Kind of cool for them if you ask me. Would be cool if Parkview had a football team based out of Ivor Wynne.

The immediate residential density around Delta is much greater than SJAM although maybe it's equal with all of the surrounding apartment buildings? Not sure about that but both are on main through fares but SJAM is sandwiched between three in York/Cannon/Bay. You could look at reducing lanes on the Delta stretch of Main much like was done on Barton between Wentworth and Victoria and slow the area down and make it even more pedestrian/student friendly. It would work better for a long bus-loading zone right on Main instead of on the side street which creates traffic and blind spots for drivers to see pedestrians.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-02-16 12:15:49

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 15:16:11 in reply to Comment 74485

Sir John A is better access for the mountain.

Delta and Westdale are accessible for the whole lower city just as Westmount is one-bus accessible for the whole North mountain... but only Sir John A is one bus away from the entire city.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 15:42:36 in reply to Comment 74493

Yes, I didn't think about the mountain. Good old 'every half hour' buses since I was a kid. Why not offer what Sir John A does, above the mount?

Is SJAM still arts? What's it's specialties? Delta has the exterior feel of an arts-oriented school.

How about 'The Delta School of Art'.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 20:31:15 in reply to Comment 74438

All I would ask is are there enough situations like this in other schools to account for the 1500+ unoccupied seats in delta, Parkview and John a? I I have to say no. While there is much economic development coming back to the core it is being crushed by the reality of demographics. Families are trending smaller and people of child baring age are trending smaller. Yes people are returning to the core slowly but they are not bringing 4 or 5 children with them. Those days are over.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 22:17:55 in reply to Comment 74450

What's with your obsession with capacity? You're not the one having to crunch numbers and balance budgets. It seems very peculiar that you've taken such an interest in whether a school is 74% or 75% full. Once a building is closed, that's it. It's gone. It's not coming back.

It also predetermines a neighbourhood's future. No school. No families. No growth. Full stop.

Let's put an end to these arbitrary decisions about our schools.

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By jones (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 22:15:21 in reply to Comment 74450

The issues to me are:
1. that they should not be able to close a school and yet then open another - why not consolidate into one of the existing schools?

2. that they should not be able to offload a school for scrap. These are valuable buildings belonging to the community. If demographics continue in this trend they could be turned into seniors' residences.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 22:30:23 in reply to Comment 74454

I'm harping on capacity because that is the number 1 funding metric. If the school has 700 students it gets funding for 700 students. The school then has to maintain a 1400 student building on 700 funding.

Point 2. Delta is around 100 years old. Does it make sense to consolidate students to a building with maintenance costs 10x that of a new building. It will also need retrofits to accommodate today's modern education programs.

These decisions are not arbitrary. The numbers and rational are all detailed in the North ARC report.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 08:37:25 in reply to Comment 74457

A 100 year old building will of course have higher maintenance needs than a brand new building. But it will last another few hundred years even if it's neglected. How long will the new replacement school last? And what happens when it goes to shit? These are all near sighted decisions.

What about running the schools at a lower capacity and finding alternative uses for the remaining space - board office use or leasing to other users?

There has to be a better solution. These schools are huge irreplaceable assets and they are going to be sold at an enormous loss.

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By BrianE (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 14:07:40 in reply to Comment 74465

I'm not sure that I follow your reasoning. A new building will have lower maintenance costs during its lifetime than a 100 year old building I agree with you.

And yet a neglected 100 year old building is still more reliable than a new one? I'm not sure how you hold those two mutually exclusive ideas at the same time.

And what happens if a renovated 100 year old building goes to shit? That's a possibility and one with greater chance of occurrence since we have already agreed that new buildings are easier to maintain.

What companies are you thinking of that would want to lease office space in a school. Is there a school board in the world that is ok with such a close interaction between teenagers and working adults sharing such close quarters. Those questions could already have an answer.

I also have to disagree with your final point. The bottom line is that these schools are entirely replaceable and are in fact liabilities not assets to the school board. That is true of every school that has ever been built. From the very second that the building is complete it costs money to maintain and it decreases in value until the day it no longer makes sense to use it.

Ok, last point.

Is there something specific about these 3 buildings that enable student programs and community involvement. Is there something about these programs that prevent them from being carried out within a different building. It needs to be shown that the programs and activities require these 3 buildings in order to perform properly. I'm not sure that can be done.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 08:54:16 in reply to Comment 74465

Yes. Let's all get together and pool these alternate use ideas and make it impossible for the board no to see how they can keep schools, keep their downtown location and renovate it, and eat their 'need to cut costs' cake too.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 09:02:41 in reply to Comment 74466

Part of the Province's Good Places to Learn framework was that school should serve not only as a place for students to attend but more broadly as "a hub for wider community activity". Here's an excellent opportunity to fulfill that promise.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 16:26:57 in reply to Comment 74434

Delta is so close to Parkview, I'd be fine with them to close Parkview and consolidate at Delta. Leave Sir John A alone. It's doing fine.

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By Cam (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:29:16

What is with the OCD of Hamilton Politicians, at all levels of governance, in regards to secrecy? They are hired and elected to work for the taxpayers, yet the majority seem to take the extremely paternalistic view that it is best if these same taxpayers never know what, how, or why the politicians and representatives decide to do anything. I'm looking at you, Bob.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 14:30:46 in reply to Comment 74426

yet the majority seem to take the extremely paternalistic view that it is best if these same taxpayers never know what, how, or why the politicians and representatives decide to do anything.

And generation in-and-out...we play the collective role of 'children'.

REWRITE!

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 17:15:32

Closing inner-city schools because of declining enrollment is akin to refusing to stoke a fire because it seems to be going out. It's a self-fullfilling prophecy under the guise of cause and effect.

Any real estate agents here? How do young families feel react when you tell them "no, there really aren't any schools in the area"?

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By Brindle Burr (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 20:28:23 in reply to Comment 74439

I hear that.

At the same time, many of the families who would challenge the status quo would by definition challenge the status quo, meaning that they'd have a hard time wholeheartedly committing their spawn to the urban secondary experience. They'd probably wheedle them into Westdale or hawk a kidney to send them off to HSC rather than send them to SJAM or Delta.

http://www.thespec.com/print/article/134493

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2012 at 18:01:42 in reply to Comment 74439

Exactly, A. So you take out all of these schools and give reason for families not to move to this area. This all happens, I am moving too. House prices will surely go up around areas that have schools their kids can walk to.

So we totally clean up the Centre grounds, Ottawa Street is booming, a new stadium, a proposed stadium district, hoping this all leads to a Barton Street revitalization ... so we have all these positive things going on and the housing down here is very affordable for young families and this area has the best walking proximately to a lot of shopping not to mention it's a great area of the city for transit riders like me - both for shopping and commuting to work.

I already see too many kids on the bus every morning. Why are they all - and it's a lot of them, going to Sir John A? What's wrong wtih Delta, SWC?

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 22:22:47 in reply to Comment 74442

SJAM has some very specialised programmes...not sure if that's the reason but it does act as a magnet school.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 08:05:22 in reply to Comment 74456

I was encouraged to go to SJAM in middle school because of its arts program. Barton ended up being a great place with tip notch art teachers, animation, screen ed, and photography courses. I had an art class almost every semester so I stayed within walking distance, went to high school with all of my friends, and met my creative needs. I know on the flipside kids came to Barton because of its football program so I am sure we had cross-polination back then too and perhaps we always will but why are we so stuck to our homes? Why don't we move to the areas the schools that will meet our childrens needs? Likely hard if different kids are looking foer different majors and its likely expensive to move for these reasons but what about a tax break of a major kind to simple 'flip houses' with other families looking to move for school reasons? Hmmm ... About six kids just got on the bus at one stop.

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By George (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 18:33:30 in reply to Comment 74442

And conversely, we should preserve the lower city schools (especially historic ones like Delta!), and give the option for new suburban homeowners to have their kids bused to those schools.

Comment edited by George on 2012-02-15 18:34:09

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 15, 2012 at 19:58:27

Just don't say anything negative about Hamilton's NDP. Even though the majority of this Board are NDPers.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 00:52:35

Just being a smart ass here... But how would Sir John A. Rank on the site selection matrix? Close to a mall, the fields could be parking, large land lot, good transportation, etc.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 09:01:40

Agreed, Sean. The HWDSB should consider adaptive re-use of parts of these old buildings, even if it's more expensive than closing the existing schools in favour of a single site.

Good facilities are a point of pride, for sure, so finding ways to re-use chunks of existing infrastructure and retrofitting it to tomorrow's standards should be a priority.

But schools are the hearts of communities, and neighbourhoods built around schools shouldn't become education deserts just because one new super-school is more cost effective. The value of a school in a community is harder to quantify, but its there, and shouldn't be so lightly discounted due to declining enrollments in some pretty large schools.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 09:32:15 in reply to Comment 74467

But schools are the hearts of communities, and neighbourhoods built around schools shouldn't become education deserts just because one new super-school is more cost effective.

I love your sentiments.

The underlying issue aside, what dismays me most about the plans is that Delta would be sold...and probably levelled. As with Dundas District High School, I'd much prefer to see it be adapted into residential, or mixed-use of some sort. (I'm still sad about Sanford Avenue School...no matter how much additional rec space is needed for the immediate neighbourhood.)

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 10:22:13

This goes very much against my natural inclinations but I wonder whether the HDSB has put out any feelers for a little PPP action.

Perhaps some of you are aware of the recent rebuild of North Toronto Collegiate Institute. The TDSB sold off a piece of their property to a developer who subsequently built two condos on the site. The funds from the sale went towards the construction of a new school, football field, etc.

Opportunties for such things may not be great in the Hammer and it's a little controversial but SJAM and Delta could be good candidates for such a venture in the future, especially if we get LRT.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 10:33:45 in reply to Comment 74477

Whether Delta loswa it's 'high school' status or not is one thing, but alternatively it should be labelled with a nice Blue historical designation plaque. The front half was all retrofitted with all new windows and it's a beautiful site to drive by. The back half not so much and I have never been inside but for that building to come down - once again at least the front, would be a crying shame. Memorial is a Ward 3 thing of beauty. I also love the open concept gymnasium/stage as well inside that structure.

As for SJAM, the brick work seems to be in great shape. I would hope it also would be sold on the stipulation of re-use. It never seemed like an ideal location for a high school. Delta works because it ties into a block that also has two elementary schools. The only downfall of that area is the lack of grades 6 through 8. A proper addition to AM Cunningham to remove those god-awful portables (they should be outlawed for schools), extend that school to say grade 6 and maybe make Delta 7 to 12 instead, does that help with space issues? We need space at AM Cunningham to continue the French Immersion in SK. I have more to say on that one but this block in particular and it's not just because I live there as it is likely my kids won't go to any of these schools because of outside circumstances and not because of area. These thoughts simply come from living in this area and thinking it could all be better.

I also would like to see them tear up some black top at Queen Mary and put some grass in there for pete's sake. It's a bright, colourful school that is nice inside. That is a big thing it's missing. Then let's buy that land across the street to the south for more parking for the school/drop-offs and pick ups. It's a nightmare during the closing bells.

We can do better.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-02-16 11:24:30

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 12:57:08 in reply to Comment 74479

We can do a lot better, but it costs money and time, and no one seems to want to put in the effort. Not the public sector, and not the private sector.

It's quite disheartening to see all the progress made by earlier generations being destroyed, and replaced by pale "plastic" imitations. Surely something has gone wrong - but what can be done about it?

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 13:37:56

At least 6 Board Trustees are NDP.

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted February 17, 2012 at 13:31:50 in reply to Comment 74488

Not likely.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 16:38:52

My apologies if everybody knows this already. One school story really impressed me when I first heard it a few years back. About 20 years ago, Central Public School, which is directly south of City Hall, was scheduled for closure due to declining enrolment. The kids had grown up and left the neighbourhoods surrounding the school. BTW, it's the oldest public elementary school in the province. Instead os shutting it down and worse, demolishing it, a deal was brokered with an insurance company who would sign a 10 year lease (I think) and move their offices onto the second floor of the building. The school, in its reduced size, would operate on the ground floor until such time as the demographics of the neighbourhood changed back to families with kids - as they always do. It worked. The insurance company left and the school is now at capacity again. Nice story. I'm afraid I have only heard this story verbally, so if others have more details, please share them.

Why can't we consider similar ideas with schools such as Delta, Sherwood, etc. I went to Sherwood. It has an incredible theatre and music practice rooms right beside it. You can access the theatre without having to go through the main part of the school. Theatre classes? Music lessons? Performances? Rehearsal space? Other ideas?

There is also a huge gymnasium. After hours sporting events?

I realize there are costs involved in doing these things, but why do we always have to do the thing that is the shortest term, lowest value, poorest environmentally, etc.? Are we to believe that kids will never return to the lower city in large enough numbers to make having even only the ground floor occupied by students and the rest by others?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 17, 2012 at 21:35:37 in reply to Comment 74495

it's a great story that needs to be repeatedly shared. Nowhere more than in the halls of the Board HQ. Strathcona was almost closed 10 years ago too, but parents got together and developed the SAGE program, and now the school is enjoying high enrolment thanks to the changing demographic. Where will all these kids and Central kids go to highschool?? A mega school near Ivor Wynne, or crammed into Westdale? Downtown Hamilton was home to the fastest growing census tract north of Rymal Road in the new census numbers. Yes, north of RYMAL. That's the entire old city.
Does the board really think that central/east Hamilton won't become the next ground zero for young families looking for solid, affordable homes as downtown real estate continues to climb out of reach?? Add LRT into the mix right through Delta's neighbourhood and downtown neighbourhoods and you see real potential for a family-boom in the lower city. Will the board buy up 100 homes and demolish them all in order to create a large enough parcel for a new school?? Surely we could see portions of Delta leased to private companies like we did with Central. It's a beautiful old building that would be attractive to various commercial firms.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 20:41:41 in reply to Comment 74495

I toured Central years ago when I was doing research for a novel. (Early 90s) The insurance company was there at the time.

'Necessity is the mother of invention.'

'Where there's a will, there's a way.'

'You don't ask, you don't get.'

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 17:01:47 in reply to Comment 74495

Someone mentioned either above or in another post thread, about Central having a business located out of it in response to mixed re-use such as businesses using parts of these buildings for offices.

Another thing that you will appreciate to add to talks, is history. Barton has a great history. I too would love to see that school remain. It has a track, a football field, lot's of parking and if you tear that down and build homes, families are going to move in and where are they going to go to school?

Same thing with Sherwood. What are they going to build in the places of these schools? Am I right to assume subdivisions like they have done on the Lawfield grounds. Three schools replaced with one (4 if any of the Catholic system families decided to keep their kids on the same block as their school once lived) - a new school that already has portables. There is foresight for you.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 20:45:00

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted February 17, 2012 at 13:37:06 in reply to Comment 74500

Considering both city council and the B of E have always been and still are dominated by people with political affiliations other than to the NDP, your statement is kind of misinformed.

Actually, you sound like Larry DiIanni the last couple of elections. Is that you Larry. Your statement is right out of the Hamilton liberal talking points.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 20:48:20

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted February 17, 2012 at 13:39:39 in reply to Comment 74501

The Liberals and Conservatives set up the funding formula's.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 21:08:14

Bishop, McHattie, Christopherson, Horwath, *(what do you get when 4 levels of government are NDP)? Nothing. Move the Board HQ from downtown Ward 2 to the suburbs, that's what.

As the thinking goes, "Don't bother the lefties with facts or reason". obviously this is good case study in NDP behaviour. Don't bother bothering a lefty Board of Ed trustee with facts or figures, they want and will do what they want.;.. and we keep voting for them... move to the mountain. What are the chances that this move, this anti-urban, anti-transit, anti-civic, anti-density will play any role with regards to getting re-elected so that this NDP slanted Trustee board will enjoy going to work across from Lime Ridge Mall.? Nothing. I guarantee the 4 elected officials mentioned at the beginning of this post will be re-elected. So shut-up. Move the Board to the mountain, because the voters have spoken.

Go ahead keep voting NDP like blind sheep. The NDP are moving this Board from downtown to the mountain. Admit it.

Judith Bishop -- NDP Todd White -- NDP Karen Turkstra -- NDP Alex Johnstone -- NDP Roert Barlow Tim Simmons Karen Turkstra

That's 6 out of 11 trustees. Thanks NDP. We will keep voting for you for doing nothing... until the day (industrial) unions are useless.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2012 at 10:52:29 in reply to Comment 74504

Political Parties and School Board Closures, Delta dorms, school business leases, and System Schools

So what does NDP have to do with this, Trey? If anything, I would think it's a 'let's pave over the escarpment' kinda move to relocate to a car-centric area of our city?

I have no problems with the fact that we need to cut costs but we simply have to stop looking at yesterday's solutions.

Any reason public schools have never looked at turning a large school like Delta into partly dorms for during the week? Any apartment renting teachers feel like living at the school to save on rent and make some extra cash monitoring student activity overnight? How do private schools manage this? Maybe it's a more expensive solution? You would need a late night cafeteria or parents could send/bring meals to school for the week.

Not sure how I would feel about this. I'd miss my kids terribly (I think anyway ;-) , but wondering if it might be a good life experience for them. Kids need independence. Perhaps some of the parent/child purse strings should be loosened earlier? Maybe it would help strengthen the bonds and appreciation between parents and their kids?

Maybe the slow transition out of the family home in high school, would better prepare them for the sudden freedom switch from grade 12 to post secondary. Kids need jobs too. What could they be doing in the evenings at the school? Janitorial? Cafeteria for dinner hours? Cleaning chalkboards if they still exist.

Encourage kids to do their own laundry in a new basement facility. Turn the automotive bays into an actual repair shop. Auto students could work there until 6 or whenever the shop closes. Work during spares or for a few hours after school. They both learn about taking care of themselves by cooking, working, and doing their own laundry doing the week, and be given the respect of a little freedom.

Maybe the teachers monitor to ensure homework is done? Periodic checks for alcohol in the rooms and no smoking aloud of course. Maybe kids have to have good marks or other such rewards to be given the freedoms of living on 'campus'.

I'd like to see us try this system school idea that was put together. Maybe even something as dramatic as what I have proposed with Delta above. Look outside the box and explore a few options and then see how that might change some of these drastic solutions. Even look into expanding what we have tried at Central with the insurance company leasing it. Let's put the call out. Maybe even just 1-2 year leases to give us some time before we make the 'can't be undone' decisions that will take away any future space for schools if and when, demographics ever change.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2012-02-17 11:05:46

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 16, 2012 at 22:37:44 in reply to Comment 74504

we get it

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By JBJ (registered) | Posted February 17, 2012 at 15:45:36

My daughter went to Central and now attends Ryerson and is in the SAGEQUEST program. She will most likely attend SJAM because she wants to study art and it is the school that is within walking distance of our home. Given the current fiscal climate, notwithstanding the 300+ recommendations outlined by Don Drummond, it is utter folly to spend money constructing a new high school in the lower city and demolish/sell off three existing buildings. The arguments regarding Delta are valid; SJAM is not surrounded to the same extent by housing as is Delta. It would be awesome if someone or a group could turn that building into something that benefits the surrounding neighbourhoods.

A more important issue is something that has been raised before and is happening in some areas in the US. That is, school boards in inner city and suburban districts are being amalgamated and students are then transported to schools to ensure a mix of individuals from affluent (translation suburban) and less affluent (translation inner city) neighbourhoods. There is a terrific study done by a Syracuse University sociologist who compared the state of schools in Syracuse with those of Raleigh, North Carolina. See Gerald Grant, Hope and Despair in the American City. One of the big issues with the whole ARC process is that certain schools were excluded and these happen to be schools that are perceived as being full of affluent kids from bourgeois neighbourhoods. It would be a better use of scarce resources to have students mix together with those from different backgrounds and areas of the City than simply perpetuating the idea that code red neighbourhoods are dying and everyone wants a split level detached in Glancaster.

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By small cylindrical mammal (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2012 at 18:50:32

Vet each of the sites professionally and ye shall find the truth...

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