Special Report: Education

Why did HWDSB Change Site Scoring?

The HWDSB briefly posted versions of its education centre site alternatives with different scoring than the final versions posted last Monday. Why did the scores change?

By Dan Jelly
Published February 22, 2012

On the morning of Monday, February 13, after discovering that the 18 PDF documents detailing the site analyses had been removed from the HWDSB web site where they had previously been, I attempted to use Google to find them, assuming they had simply been moved.

Upon conducting a search, I discovered that while the posted documents were no longer available, Google had taken and cached a copy of a previous version.

What we now know:

  1. There are two versions of this analysis, the version that is published now, and a previous version cached on Google.

  2. An example of the previous version was (and can still be) found by conducting a Google Search for: "HWDSB site 11 West Harbour pdf" and clicking on "Quick View" under the first result. This document was generated by Google from a PDF posted on the HWDSB web site. A similar version for some of the other 18 sites have also been available at various times since their original publication, sometimes in 'Quick View' format, sometimes as a cached HTML version.

  3. The previous version used a Weighting Differenciation [sic] Factor of 2.0 instead of the current 3.0 and used a ranking of "B" for "Meetings [sic] topographical and geotechnical requirements" instead of the current "A". In seeing the "Quick View" version on Google, we know the analysis made it to this final, polished stage, complete with maps and photos, before the 2.0 was changed to a 3.0.

  4. Using the parameters of the current and previous versions, the scores and rankings are below.

Notable differences: In the previous version, Jackson Square outscored Crestwood, and City Hall ranked 5th instead of 8th. Jerome finished 6th instead of 5th.

Here are the results of the site scoring, based on the previous version of the analysis. The number in brackets following each location is its rank position on the other analysis.

Comparison Between Versions of HWDSB Analyses
Using Weight 2.0*   Using Weight 3.0
Rank Site Score Rank Site Score
*Note: this version also used a ranking of "B" for the Category "Meetings (sic) topographical and geotechnical requirements". This difference is reflected in these results.
1 Jackson Square (2) 86.33 1 Crestwood (2) 86.69
2 Crestwood (1) 86.16 2 Jackson Square (1) 86.49
3 Highland (3) 83.11 3 Highland (3) 83.65
4 Innovation Park (4) 82.04 4 Innovation Park (4) 82.09
5 City Hall (8) 81.35 5 Jerome (6) 81.09
6 Jerome (5) 81.24 6 MacNab (7) 81.63
7 MacNab (6) 81.11 7 Stonechurch at Pritchard (8) 81.61
8 Stonechurch (7) at Pritchard 81.05 8 City Hall (5) 81.34
9 West Harbour (10) 80.44 9 Sheldon (10) 80.78
10 Sheldon (9) 80.07 10 West Harbour (9) 80.47
11 Ancaster (11) 79.20 11 Ancaster (11) 80.04
12 King & Queen (13) 77.38 12 Chatham (13) 77.48
13 Chatham (12) 77.11 13 King & Queen (12) 77.04
14 Aberdeen (16) 76.16 14 Windemere (15) 76.88
15 Windemere (14) 75.96 15 Pritchard & Rymal (16) 76.28
16 Pritchard & Rymal (15) 75.70 16 Aberdeen (14) 76.23
17 Upper James (17) 75.38 17 Upper James (17) 75.48
18 Flamborough (18) 68.39 18 Flamborough (18) 69.01

Note: My calculations were made based directly on the documents found on Google and on the 18 evaluations made available by the HWDSB. No assumptions were made, all calculations can easily be explained and verified.

My questions:

I think these are all valid questions given the lack of transparency demonstrated by the school board to date, and I think the public deserves some answers.

In the name of transparency, I am sharing my supporting documents, including all calculations:

Google Cached Link:


First published on Dan Jelly's blog, King and James.

Dan Jelly is a life-long resident of downtown Hamilton and occasional blogger. You can visit his website.

22 Comments

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2012 at 07:03:14

Some great questions. (Great initiative, Dan.)

But I wonder if any answers, no matter how frank or thorough, will suffice.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 08:13:18

Dan, it would be great if you wrote to the Spectator about this. The information deserves an article or full editorial comment.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2012 at 08:18:34

So even using their own highly subjective rating system they couldn't make their parking lot come up as the best choice - so at the last minute they had to tweak it?

Who is running this show, Casey Kasem?

I wonder who will be #1 next week!?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 09:14:55

I am calling today and asking for an answer.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 09:22:32

Un-f#%&ing believable!

This just stinks more and more by the minute, doesn't it?

Process matters people, particularly in a democracy accountable to the people. The end decision (while important) is not as important as the process. Had the HWDSB's process been water-tight and sound, I don't think they'd find themselves facing nearly as much flak, but they've opened themselves up to death by a thousand cuts with their process.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 09:52:14

We know why.... parking.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 11:33:53

Great find, Dan. With scores so close, it's good someone's checking the math.

I noticed when the HWDSB published these documents (at 4pm on a Friday), that the documents that included weightings were removed over the weekend and dead-linked when I checked again.

Now they're back up...hmm....

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-02-22 11:36:34

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2012 at 14:40:41

The earlier document referenced here thru the google cache was published on Thurs 09, 2012 at 3:45pm. This is visible in the source code of this cached document as below, and accessed by right clicking any web page and selecting 'source':

meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" meta name="CreationDate" content="D:20120209154500-05'00'" meta name="ModDate" content="D:20120209154508-05'00'" title SITE #9 SITE NAME City Hall Site PROPOSED EDUCATION CENTRE HAMILTON WENTWORTH DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD SITE SELECTION CRITERIA MOD title

The date/time stamp above is: D:2012-02-09-15:45:00

What this tells me is that an earlier version may have been uploaded on Thursday, and upon realization, the web administrator removed and uploaded the current version of that document on Friday.

We all do such things often while emailing attachments, and end up frantically reattaching the correct versions of documents being sent.

The BoED has consistently maintained that besides the weighting criteria, there were many external factors related to ground reality that were factored into their selection process. Implying that emerging data was added to the working matrix over a period of time as new discoveries are factored in.

One plausible scenario (which I have encountered while doing a number of site selections for clients over the years) is that the BoEd may have a number of such working/version documents of the many sites floating around on their computers and that of their consultants - which may have been incrementally updated and shared for discussions as many external criteria were being added in what is essentially a non-linear discovery process.

Could it be that the earlier document from Thursday was based on a preliminary weighting process based on certain data set assumptions, and when the ground reality of Jackson Square with its leasing / purchasing cost implications; retrofit cost-benefit to a leased property; and the parking limitations for BoEd service vehicles with its service yard requirements in the Jackson Square basement were introduced into the Jackson Square site selection matrix, the weighting logically shifted in favour of the next immediate option?

Mahesh P. Butani

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 15:45:13 in reply to Comment 74644

Mahesh,

I would buy that argument if Jackson Square and the other discarded sites had been re-scored between versions or if critera had been added or re-weighted to reflect any important new considerations.

Neither of these is the case. All 18 properties maintained their unweighted scores (Excellent = 5, Very Good = 4, etc) for each of the 44 criteria, and each of the criteria maintained their weight or importance (A through E), with a single exception which I have noted above, and this exception had no significant bearing on the ranking of Jackson Square or Crestwood in particular.

What changed was the math behind the process, and it changed after the scoring and weighting had already been done. This wasn't a way to introduce new logic or values to the process or codify some new element, it was a manipulation of the process to change the results without having to express the reasons.

It also raises the question: Who were the people who scored these sites and weighted these criteria? Were they previously aware of this mathematical change that altered the final results without their input? If not, they should probably be upset today.

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By anderson cooper (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 21:39:38 in reply to Comment 74646

you're getting warmer. good digging.

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By Mahesh_P_Butani (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2012 at 18:13:22

Dan, I am not sure whether I understood this clearly:

"All 18 properties maintained their unweighted scores (Excellent = 5, Very Good = 4, etc) for each of the 44 criteria, and each of the criteria maintained their weight or importance (A through E), with a single exception which I have noted above, and this exception had no significant bearing on the ranking of Jackson Square or Crestwood in particular."

If that is so, then what is the issue? Is it just the math behind the process?

I am quite sure an accredited consultant was involved in this process, and your concern could be very simply verified by calling them up directly for an explanation: (Brian or Michel -- Educational Consulting Services Corporation at: 416.977.9905 or Email: mail@ecs.on.ca)

Mahesh P. Butani

Comment edited by Mahesh_P_Butani on 2012-02-22 18:13:42

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted February 23, 2012 at 00:01:02 in reply to Comment 74656

Mahesh,

Since this was a real estate analysis done by Cushman and Wakefield, I'm not sure how ECSC is relevant to the discussion. If I'm missing something please enlighten me.

This isn't about the math, I analysed and explained the math in my breakdown. The sheer fact that the "differenciation factor" was left as a variable element in the process raises questions about who was making these decisions, who changed it, and when? If it's derived from a 'master spreadsheet' as trustee Bishop suggests, then why did this field simply not just point to the master? Why were hundreds of errors introduced and taken to the point of publication?

Again, who selected the criteria? Who defined the priorities? I shouldn't have to chase these answers down from a consultant (who will likely tell me it's a confidential matter between them and their client). If the process is clear and transparent, then the Board and Staff of the HWDSB should be able to answer these very straightforward questions, and yet they have not.

They should also be able to answer repeated requests by myself and others for the specific cost of renovating 100 Main St. West. They have ignored and evaded this question at every opportunity. Again, why?

Public money has been spent on this process. Publicly owned buildings are at stake. The process should be out in the open for all to see.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 18:46:20

It's the parking, stupid.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 22, 2012 at 18:47:26

OK, I'll play the part of putative dissident:

-What would the reaction have been had the HWDSB simply said: 'Guess what; we're building at Crestwood! End of discussion!'?

-What is there in place for a dissatisfied citizenry to do in a case such as the above? (Given that it's rare that things work out particularly well for the 'dissatisfied'. I'm thinking of the Good Shepard Super-centre on King, or of the Setting Sail OMB appeal/compromise, or IWS2...or, God forbid, AEGD.)

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 19:32:20 in reply to Comment 74658

What would the reaction have been had the HWDSB simply said: 'Guess what; we're building at Crestwood! End of discussion!'?

Since that is essentially what happened, the reaction would be exactly what you are seeing now.

When the public was consulted back in 2007, we expressed the overwhelming desire for the board to stay downtown. The trustees followed suit by voting to stay downtown. Unfortunately the democratic portion of the process ended there.

Board staff who favoured a site with plentiful free parking closer to their residences, then developed a consultation process (announced in a closed session) designed to exclude the voices of the families they serve, and the taxpayers who would be footing the bill, who wanted the board to stay downtown. At no time were any open calls put out to either parents or the public to participate in this process.

Crestwood was then announced as a fete accompli. Taxpayers and the families who the board is supposed to be serving are rightfully calling them on it.

It may very well be too late to change the result of this flawed process. But parents I talk to are angry, and I know of at least two trustees who are likely to face organized opposition come re-election time.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2012 at 05:11:53 in reply to Comment 74660

a fete accompli.

Beautiful Freudian slip. : )

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 20:34:43 in reply to Comment 74660

"It may very well be too late to change the result of this flawed process. But parents I talk to are angry, and I know of at least two trustees who are likely to face organized opposition come re-election time."

As they very well should. Democracy doesn't work if we just keep voting for the incumbent blindly. If people are upset and want to challenge a trustee in the next election - well that's democracy in action.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 23, 2012 at 05:11:22 in reply to Comment 74664

So the answer to my second question is 'wait until the next election'?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 23, 2012 at 11:26:59 in reply to Comment 74682

Since your questions were only rhetorical anyway, why don't you enlighten us as to what you think the answers are?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 22, 2012 at 21:09:28

Just received an email from Judith Bishop that reads in part:

You have questions in your last email regarding two versions of the individual site selection documents that were posted to the HWDSB website on February 10. Quite simply, an error was caught in the individual site selection documents when they were posted and so they were immediately taken down.

In an effort to ensure that all the background material related to the report presented to trustees on October 18, 2010 was presented, information related to the individual sites that were considered was included. Upon posting the information, it was discovered there were slight discrepancies between the master excel sheet and the individual site documents. We immediately removed the individual documents and Cushman & Wakefield were contacted to find out why there were differences.

Cushman & Wakefield looked into it and discovered that their staff did not correctly transpose two specific items from the master excel sheet. The master spreadsheet contained all the information that was presented to trustees. These errors slightly changed some of the numbers on the individual site sheets. They fixed the error and sent us the revised PDFs with the correct information. The correct versions were immediately re-posted.

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By DanJelly (registered) | Posted February 23, 2012 at 01:33:41 in reply to Comment 74666

Why did the 18 sheets not simply point back to the differenciation [sic] factor on the 'master'? Instead, over 3000 fields were affected across these 18 sheets, and the ranking was significantly different.

You'd think if this were just a simple error that somebody would have noticed before they were all turned into polished PDF's with maps and pictures and published online.

This also doesn't answer any of the other questions asked. Who selected the criteria? Who weighted them? Who scored the sites?

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 23, 2012 at 09:23:43 in reply to Comment 74678

I think, based on what she stated above about who they contacted and who revised the documents, the answer to who scored the sites is likely "Cushman & Wakefield" - Commercial Real Estate Brokers.

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