Special Report: Education

HWDSB: Downtown HQ Task Force disbanded

Citizens will walk away feeling that many of our representatives didn't truly listen to our input, and went along with decisions they had already predetermined from day one.

By Matt Jelly
Published May 29, 2012

At last night's Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) meeting, Trustees finalized decisions that will see the closure of secondary schools across the entire city.

Sir John A. MacDonald, Delta, Parkview, Barton, Hill Park, Mountain, Parkside and Highland schools will be closed at the end of 2015 and replaced with three new centralized high schools: one in the lower city, one on the mountain and one in Dundas.

A map of school closures can be found here, courtesy of Matt Grande:


View Hamilton School Closures in a larger map

Last night's meeting was well-attended, primarily by students of Barton and Hill Park schools, who disagree with the Board's direction on these school closures. The meeting went on well past midnight.

At approximately 12:40 am, Trustees also voted to disband the Task Force of Trustees, Councillors and staff that was charged with finding a suitable location for a new Board of Education Headquarters in the downtown core.

Last-Ditch Effort

The board had previously agreed to sell their current headquarters at 100 Main Street West to McMaster University, which plans to demolish the 46-year-old headquarters to make way for an $85 million Downtown Health Campus.

Gone to seed: 100 Main Street West will be sold and demolished (RTH file photo)
Gone to seed: 100 Main Street West will be sold and demolished (RTH file photo)

The task force was created in February, at the urging of Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie and Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr.

The Board's original plan was to demolish Crestwood school on Hamilton Mountain and build a new headquarters on that site. The concern of several councillors and members of the public (myself included) was that the HWDSB headquarters should remain downtown, where the economic spinoff of HWDSB's 400 staffers would be of most benefit.

The board's favoured site at Crestwood is across the road from Lime Ridge mall, which mostly consists of chain stores and restaurants.

Another concern is the discontinuation of programming at Crestwood School, which serves children with behavioural challenges who for one reason or another don't fit in at other schools. Parents of children attending Crestwood are concerned about how well these students will integrate if these programs are relocated.

Disbanded After In Camera Meeting

The task force has been meeting over the past several months - originally it was intended to work towards a solution within a month of being created, but the board had decided to extend the time-frame to June 18, when it was expected to come back with its findings.

Instead, at last night's meeting, the majority of trustees (Barlow, Brennan, Johnstone, Hicks, Bishop Mulholland) voted to disband the task force, after they met in camera earlier in the evening, and a suitable deal between the City and the Board could not be reached.

This would seem to mean that the Board will proceed with its original plan to build the headquarters at the Crestwood location, pending a site plan approval. If this is the case, the seven acres of greenspace on the Crestwood location will be paved over for 480 parking spots.

It will mean increased car and truck traffic coming and going from the Bruleville neighbourhood. It will mean several hundred jobs being moved from the core to the Lime Ridge area. It will mean the students who rely on programs available at Crestwood School will be relocated elsewhere. It will mean that another building will be needlessly demolished rather than repaired, to make way for the board's new $31 million headquarters.

Wider Implications

It's a shame that the board has decided to walk away from this process. The decisions that the board has been making this year have implications that not only affect education, but also in how we plan our neighbourhoods.

Citizens are represented by both councillors and trustees, and on decisions of this magnitude, the Board should be willing to work in good faith with other representatives of the public in decision-making.

All in all, many of our trustees ought to feel a sense of shame, not only for the decisions that they've made surrounding the closure of schools and the relocation of the board's headquarters, but also in the absurdly poor approach to engagement and governance that have been on display over the past few months.

Schools will close, communities will be disconnected, buildings will be demolished or sold to the private sector, and many citizens, myself included, will walk away feeling that many of our representatives didn't truly listen to our input, and went along with decisions they had already predetermined from day one.

All I can hope at this point is that citizens are much more mindful of who they're voting for when it comes time to elect a new board of trustees.

I can say for certain that the general public did not vote for this in 2010. Perhaps it's time for every citizen to pay closer attention to who we elect, at all of our elected institutions.

First published on Matt Jelly's website.

Jelly is a local artist, graphic designer and map maker living in Downtown Hamilton, Ontario in the Central Neighbourhood. Matt is an advocate for built heritage, toxic waste eradication and the revitalization of downtown Hamilton. www.mattjelly.com

56 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:24:04

Do we know if perhaps a deal has been reached with the city on a Downtown HQ site?? Based on the HWDSB track record, I realize this is a long shot, but nonetheless, do we know for sure??

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:26:41 in reply to Comment 77480

Wow, Jason. I never had you pegged as a hopeless optimist.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:28:30 in reply to Comment 77484

haha...just asking that's all.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:30:03 in reply to Comment 77486

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:27:47

It seems as though this was a case of the HWDSB only going through the motions, It knew what its endgame was. Ultimately, after this past year, the board is appearing to be anti-community and anti-Smart Growth. Why does the HWDSB hate Hamilton so much?

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By ward 3 resident (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:35:46

I'm going to the meeting tonight. What public park are they paving over that I should ask about? I haven't heard anything about that!

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By JM (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:31:07 in reply to Comment 77489

brian timmis stadium!

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By ward 3 resident (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:37:06

whoops how'd I get here? Wrong story, I meant to post on the Stadium meeting notice

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By jacob (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:57:18

Wow. And what great timing! Next year teachers will probably be on strike because the province wants to freeze salaries and reduce benefits, and here the HWDSB rides in and asks for circa $100 million in new funding. Of course these budgets have nothing to do with one another. This is capital funding. And we're saving money! Spend $100 million, reduce number of caretakers and support staff by, like, 10. Do these people have some kind of fear of empty spaces?

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By rednic (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 19:39:57 in reply to Comment 77495

the teachers and their pension fund live in another world. They are major shareholders in CP and are demanding that pensions be cut. Hopefully McGuinty will just legislate them back to work and tell them to eat sh*t.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 20:54:50 in reply to Comment 77539

I shouldn’t but just can't ignore that comment.

Firstly, you seem to be suggesting some sort of conspiracy whereby teachers are dictating what happens at the negotiating table between CP and the government. That's wild...

Secondly, teachers will be ordered back to work - immediately - so don't worry about that. It's all part of the game that you have to play every few years.

Thirdly, teachers do live in a different world. A world so completely beyond what most can imagine that it beggars belief. Anybody who thinks teachers don't deserve the 'astounding' salaries they receive [~35.000 / yr. to start], ask to volunteer in the classroom at your local school. The shocking amount of disrespect and sometimes even violence that teachers have to endure on a daily basis will blow your mind…or perhaps not! Given the tone of your response, it’s no wonder kids behave the way they do; they learn it at home. Sure, some schools are fantastic but even then the workload is a serious issue.

Teacher salaries, by the way, are almost entirely contingent upon how much professional development they undertake. That means evenings and summers studying at Mac or online. And we’re not talking one year here. It can take years and years and thousands of dollars to max-out your salary. Nobody just ‘shows up’ in the teaching profession. It’s a full-on commitment.

Believe me when I say that no teacher wants to strike. But as I already stated, when the government says that they’re not even going to give a cost-of-living increase, it forces the union’s hand. There are few other possible outcomes.

Comment edited by DrAwesomesauce on 2012-05-29 20:57:11

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By rednic (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 21:28:09 in reply to Comment 77545

Im not suggesting a conspiracy what I'm suggesting is that teachers (the pension fund) is almost constantly an activist investor. When they bought Bell all the linesmen where made contractors. (a contractor) receives no benefits. They are now teaming up with a US vulture fund literally drain the workers pensions a CP and put in the pockets of the shareholders. Yet somehow whats good for the private sector is not good for the public sector.

If you consider your contract negotations a 'game' i really don't know what to say. I hope you have fun playing.

All thru my child's education i volunteered at the schools, donated computers, went skating etc taking time off a 10 dollar an hour job to do so. In 'inner' city toronto. I think i 'served' my time and earned my stripes.

I'm a self employed IT worker, retraining can be a weekly experience for me, and I enjoy it.

As for your cost of living increase as i said I'm self employed. And as it stands most blue collar worker (like bell techs and CP workers ) have taken a hair cut in the last 20 years.

As a teacher your pension fund controls 3% of TSE. This is an opportunity to push for change of the most positive kind. But don't worry I've never met a teacher who thinks this is correct. Its always up to some other party (that controls 3% of the TSE) to push for positive change.

I hope you and your union have fun playing the 'game'. Your comments really show me how much of a different word you live in.

oh yeah 1 brother a teacher , 1 father a tenured prof so yes i do understand the 'game' . A game played all the way to sunshine list.

Comment edited by rednic on 2012-05-29 21:32:08

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 01:47:38 in reply to Comment 77547

Pension Fund

The world of high finance is a nasty business. No argument there. I'm not interested in outcasting myself, however.

Cost of living increase

I have no problem with a wage freeze per se. However, there's much more to it than that which I'll not discuss in a public forum. The Province is more than happy to blab about the details of our negotiations though, so you can read about it in the press.

Sunshine list

If only that were true! I will say, though that our salary is commensurate with the education required to be a teacher [which continues throughout your career] and the stress of the job.

Volunteering

Thanks for that. I would hope that you might continue; we could do with the help!

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 13:58:37

Downtown residents should give our "representative", Judith Bishop, a piece of our minds. That she would vote to give up on keeping the HQ downtown is reprehensible.

judith.bishop@hwdsb.on.ca

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-05-29 14:10:30

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:16:54

FWIW, my letter to Trustee Bishop--I'm still fuming.

Dear Trustee Bishop:

I will keep this short: as a Ward 2 resident, I am appalled at the decision you supported last night to disband the task force looking into a downtown location for the HWDSB's new headquarters. You failed to fairly represent Wards 1 & 2, and in doing so have contributed to the hollowing out of our downtown core, and to the further destruction of green space on the mountain.

You were elected to serve the people of West downtown, but instead have let a significant source of employment and community pride take flight to the suburbs.

I sincerely hope you do not run for re-election in 2014. Should you do so, I look forward to organizing the residents of Ward 2 to support an alternative candidate. Hopefully they will not sell out their community as you have.

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By ward 3 resident (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:40:30

hadn't heard that Brian Timmis was getting moved for a parking lot. I actually think Brian Timmis is a huge part of the discussion and nobody wants to lose the pitch including the Tigercats. How that is going to happen remains open for discussion and the results of those discussions remain to be seen. Personally I think the loss of Parkview School and its potential use is more worry some

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:46:08 in reply to Comment 77504

Well, both are happening. There's already discussions about moving Brian Timmis to Eastwood Park. The new stadium is being built north/south.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:45:25

Perhaps seeing all the protesters on Main St last night reminded them of why they want to be in a secret location. I wonder why they went in camera?? Just played a few rounds of cards until everyone left so they could come back out and do this??

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By Zephyr (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 14:46:02

My letter to Trustee Bishop:

Dear Trustee Bishop,

I am stunned to see that you voted to break faith with the residents of Wards 1 & 2 last night. Community voices were quite strong and united in our desire to have the Board identify a downtown location for the new headquarters. The Board was supposedly in the middle of a process to explore downtown options, but it was clear last night that this process was not undertaken in good faith. The Board stood by their original decision to move to the original mountain location, and even broke faith with the promise to look at alternatives.

You are supposed to represent Ward 1 & 2 and should have been supporting the attempt to keep jobs (and the significant spin-off to a downtown struggling to rejeuvenate) Additionally, the people of Code Red neighbourhoods mainly live downtown and will struggle to get to the Crestwood site.

The only option we have is to wait a couple of years and vote for our trustrees much more mindfully next time. I think there are a significant number of downtown residents who will do so in the upcoming election. I've not paid enough attention to municipal politics in the past, but no longer.

This city has been held back by the lack of imagination and leadership of its elected representatives for much too long, but the good news is that an increasing number of voices are speaking up and will continue to do so.

-Andrea

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By Gary Santucci (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:19:22

This the worst possible outcome of a flawed system that elected trustees to incredible lofty heights of power (unchecked)and largely unknown to the residents that elected them. They are lumped into a Municipal election that overshadows them and minimizes their role. I can think of no other government related disaster (and it is a disaster)that compares. To completely dismiss the impact on the present and future possibilities for our city borders on the insane. This group of trustees should be immediately recalled and new elections held as they do not have the confidence of the electorate, of that I am certain. They have resisted and ignored all initiatives from the public and our city council. Their callous and calculated decision will affect our established neighbourhoods for decades and fulfill the actual vision of our city "The Best Place to Retire" not "The Best Place to Raise a Child etc etc..."

Gary Santucci

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By manacle (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 16:30:24 in reply to Comment 77527

it's true. But I don't even know if democracy is even needed in this context. By electing them you give them some separation from the provincial executive and they feel they have the warrant to do what they feel is right in the public interest. Yet their mandate is given by such a small fraction of the population that the democratic angle fails, and they are certainly not elected for their ability to manage multimillion dollar infrastructure. They should be directly under the direction of truly elected members, or these functions should be stripped away and their jobs should be narrowed.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 19:30:49

Once i read this i just came to conclusion they should resign and very quickly; http://www.thespec.com/news/local/articl...

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By downtowninhamilton (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 20:01:09

I thought that the plan re: Highland was that they were going to put the money into renovations, as there is a slim-to-none chance of the HWDSB getting any sort of approval for funding to build 3 new schools.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 21:35:08 in reply to Comment 77543

Yeah...I can't imagine where a new school might go.

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By DowntownInHamilton (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 22:17:38 in reply to Comment 77548

I heard that they were going to build the new school on Highland's grounds, where the football field is now. Then, once the school was built, they would move over to it, then demolish the existing school and put the field there instead.

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By DrAwesomesauce (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 01:21:43 in reply to Comment 77549

That makes sense...kinda.

I had heard that they were going to build an addition but building new might be a better idea [if those are the only two options on the table].

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By downtowninhamilton (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 07:00:35 in reply to Comment 77556

The current configuration of Highland does not lend itself to an addition, sadly. The split-level design of the "classroom" and the "ring" (where the gym and shops are) will make it difficult. The addition on the rear of the building, where the library is, demonstrates that. Ideally, a new school would be built, but in my estimation, won't happen.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 22:52:42

Those who have suggested that the current HWDSB members should be sharply challenged in the 2014 election are spot on.

It is also interesting to note that the Education Centre Report was presented to the HWDSB at its Committee of the Whole meeting on October 18, 2010, one week before the 2010 election. The Board chose not to make the report public until February 10, 2012. By then, the die had already been cast in favour of the Crestwood site. The board members obviously sat on the report to secure their re-election in 2010. And the Hamilton taxpayers will probably never know whether the Crestwood site was the only “option” presented by the HWDSB to the Ministry of Education.

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-05-29 22:59:29

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 29, 2012 at 23:12:05

From the first Spec story: “We feel that the Crestwood site being the actual centre, by a couple of lots, of the city of Hamilton would still bring positive development to the city and to our stakeholders and students,” Simmons said. “It’s near major arteries and it’s on public transit lines.”

Sounds like a sensible, logical statement to me. /sarcasm

Suppose the "actual centre" was located out in the harbour - would they invest in a floating island complex, and claim "it's near major shipping lanes and freely accessible by canoe from any direction"

In all seriousness, who is the board accountable to? Is there even a basic understanding among them of their connection (as the school board) to the social fabric of the city, and ultimately how their decisions affect the development of the people whose hands will guide the city's future?

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 10:50:56 in reply to Comment 77553

"In all seriousness, who is the board accountable to?"

1) Fiscally, the Province.

2) Morally, Hamiltonians.

In the case of the former, they insist on this 'accountability'. There is a legislative mandate to live up to budgetary requirements, otherwise the Board can be turfed and a Province-installed interim-overlord be put in place to sort out the situation...as was done last decade.

In the case of the latter... Clearly, this 'accountability' isn't merely the stuff lip-service paid, but to paraphrase MLK: "It's never voluntarily given by the Board; it must be demanded by the residents.". In other words, 'You don't ask, you don't get.' And frankly, we haven't been asking.

A collective 'My bad'...?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 23:26:27 in reply to Comment 77572

And frankly, we haven't been asking.

This statement is a slap in the face to the hundreds of people who've been working their balls off on these ARCs for the last year, as well as the countless citizens who have stated and restated their desire to keep the board downtown, beginning in 2007 when the board first started looking at their non-instructional facilities. Where have you been?

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By ScreamingViking (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 22:03:58 in reply to Comment 77572

"My bad"? I don't believe that.

Where the public good is concerned, it's up to the decision makers to keep the public informed and involved. You can't please everyone, but denying them the right to know what's going on and the opportunity to voice their opinion goes against the most basic principles of our society.

This was the HWDSB's failure, from start to finish. They did have some tough choices to make and there would have been many people affected no matter what, but it was handled very poorly on their part. Some of them may eventually lose their positions because of it, but the city is losing a whole lot more. And that is the shame of it all.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:32:23 in reply to Comment 77572

And frankly, we haven't been asking.

Tell that to the hundreds of families that have participated in public consultations, sat on accommodation review committees, corresponded with their trustees, attended Board meetings, written letters and op-eds and so on.

The message from the affected communities has been loud and clear. The problem is that the Board isn't listening. They made up their minds first about what they were going to do, and then went through a ceremony of token public engagement to present the illusion of inclusion.

You're correct that the solution will be for a lot more people to get a lot more involved, but let's put the blame for this fiasco where it belongs: at the feet of the people whose job it is to run the school board competently in the public interest.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2012-05-30 11:50:22

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2012 at 11:38:03 in reply to Comment 77575

"What we have here...is failure...to communicate."

I meant no disrespect to anyone who has been active in this cause. (In fact, Highwater and I have been in correspondence about this. Though not with either of us using our monikers here.)

Just as on myriad other occasions, Ryan, you're interpreting my sentiments as being dismissive. That's not my intention at all.

But as I've said previously, 'If this methodology worked (this construct of awareness, of getting the word out, of engagement), would we be having this conversation?'

So allow me to re-phrase:

"And frankly, we haven't been asking in ways that are sufficiently robust to get the same kinds of results that other 'lobbyist' groups do. Such as, say, developers."

Here's a diagram explaining what I mean: http://townhallshamilton.blogspot.com/2012/04/with-apologies-for-graphical-non.html

For the most part, certain groups' pain notwithstanding, we do not have an energized enough citizenry to prevent bad situations from turning into disasters. Take this declaration personally if you wish, but that doesn't change its reality.

(As for my 'lobbyist' reference: this would be an intermediary phase towards taking our rightful place at the table.)

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 12:29:59 in reply to Comment 77575

The problem is that the Board isn't listening. They made up their minds first about what they were going to do, and then went through a ceremony of token public engagement to present the illusion of inclusion.

Exactly. The HWDSB's public consultation policy states as one of its guiding principles that,

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board will ensure that its consultation efforts are purposeful, accountable, and respectful of all who participate.

Was this best demonstrated through the nearly invisible public consultation efforts on the sale and demolition of 100 Main? It's apparently been ongoing since 2007, but took 5 years for people to realize what the Board was really talking about (this is not the fault of citizens, but of the HWDSB to broadly engage us).

Was consultation demonstrated by the Board's opaque decision-making process on where to re-build the HQ & throwing doctored documents up on a website on a Friday afternoon at 5pm?

At least in my mind, there is no doubt that "the fix was in" from day one. Trustee Bishop and I exchanged a few emails since February, and she only continued to justify the Crestwood decision, all the while telling the Beasley Neighbourhood Association that she'd been fighting to keep the HQ in downtown, but couldn't find an affordable solution.

But when offered the chance to find an affordable downtown solution, she voted in favour of disbanding the task force before it had done its job.

If 'fighting for downtown' actually means voting against downtown, then I know for sure we need a new representative on HWDSB.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-05-30 12:31:47

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 04:00:33

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:05:53 in reply to Comment 77558

I sure hope people don't vote for trustees based on their affiliation. This whole lot needs to get turfed. No political party has done anything for Hamilton. No reason we should have an allegiance to any of them.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:13:00

nobody cared about the board trustees until this term. You can guarantee that at least some of those seats will get cleaned out come next election. I know a lot of politically-disengaged folks that are furious about the school closures.

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By meanerjoanna (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:21:49

I hate to say it but this is a result of the people of Hamilton disengaging from city politics. Of course, no one is really encouraged to care or informed of what their vote could mean. We gave these people the power that they have through our own inaction. Is there a way to take it back? Can we, the citizens, just change our minds? Can we say 'no, you don't have that power anymore' and kick them out? Vote again? At the very least we have to campaign to have this task force re-opened and have the Beasley site given a proper chance. They had three more weeks and I personally would like them to use it.

For next time, this is a major example of why the people of Hamilton need to stay informed on the issues in their communities. The next election can't just be 'who's already in? ok i'll pick them because I have no idea what I'm voting for.' This stuff is actually important and should be treated as such.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:31:39 in reply to Comment 77566

Yes, but at some point there's only so much engagement you can expect from the public. We're not even talking about city councilors, we're talking about the school-board trustees. Even politically-engaged folks have been ignoring this second local body.

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By meanerjoanna (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:44:55 in reply to Comment 77574

A sad but true observation. A think this might be the kick in the face we all needed to realize how important this board and its decisions are. The conversation has been started at the very least. We know what we did wrong and now we can work to fix it.

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By CouldaWouldaShoulda (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 10:16:49 in reply to Comment 77566

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By Enuffalready (anonymous) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 12:28:56 in reply to Comment 77569

Would you please stop talking about talking and do something? Like help to start a neighbourhood association or two on the east mountain. Knock on a few doors. It might help to ground you.

Surely you're not suggesting you had this all figured out 18 months ago and it took the rest of us clowns this long to see just how right you were? Surely not.

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By meanerjoanna (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:42:08 in reply to Comment 77569

Is that sarcasm? I feel like it is. Either way, a few people talking about the issues on the internet (yes, I am aware that this is what we're all doing here) obviously isn't helping. People aren't supporting each other. Instead there are sarcastic comments on forum posts and anger amongst people who clearly have the same goal: Making Hamilton a great place to live and work. The idea is not to worry about if the thing we're talking about is cool or worry about who is talking about it first. We have to support each other instead. A bunch of people shouting different things is just noise. A bunch of people shouting one thing is a message

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 09:27:21

You can guarantee that at least some of those seats will get cleaned out come next election. I know a lot of politically-disengaged folks that are furious about the school closures.

And now the challenge is to sustain this energy until 2014. I can think of a couple of great candidates to challenge Ms. Bishop here in Wards 1&2, so I hope they continue their involvement in school board issues and build up their profile.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:40:03

This city needs a master plan.

Such a plan should be focusing on curtailing sprawl, and reinvigorating the older part of the city. Within that plan should be school locations used as incentives for families and city planning.

Closing schools in the lower city and building new ones on the outer rim is damaging the city.

The plan (the city and school board) should be leading for the benefit of the health of the city and not reacting to sprawl in a way that harms the city and its future.

Growth is one thing, but this reeks of abandonment and neglect just as the board's HQ abandonment of downtown does. Shame on them for hurting our city! Disgraceful!

Comment edited by George on 2012-05-30 11:53:32

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 12:47:26 in reply to Comment 77576

My wife told me something that I need to investigate a little further. She maintains that Guelph or K-W have a policy in place where the school board posts signs around new developments, on the periphery, that they will NOT be building a new school in that area. It certainly lets the buyer make an informed decision if that is indeed the case.

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By George (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 13:26:36 in reply to Comment 77582

Perfect.

The school board and city should be leading community improvement.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted May 30, 2012 at 11:53:22

My email to my Trustee, Judith Bishop.

Dear Trustee Bishop,

With your most recent votes, you continue to disappoint. Deeply.

Do you have no sense of standing on principle? Must you play the "our hands are tied by the province" as your repeated excuse?

Your dithering and obfuscation has tested my patience. So much so, that should you stand for re-election, I commit now to being engaged directly and tenaciously in support of a worthy candidate who chooses to run against you.

You are an embarrassment to good governance. You have harmed the future of Ward 2 residents and their children, the very people who trusted you to do what was right, no matter how difficult, no matter how unpopular, no matter how much pressure you were made to feel by your fellow Trustees. You have let us down. All of us.

A response is neither requested, nor expected. I recommend, instead, taking some time for reflection.

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 22:42:20 in reply to Comment 77579

Wow!! Now THAT's a letter.

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 14:11:22

Dear Trustee Bishop,

I write to you as a resident of Ward 2 and a father of a preschool child. Most importantly, I write as a person who attended public schools in Ontario and who deeply believes in public education.

I am aghast at the positions you have recently taken on school closures and the new HWDSB headquarters. You sold out your own constituents and the poorest neighbourhoods in the city by voting to close all three lower-city high schools and replace them with a single mega-school. You then compounded the error by voting to disband the task force investigating downtown sites for the HWDSB offices.

You failed to challenge the unspoken assumptions that have led the HWDSB to make decisions that hurt the most vulnerable communities in Hamilton. Why was a merger between Ancaster High and Sir Allan MacNab not considered? Why could programs of choice (e.g. French Immersion, International Baccalaureate) not be moved from oversubscribed high schools to those that have empty space? Why was Delta allowed to accumulate so much deferred maintenance while Westdale (a building of similar age and construction) was not? The only plausible answer is that the HWDSB does not care about children in underprivileged neighbourhoods.

You have attempted to frame these decisions as being forced by the Ministry of Education, but your duty as a Trustee is to vote for what is right and to speak out against what is incorrect and unjust. You have failed to do so, and have thereby enabled decisions that will harm our City and its residents for decades to come.

I pledge my moral, financial, and organizational support to your opponents in 2014.

Sincerely yours,

John Neary

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By jason (registered) | Posted May 30, 2012 at 22:42:49

Dang...both of them...great job guys. Well said. I love the passion coming out in these letters.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted May 31, 2012 at 07:25:55

Here's my letter, such that it is. If there is feedback before it actually makes it to print and lands in the hands of Bishop, McHattie, Farr, then I would love to have it.

Dear Trustee Bishop,

I am saddened and angry with the poor faith in which the HWDSB trustees have acted regarding the changes to both schools available to residents of Hamilton’s lower city and the location change of the HWDSB Education Centre. A process was put in place to elicit public input but after the boondoggle of trustee meetings and in camera meetings, the whole process looks to have been fixed.

First, the trend of urban areas is to move from auto-dependent neighbourhoods to those that are walkable. There is an admitted crisis that our Canadian youth are not engaging in enough physical activity. Removing the option for several of them to walk to their neighbourhood school is certainly not going to help remedy the situation. A recent study reviewed on CBC Toronto talked about the link health officials will have with urban planners to build healthier cities. Education officials should also have a say but I believe the decisions you have been a part of will show you to be on the wrong side of history.

Second, the decision to, in camera, disband the task force to look at keeping the HWDSB headquarters in the downtown core was absolutely unconscionable and deceitful. I always hear about “optics” when it comes to our school board. It is a point of conversation that makes its way down from Director John Milloy all the way to those of us in the classroom. Trustee Bishop, the optics on this decision are not good. You and your fellow trustees have committed yourselves to abandoning an important part of our city...a vital, heterogenous, local, innovative area. You are abandoning an “easy” area for our most needy citizens to get to, especially without an automobile. Are you aware of how many bus transfers, and the delicate issue of timing, it would take a concerned parent from Stoney Creek to arrive at the Crestwood location by bus? The concern that the space require 480 parking spots at the expense of precious green space is a slap in the face to any teacher, community advocate, and parent that tries to instill in the children they work with that we need to be preserving and creating more green space, not paving it over. Also of impact is the economic spin-offs that the board employees provide to the LOCAL businesses in the downtown area. Now, a lot of that money may very well be spent at Limeridge Mall. I would imagine that those corporate entities aren’t interested in keeping money in the Hamilton area. So, at the behest of Councillors Mchattie and Farr, a task force was developed to look at downtown options. With the closure of the task force, with the abandonment of discussions about alternative locations, the trustees look to have engaged in a farce and simply went through the motions without any serious intent to engage in an honest discourse. The lesson that this serves to our students runs counter to any of the stated character education goals our board posits in schools.

I’d like to reference this document from the Ministry of Infrastructure; https://www.placestogrow.ca/content/ggh/...

It indicates that goals for smart growth in the Golden Horseshoe, of which Hamilton is a part, include: Revitalize downtowns to become vibrant and convenient centres. Create complete communities that offer more options for living, working, learning, shopping and playing. Provide housing options to meet the needs of people at any age. Curb sprawl and protect farmland and green spaces. Reduce traffic gridlock by improving access to a greater range of transportation options.

The decision you and the other trustees have committed yourselves to indicate that the group is out-of-touch and antagonistic toward the goals of our province.

I have read other letters to you over the past day. Many are written by writers more eloquent than I. Trustee Bishop, as a teacher, I have admired your support for schools in Ward 1 and 2 over the years. However, I feel that all of that good will you created over the years has been permanently tainted with the actions of the trustees over the past few weeks. As an employee of the board I am unable to run for a position of trustee. However, be certain, that I will actively dialogue with people to take the next election seriously and not be so quick to vote in the status quo. I will work hard to ensure that someone with a more progressive view of our city and of education will be voted in your place.

Sincerely,

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By Neary (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2012 at 13:24:01 in reply to Comment 77639

It's great to see teachers on board with this cause. Thanks, Brian.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 07:44:04

Here is the link to opinion piece by Margaret Shkimba titled "Losing trust in our school trustees" in today's Hamilton Spectator: http://www.thespec.com/opinion/columns/a...

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By ravirajusai (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2018 at 04:42:58

I have read other letters to you over the past day. Many are written by writers more eloquent than I. Trustee Convert Euro in Dollar

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