Special Report: Education

HWDSB Recommends Closing Three Mountain Elementary Schools by End of Year

A bus ride turns a five-year-old Kindergarten student into a commuter. This is a student who would have otherwise walked to their local community elementary school.

By John-Paul Danko
Published October 08, 2013

The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is currently scheduled to close Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park public elementary schools by the end of this year.

Queensdale School
Queensdale School

The board claims that there is excess capacity of up to 1000 spots within the existing central mountain elementary school system, necessitating the closures. All of the planned closures are small, community-based elementary schools.

Students from the closed schools will be consolidated at the only remaining central mountain schools, mainly George L. Armstrong and Franklin Road.

Big Box Schools Are Preferred by the HWDSB

At the October 2 central mountain Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) meeting, the board outlined their plans for their ideal elementary school. These include:

Classroom in Queensdale School
Classroom in Queensdale School

Closing Community Schools Imposes Commuter Culture on Kids

At my local community school, Queensdale, we have zero bussing. Except for a small cohort of hearing impaired kids who have been coming to Queensdale for special programming since the 1960s, not one student at Queensdale is brought in by school bus or city bus.

In contrast, the vast majority of students displaced by the planned closures will be bussed to school - or the more likely scenario, dropped off by car.

Even a short bus ride turns a five-year-old Kindergarten student into a commuter. This is a student who would have otherwise walked to their local community elementary school.

Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park Set Up to Fail

Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park are the only three schools on the central mountain that do not currently have full-day kindergarten.

Coincidentally, these are the exact schools that the board is now using low enrolment projections to justify closing by the end of the year - so it is not much of a leap to suggest that they were set up to fail.

Full-day kindergarten saves parents thousands of dollars per child per year on daycare. Given the choice between one of the three schools slated for closure that don't have full-day kindergarten and an alternate school - such as a local separate school that has had full-day kindergarten for the past few years - where do you think most parents would choose to send their kids?

Lockers at Queensdale School
Lockers at Queensdale School

Community Schools Rejuvenate Existing Communities

The communities affected by the Board's planned central mountain elementary school closures are currently a vibrant mix of seniors, Baby Boomers and young families. Anyone living on the central mountain can tell you anecdotally that their communities are evolving as aging seniors move out and young families move in.

Interestingly, most of the young families moving to the central mountain move here precisely because they want to live in a walkable community with a local school.

When a new family moves into an established neighbourhood, they bring new investment dollars and serve to rejuvenate the entire community. This is an emerging trend that is common across North America - yet is ignored by the board's long term enrolment projections.

Classroom in Queensdale School
Classroom in Queensdale School

Board's Enrolment Projections Ignore Emerging Employment Trends

As Hamilton transitions away from being an industrial city and into an information, healthcare and education economy, there are three major employers poised to drive future growth to the north-central mountain.

On top of that, the Upper James corridor and Concession Street are the two areas of the central mountain primed for massive infill redevelopment.

The bottom line is that the schools scheduled to close are in the exact communities poised for significant future demand by young families - but that is not taken into account by the Board.

Closeup: Queensdale School was built in 1948
Closeup: Queensdale School was built in 1948

Public Meetings

If your vision for the central mountain does not include forcing elementary school children to be little commuters in training, if you don't want your kids forced into a big box school, if you see a renaissance in your local, walkable community and want that trend to continue - the time to act is now!

The first public Central Mountain Accommodation Review Committee meeting is tonight - October 8, 2013, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at:

Cardinal Heights Elementary School
70 Bobolink Road
Hamilton ON
L9A 2P5

Please come to support your local community school!

If you are in the Queensdale neighbourhood, please wear red to the meeting and keep in touch on the Queensdale Facebook page and on Twitter using the #SaveQueensdale hashtag.

Fun Facts About The HWDSB

Including the planned central mountain elementary school closures, the eight high schools currently scheduled to close and properties currently declared surplus and/or for sale, since 1998 the HWDSB will have shut down FIFTY TWO schools!

http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/schools/properties-for-sale/

Poster
Poster

John-Paul Danko is a professional engineer and small business owner.

41 Comments

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By Conrad664 (registered) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 14:10:44

You know after all these school closing down the core and all more parents are sending there kids to a french school close to to them

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By 4 (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 14:13:18

Queensdale, Eastmount Park and Linden Park are not scheduled to close. They are recommended to close by staff. Not that the final decision will veer from the staff plan, but they are not scheduled to close.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2015 at 15:50:01 in reply to Comment 93024

It's closing down now

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 14:14:30

I'm still waiting for premiere Wynne to put the brakes on this farce. I like the OLP, but the moment the wrecking balls start swinging my vote's going to the NDP.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 14:46:16 in reply to Comment 93025

"Wynne ended the moratorium on school closures and increased boards’ responsibility to consult with the community and consider the community value of schools before closing them. She also established task forces to study declining enrolment and school board governance. Given her history as a school trustee and one who challenged the provincial government of the day, it is noteworthy that, as education minister, Wynne reduced the authority of school boards, refined the role of school trustee, and, in a couple of instances, appointed supervisors to oversee school board finances."

http://etfovoice.ca/kathleen-wynne-focus-on-ontarios-first-female-premier/


http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/ontario-will-adjust-school-funding-formula-in-2007-1.594343

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 14:59:14

52 schools. Thanks for that John-Paul. A pretty alarming number.

Question, how does Kathleen Wynne know the true results of the communities feelings regarding these school closures?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 19:24:08 in reply to Comment 93033

And while they are closing schools with the left hand, their right hand is busy building themselves this self-indulgent office playland:

board office board office 2

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 20:38:06 in reply to Comment 93044

I vote for Crestwood students to take their land/new school back. Then we fill up some space in existing schools with board staff.

I have worked in CADD only offices and I have worked in offices that combine designers, planners, and construction workers. The later is the best way to build any system.

I have a feeling the same would work well for stutents, educators, and front line staff all mixed together too.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 21:08:14 in reply to Comment 93045

I totally agree and have been an advocate of that concept for some time. We have schools with extra space and administrators who need space. It seems like a pretty straightforward problem to solve....

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 14:06:55 in reply to Comment 93046

Or populate these half-empty schools with community organizations. Centremount Neighbourhood Association, anyone?!

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 21:51:10 in reply to Comment 93046

Educators give us boxes with cut out circles and squares and let us realize from a very young age that you can't squeeze either into the other. Then they sit with the same box and shapes and a hammer and voila. It fits. Sorta.

All the shapes can live in the same box but it takes some planning and patience to figure out how they all fit.

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By davidsfawcett (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2013 at 12:59:32 in reply to Comment 93047

lawrence, this is an unfair indictment of teachers and trustees aren't educators anyway.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 14:21:21 in reply to Comment 93066

I don't think anyone is under the impression that front line teachers are in any way responsible for the perverse funding formulas that incentivise education policies like the closure of walkable inner city schools and busing of children to suburban mega schools. The trustees, board-level staff, and ministry officials who are responsible however, are crafting education policy that will determine how are children are taught, and many of them come from a teaching background, so it's perfectly accurate to refer to them as 'educators'.

Comment edited by highwater on 2013-10-09 14:23:55

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By ViennaCafe (registered) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 17:16:22 in reply to Comment 93033

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By yikers (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 18:53:29

Wynne and the OLP doesn't care about anyone. Look at the wind turbine projects and the gas plants. What a joke. Staff has no control over the closures of schools. Where would that make them teach? Teachers love small elementary schools. It all boils down to money.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 08, 2013 at 19:18:48 in reply to Comment 93042

People keep complaining about wind turbines but I haven't heard a coherent argument against them other than "they're expensive".

Did you think saving the world would be for free?

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By Anemoi (anonymous) | Posted October 08, 2013 at 23:45:42 in reply to Comment 93043

Not an argument against wind, but certainly a mark against is the intermittent nature of supply (eg. it tends to be comparatively less windy at night), finite province-wide capacity (around 1,700 megawatts, compared to peak demand of 25K-27K megawatts) and often negligible production levels (eg. at time of posting, 289 megawatts of that 1,700, less power than is being presently being generated by coal).

In short, I suspect that you can't get around having a redundant power system as a failsafe, whether that system is nuclear, natural gas, hydroelectric, biomass or some combination thereof.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 14:09:07 in reply to Comment 93048

What about reducing our and the province's peak demand? What about moving, actually moving, toward solar energy?

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By Anemoi (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 00:03:47 in reply to Comment 93048

One thing that consistently blows: Big-box edumacation factories.

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By Floobrier (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 07:32:28

and the cells with intense stress fibers by blocking cdc42 and Rho activation said Lou Von Thaer, but the occasional good film since the company often provides financing for local and international productions mostly conventional comedies!
http://www.tweaktech.com/

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By jedbrown (registered) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 08:39:28

Central Public School, the first graded school and first large co eduacational public school in the province was also scheduled to close. This occurred during the 1970's with the same cry...declining enrollment. For those of you who do not know, Central is located in the downtown neighbourhood of Durand. Please read "Durand A Neighbourhood Reclaimed" and the "Durand Chronicles", published by the Durand Neighbourhood Association and written by Russell Elman. Learn how the School was saved. It can be done!

PS: Copies are available in the Hamilton Public Library

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2013 at 09:33:16 in reply to Comment 93055

Great to share this information every once in awhile Jed. Central is a great example of how we can make use of empty space/schools with low enrolment until demographics change which they do.

I'd like to see us go a lot further in our solutions for filling empty space though.

Here is the HPL link to the book Jed referenced: http://hpl.bibliocommons.com/search?q=Du...

Here is a brief history of how Central was saved as mentioned by Graham Crawford. I know there was a webpage somewhere that had the history of this but I cannot find it at this moment. http://www.raisethehammer.org/article/15... Graham covers the gist in his comment anyway.

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2013 at 10:27:06 in reply to Comment 93058

Thanks for the info!

My mom actually used to teach at Central and that is the exact model some are proposing for Armstrong.

Armstrong would be a perfect candidate for the same arrangement as Central and remarkably similar - a gorgeous historic building in an established commercial district - rent out the top floor as office space and solve an income and enrollment problem in one shot.

Of course that would mean that the board would have to spend some money on Armstrong, and there is a strong suspicion that the board is planning on closing Armstrong in 5 years or so anyway once they get funding for a new central mountain school at the Cardinal Heights property.

But it would be a fabulous opportunity for the board to actually take a progressive, popular approach to something and would go a long way to repairing the reputation that they have worked so hard to destroy recently.

Fun fact that I learned about Armstrong at the meeting last night - Armstrong was past full capacity and had an addition built in the 80's. That was not that long ago - they had people who were just as smart using the same population models as the board is using now - but their long term enrollment predictions were obviously out to lunch then - so how can anyone have any faith in the boards enrollment projections now?

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 11:20:49

Can we have people run for school trustee that are against these closings and the big elementary school model? That certainly doesn't include Tim Simmons.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted October 09, 2013 at 16:11:59

Nothing but tough calls and unpopular decisions here for HWDSB in the face of falling enrolments and fiscal constraint.

Most of the schools up for review were built when our grandparents and parents were having lots of kids. We're not. And Hamilton's population growth lags other communities in the GTHA.

Too many seats, not enough students. Suspect the only way to fill these schools is to turn them into retirement communities for the Boomers who once went there as students 60+ years ago.

It would help the discussion if we knew the annual cost of running each school (salaries & benefits plus utilities and maintenance) and the cost per pupil. Would also like to see the deferred maintenance bill for all schools.

I was a little stunned and embarassed at the state of disrepair at the school where one of our kids now attend. Not exactly an inspiring place to learn or work. In need of major renovations and a new coat of paint. I'm all for building schools that are designed and wired for 21st century learning and send a message to kids that they're worth the investment.

Not sure if there'd be much support from parents to have mixed use schools, with private and public sector businesses sharing space with their kids. Would be significant liability issues.

In hindsight, maybe the HWDSB and the city could have collaborated, taken the long view and strategically mapped out where they'd like new schools to be built and given timelines. If we're serious about intensification and revitalizing the lower city, building the newest and best schools in the core would likely attract young families and parents-to-be. Build the best schools and the parents will follow. Proximity to great schools tops the list when parents are looking to make one of life's biggest investments.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2013 at 18:57:03 in reply to Comment 93073

The big problem, aside from the broken funding formula, is a Board assuming against all the evidence that the future trend will be like the past. They're completely ignoring the epochal shift in lifestyle, land use and transportation that is sweeping North American cities. In doing so, they are helping to ensure that Hamilton gets left behind yet again.

The inner ring postwar suburbs could be the next big growth area along with the downtown core. With just a smidgen of strategic vision we could be leveraging these schools instead of shuttering them.

Yet our collective sights remain stubbornly set on the low density, use-segregated spaghetti sprawl that has already been failing to attract enough young families to Hamilton to meet our population growth projections - and all at a terrible cost in land, infrastructure, fossil fuels, avoidable traffic congestion, long-term public debt and unhealthy, disease-promoting living arrangements.

The School Board's absence of any creativity, flexibility or basic leadership in valuing and preserving community schools will cost us dearly in lost opportunity for decades to come. It's utterly shameful what they're doing, and we should be calling them out on it, not making excuses for them.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-10-09 19:40:07

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2013 at 08:08:42 in reply to Comment 93077

Well said. And our educators should be at the forefront of progressive vision. IF they aren't, then what hope is there for the young people who are going to grow up and inherit our failing city?

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted October 14, 2013 at 14:11:29 in reply to Comment 93096

I'm an educator. To you, what does a progressive vision look like?

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted October 21, 2013 at 09:52:02 in reply to Comment 93236

I'll start with what progressive vision DOESN'T look like - building new mega-schools which require bussing students in lieu of maintaining existing walkable neighbourhood schools - perhaps with creative uses to get through the wax and wane of enrollment numbers.

Schools can and should be used as tools to help direct the population patterns in the city. By shutting down schools in neighbourhoods that would be easy to densify, we make it much more difficult to create that density later on. We should be improving the schools in areas where we want to encourage more people to move - namely, neighbourhoods where the infrastructure is already in place rather than areas where we have to incur huge new infrastructure costs in order to fill new schools.

The city is a system and the schools can't be treated as if they were on secluded desert islands.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 09, 2013 at 16:43:49 in reply to Comment 93073

The "falling enrolment" thing sounds right, but it actually isn't. Prince Philip, for example, was close to capacity and growing. The real target of the ARC was not underutilized schools, but small schools. That's what this was really about - the board wants to embrace the economies of scale and hopes that they can run a single 2000-student school more efficiently than four 500-student schools (similar attempts in other municipalities has revealed that they probably can't).

This is musical chairs with the provincial budget - the Ministry handles the construction/demolition of schools and the busing, while the Board handles operating costs and salaries. The obvious thing for the boards to do is minimize operating costs and salaries while ignoring externalities like buses and construction/demolition. But it's all provincial tax-dollars in the end.

The OLP's mishandling of this mess will be a deciding factor at the ballot box for me.

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By Jay Robb (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2013 at 08:18:08 in reply to Comment 93075

Or maybe it's easier to get funding to build a few new schools than repair and renovate many old schools.

From a past ARC meeting, we learned:

1. The funding formula for repairs and renovations is currently tied to student enrolment. More students = more funding. Small schools operating at less than 100 per cent capacity will never get enough money to cover deferred maintenance, much less make renovations. Like I said earlier, I was a little stunned at conditions in my one child's school. And it appears the only investment planned for that school is a new boiler some time in the future.

2. Many schools weren't built to last and are fast approaching or already at the end of their life cycle. I'd like to go back to the elementary schools I went to as a kid in the 1970s and 80s and see how they've held up. What's more, these schools are not built and wired for the way students learn today.

3. It's unlikely there will be an increase in funding for schools as more and more of the provincial budget goes to health care for aging Boomers who were once students in these fast-built schools back in the '50s. The status quo won't be financially sustainable.

Definitely feel for families who paid a premium to live within walking distance of a good school (we were one of those first-time home buyers who put schools at the top of our checklist).

And residents are likely wondering what happens to their property values when there's no longer a steady arrival of young families and former schools sit empty or get sold and used for other purposes.

Yet it's worth asking if a school that looks good from the street is worth walking to if the learning conditions inside the school get a failing grade and shortchange our kids?

We should start by asking what's the best learning environment for our kids and then how do we build it, pay for it and sustain it while being realistic about how much funding is available.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted October 10, 2013 at 19:57:30

Story still erroneously says the 3 schools are scheduled to be closed. Not going to fix that?

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By Simon (registered) - website | Posted October 10, 2013 at 22:22:13 in reply to Comment 93124

That is currently the board's plan, until there is a different plan on the table, they are scheduled to close.

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2013 at 07:29:42 in reply to Comment 93128

It is inaccurate. Headline is correct, that it is a recommendation, but to say it is scheduled is erroneous.

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2013 at 14:24:00

Stop your complaining!

School closures is happening all over because of demographics. We are not having as many children as previous generations and aborting 100K children every year. How can we possibly keep empty schools open when we have to fund senior's homes?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2013 at 15:10:41 in reply to Comment 93397

Some of these schools are actually close to capacity - Prince Philip in particular. They're being closed for the sake of economy of scale... as if teaching scales (hint: there are 23 students per-teacher regardless of whether your building holds 200 students or 2000).

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted October 18, 2013 at 16:12:23 in reply to Comment 93401

The (false) economy of scale comes right out of the broken funding formula, which the Liberals have had plenty of time to fix.

This, incidentally, is what really frustrates me about the Ontario Liberals: good ideas but poor or often non-existent execution. Their Good Places To Learn framework has been kicking around for years but has not translated into a sane school funding system. They can only coast on the Greenbelt and Places to Grow (good programs, if a little underwhelming) for so long.

Likewise, the Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan is still gathering dust several years after it was released, and we still can't get a straight answer on whether and when Hamilton's B-Line LRT will ever be funded and built.

The Hudak Conservatives are malicious and their policies are nakedly ideological, but the Liberals are incompetent and that's not much better (though it is better).

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2013-10-18 16:16:09

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By Crapitalist (anonymous) | Posted October 18, 2013 at 14:27:02 in reply to Comment 93397

can someone please explain to the capitalist why it's bad economics to close existing neighborhood schools only to turn around and pay to build more schools? maybe start with scott park.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted November 24, 2013 at 21:26:56

The chair of Hamilton's public school board plans to step aside and is giving a run for city council serious consideration.

Tim Simmons announced last week that he would be relinquishing the top post at the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board that he's held for two years to give someone else a chance to step forward. And now, he adds, to potentially prepare for his own 2014 campaign for Ward 3 councillor.

"Truth be told, others have asked if I'd consider running for something else," Simmons said Saturday. "My wife, Kyoung-Ju, and I have promised ourselves to take time with our kids over Christmas to decide how to best serve our community."

There are lots of factors to consider, he says.

For one thing, Simmons and his wife both run small businesses, and he says the shift to City Hall would be a huge transition.

Unlike the Catholic board, where Pat Daly has been chair since 1991, it is "tradition," he says, for HWDSB chairs to rotate the top position every two years.
"It is the culture of the board to share these leadership roles," he said.

His two years are up — and he sat as vice-chair for two years before that.

In a swan-song address, Simmons said he believes trustees this term successfully transformed the board into "a transparent, equitable, forward-thinking organization."


http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4234164-simmons-gives-up-top-school-board-post-eyes-city-council-seat/

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By a transparent, equitable, forward-thinki (anonymous) | Posted November 25, 2013 at 12:30:10 in reply to Comment 95138

I truly hope that the public remembers mr simmons' legacy of demolition next October.

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By citizenx (anonymous) | Posted August 12, 2014 at 13:40:38

Basically, schools being closed have an abundance of space, and since the funding formula does not cover sites, but is rather based on students, this is negative space, meaning a loss of money...to heat, etc. To help with that is to combine schools...perhaps not the best solution always, but how can you save money in this day and age to keep teachers, assistants, caretakers etc? The board is selling a lot of satellite offices and combining those into the new board offices, with a lot less space. This means that schools in different parts of the city will be used for meetings, working with teachers & students (as has been done for the last number of years). Instructional coaches, consultants, ELL teachers, etc. have been in schools consistently, day-to-day, for years. However, when meeting to set direction or to learn themselves, meeting in a school cannot occur. We are talking about a lot of people.

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