Beasley NA Calls on Horwath to Challenge School Board Decisions

By RTH Staff
Published June 01, 2012

The directors of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association have written an open letter to Hamilton Centre MPP Andrea Horwath, calling on her to intervene in the recent Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) decisions to close three lower city high schools and move their headquarters out of the downtown.

Dear Ms. Horwath:

We are writing you today on behalf of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association (BNA) to ask for your help in defending public education in your downtown Hamilton riding.

As you are aware, on Monday, May 28th the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board twice turned their back on Hamilton's most vulnerable neighbourhoods, voting not only to close three high schools, but also to abandon the core by disbanding a task force looking to keep the HWDSB Headquarters here.

Needless to say, Beasley residents are very saddened, alarmed and dismayed by how quickly the Board, and our representative, Trustee Judith Bishop, have turned their backs on one of the most impoverished and marginalized parts of the city. Worse still, Ms. Bishop's vote was key in the 6-5 decision to stop the work championed by Councilors Farr and McHattie to keep the Board offices and its 400 jobs downtown.

We Beasley residents and our children now face an uncertain future. We will live in a veritable education desert, watch the destruction of a prized downtown building, see jobs flee to the suburbs, and feel the loss of pride associated with hosting the Board's headquarters. Meanwhile, all Hamiltonians will lose access to valuable green space at the Crestview site that the HWDSB plans to pave over for their new headquarters.

As our representative at Queen's Park, a we now look to you for leadership. We need you to stand up for public education in Hamilton, and to challenge the HWDSB and our Minister of Education, the Hon. Laurel Broten, to overturn these decisions which will have long-ranging consequences on our community.

The decisions by the Board to close schools and abandon the core also fly in the face of the Government's priorities, and our Premier's commitment to education in Ontario. Reducing the number of high schools in the lower city will increase the distance between students and their schools, threatening goals to lower dropout rates, and reducing the walkability of urban neighbourhoods. This will endanger Provincial efforts to intensify urban areas by making Downtown Hamilton a less desirable place for families to live, and makes a mockery of the City of Hamilton's vision to make the city the best place to raise a child.

Lastly, we draw your attention to the environmental and financial effects of these decisions. Newly built schools and headquarters are a waste of public money when the current buildings already act as the heart of neighbourhoods, and as you are well aware, the greenest building is an existing one. Surely there are opportunities for the Board to adaptively re-use, or lease out unused space at these high schools, and they could even serve as a headquarters for the HWDSB instead of paving over nearly seven acres of green space on the escarpment.

What is missing here isn't a wealth of possibilities, but the political will to follow the Ontario Government's priorities, and invest in Hamilton's marginalized neighbourhoods. As such, we respectfully urge you and your colleagues in opposition to speak out on behalf of Hamiltonians, and to help save our schools and keep the HWDSB downtown.

The letter is signed by Michael Borrelli, Co-President, Sylvia Nickerson, Co-President, Bill Simone, Vice-President, Rachel Braithwaite, Secretary, Paul Sousa, Communication Coordinator, Paul Elia, Communication Coordinator, and David Miller, Membership Coordinator.


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By CouldaShouldaWoulda (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 11:51:32


When I yammer on about the need for entrenched community engagement using NAs as the foundation...this is the kind of gesture I'm referring to being possible as a result.

Well done.

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By interesting (anonymous) | Posted June 01, 2012 at 15:56:58

I do not disagree with the neighbourhood associations, they play a role in our community. However, it do beleive it is very important to see the community out in grand style, in numbers if they ever expect to put and keep the pressure on.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 01, 2012 at 21:53:32

Right on! Let's hope more NAs follow suit.

Neighbourhood-level organizing is pretty essential for an issue like this. We need to hear from all our communities about decisions like this.

As for how to get more people involved and active, might I humbly suggest an assembly in the park?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2012 at 22:34:42

Andrea responds:

I imagine this is going to get a little complicated, as a number of the councillors under fire right now are themselves former NDP candidates.

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By Hansard (anonymous) | Posted June 05, 2012 at 07:43:32

Monday 4 June 2012 Lundi 4 juin 2012

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Premier. These are difficult times for families in downtown Hamilton. Soon the doors are going to close for the last time on their schools, and students will be forced to take long bus rides to schools far from their own neighbourhoods. The ripple effect is definitely going to be felt by the community, Speaker.

My question for the Premier is this: Is the hollowing out of inner-city education part of the government’s Places to Grow plan?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty: To the Minister of Education.

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: I’m pleased to have a chance to talk about the fact that the communities in Hamilton and the school boards are undertaking important conversations. Local decision-making, which is a process that we very much respect, is ongoing in those communities.

We know very well the challenges that Hamilton has with respect to declining enrolment. We currently sit with more than 3,000 empty high school spaces in Hamilton. But what I’m very proud about is the fact that, if we take a look at what has been invested in Hamilton, I think that the leader of the third party would be very interested to know and to share with her community that funding has increased by 48.6% in Hamilton between 2002 and now, and enrolment at the board has declined by 6.1%. The per pupil funding has increased by 58.4%.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?

Ms. Andrea Horwath: Decisions made by this government have forced the hand of Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. There’s no better way to stifle growth in a community than take away its schools, except maybe to take away its jobs. Hamilton’s downtown will suffer for a short-sighted decision to move the board’s education centre out of the downtown core. This government is sitting on the sidelines when it should be encouraging boards of education to be partners in city-building.

I ask again, is the hollowing out of inner-city education and the removal of hundreds of jobs part of the government’s Places to Grow plan?

Hon. Laurel C. Broten: The leader of the third party knows full well that these are local decisions, and I would encourage her to reflect upon what she is suggesting. We need to respect the elected local voice that makes decisions in communities right across the province. Our part, from the provincial government, is to provide funding. And let me tell you, Speaker, since we have formed office, 11 new schools are open, under construction or planned in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, and 14 new schools are open or under construction or planned in the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. The total for two boards in new capital investments since we formed office is $360 million.

We support public education and Catholic education in Hamilton. We’re proud of the success in those schools, but we respect local decisions.

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