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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