Special Report: Education

Collateral Damage in School Board Machinations

Parkview students are the most immediate, most tragic victims of the Board's outsized game of Monopoly with the city's essential public infrastructure.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 22, 2014

As the bloodyminded Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) continues to tear a swath of needless destruction through vulnerable Hamilton neighbourhoods, perhaps the most callously sacrificial lamb on the chopping block is little Parkview Secondary School on Balsam Avenue North between Cannon and Beechwood.

Parkview serves around 230 students, most of them from the city's poorest neighbourhoods, and all of them with some kind of learning disability. Soft-spoken Principal Paul Beattie and his staff have been a beacon of hope for these youths, their families and their communities.

Between innovative learning methods with admirable success rates, a partnership with Mohawk College to teach trade skills and pave a path to postsecondary education, a discreet free breakfast and lunch program, and a sustained campaign to destigmatize the school and sustain a culture of respect and inclusion, Parkview is a remarkable testament to the great good that a small number of dedicated people can accomplish with limited resources.

Late last year, Journalist Samantha Beattie produced a short documentary on Parkview that included interviews with Principal Beattie, teacher Dana Sartor and a few students:

This morning, Spectator columnist Jeff Mahoney picked up where the video left off with a haunting tour of the school and and its remarkable staff and students.

One School to Rule Them All

The HWDSB is determined to shut Parkview down, along with Delta and Sir John A. MacDonald, and build a new single high school for the entire lower city east of Westdale Secondary School. In the meantime, most Parkview students will shift to Delta - at least until that school also closes in 2016.

At that time, the Board hopes to have built a new school on the site of Parkview and neighbouring King George School, already closed, that will accommodate students from the entire lower city as far west as the catchment for Sir John A.


View Parkview and Scott Park in a larger map

In what may go down as one of the most facepalm-inducing moves in a crowded field of Board blunders, Trustees voted late last year to buy back the nearby former school at Scott Park - not to renovate it, mind you, but to bulldoze it and pave a 165-spot parking lot for the new school they're building on the site of Parkview/King George.

Failure of Leadership

So much for the unique culture of acceptance and dedicated teaching for the vulnerable students of Parkview. They are the most immediate, most tragic collateral damage in the Board's outsized game of Monopoly with the city's essential public infrastructure.

So much for the proposed redevelopment of the Scott Park site. Instead, the Board will expropriate it at market value from the current owner, Jamil Kara, just a few years after selling it to him.

So much for the revitalization of the Ivor Wynne Stadium Tim Hortons Stadium precinct with new investment around the field. Instead we'll get a big new expanse of surface parking.

So much for the continent-wide trend of families moving en masse back into urban neighbourhoods. The Board's dubious demographic projections will only help to manufacture the continued desertion and disinvestment they predict, by stripping Hamilton's older urban neighbourhoods of the fixed capital assets of schools and community services that families rightly expect to find in a healthy community.

So much for expecting civic leadership from our civic leaders.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

43 Comments

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 10:10:31

THe HWDSB is quite possibly the most damaging entity in the entire city at the moment.

Stop the madness

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By rednic (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:55:07 in reply to Comment 97042

took at lot to dethrone the tie cats

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:23:40 in reply to Comment 97042

Sad but true!

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By Joanna (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:06:18

Nicely said Ryan. Where is our leadership? All levels of government need to take a caring and closer look at this decision.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:49:03 in reply to Comment 97044

Council doesn't have control here, and they've made their opinion clear that they strongly disapprove of these closures and do not want to work with the HWDSB on joint projects.

The Fed gives the Province the reins here.

Give your provincial government Hell, your MPs. All our MPs and candidates have been pathetically silent throughout this debacle. Hamilton's MPs include a Liberal cabinet minister and the head of the ONDP. These people have clout. McMeekin and Horwath have said nothing about the school closures, which says all too much, and I don't think we can expect anything better from the PCs.

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2014-01-22 11:49:56

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:57:26 in reply to Comment 97047

Couple of things.

The School Board is governed by the Education Act, which is provincial legislation, not federal. You want to put pressure on MPPs, not MPS.

Also, Andrea Horwath has spoken about the school closures, calling them "very disappointing and short-sighted". She continued:

You don't attract new families to a community if there's no school for their kids to go to. It's a short sighted policy which has serious implications for the viability of some of our inner city neighbourhoods.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-01-22 11:57:55

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:53:56 in reply to Comment 97050

Trouble is, the trustees who have been most supportive of the board's slash and burn planning policies have close ties to the NDP, and will have the support of the party machine come election time. Those are fine words coming from Ms. Horwath, but I haven't seen any evidence that an NDP government would be handling the school funding formula issue any differently.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:19:13 in reply to Comment 97061

You're quite right. I wish we could see more leadership from the NDP on these community school issues: not only at Queen's Park by presenting and advocating a new funding formula that fixes the perverse incentive to close existing schools and build new ones, but also by encouraging NDP-leaning Trustees to take more of a stand on finding creative ways to preserve community schools.

I don't understand why the Board no longer seeks arrangements like the one that kept Central School open when its enrollment dropped: instead of closing it as planned, they ended up leasing out part of the school to private business to help defray their operating costs. When enrollment rose again (oops, more bad demographic projections), the Board ended the lease and resumed using the extra space for classrooms.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:35:59 in reply to Comment 97067

Central had the advantage of inarguable heritage significance. That's the only reason extra effort was made to keep it open. It is unfortunate that instead of the takeaway being "We can do this!", the takeaway seems to have been "Let's do everything in our power to denigrate the heritage significance of our properties so we don't have to do that again."

Comment edited by highwater on 2014-01-22 14:36:48

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:40:11 in reply to Comment 97070

For some reason Sanford School comes to mind.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:41:02 in reply to Comment 97071

Sanford, King George, Education Centre...

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:06:20 in reply to Comment 97050

Blarg, right. I meant MPPs, just wrote MPs without thinking.

Thanks for the tip about Horwath. I've been Googling around for any response on the subject for weeks.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:18:01 in reply to Comment 97052

No worries. I googled andrea horwath hamilton school closures and the article I linked in my previous comment was the first result.

In the second result, Horwath is quoted accusing the Ontario government of being on the sideline "when it should be encouraging boards of education to be partners in city building".

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-01-22 12:19:48

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:37:17 in reply to Comment 97053

... shows what I know. I kept looking for the specific jargon - ARC, accommodation review committees, etc.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 11:54:25

Who get's the parking revenue on game day?

I think thats what this is about .

Which is pathetic. 165 (number of spots) *40 (high end parking short walk tailgating fee) =6600 per game works out to about 100 000 a year.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:18:49 in reply to Comment 97048

And I wouldn't expect that revenue to last much longer than 10 years. After this mess, I expect Bob Young to dump or close the ti-cats the moment the New Stadium Smell fades and revenues go back to the status quo.

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2014 at 11:00:24 in reply to Comment 97054

I know people are upset about the Ticats, but I think the odds of Young closing the Ticats are pretty much non-existent. He's not in it for the money and besides, with the S&P's performance the last few years, I'm sure the gains on his stock portfolio dwarfs his Ticat losses.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:28:02 in reply to Comment 97054

Wait till you see the view from the pressbox and large west grandstand. Trust me, the smell ain't ever gonna fade.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:26:44

Sad to see other cities making huge strides in their urban rebirths, with their school boards, sports teams and higher institutions leading the charge and recognizing their massive role in revitalization. Here, we have two big institutions doing the complete opposite. Harming these neighbourhoods in a drastic way. The sad part is, we all knew this is what the 'Pan Am precinct' would end up looking like. It's Code Red. They can get away with slathering it in asphalt.
Imagine the city-building that could be going on right now if the stadium was rising overlooking our beautiful harbour. If the IW neighbourhood was seeing a new urban, mixed-use neighbourhood with grocery/retail amenities, park space and high quality housing being added into the heart of their neighbourhood. If the board took up the offer to locate their HQ at the Cannon Knitting Mills instead of wanting lunch-time access to Limeridge Mall on our dime. If any semblance of leadership could have been found over the past 4 years to further our now-defunct LRT project. the LRT route would have connected all of these pieces seamlessly.

Instead we get more of the same city-destroying that our institutions have been doing for years. And the worst part is, we're the ones paying for it all.

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By Mountain (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 12:49:09

Great article. Two things:

1) should be noted the same thing is happening on the Mountain too. Mountain Secondary is closing, and it's the same as Parkview as it is devoted to kids with learning disabilities.

2) in light of all this, I have to ask- why is Alex Johnstone getting a free pass in all of her regular tv appearances on political shows? Why isn't Di Ianni calling her out on The Opinionators?? I've never seen someone who is involved in such a critical issue never challenged on anything.

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By Ainslie Wood (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 20:01:06 in reply to Comment 97060

Alex Johnstone has made some very questionable statements about the notorious, unethical school closure process for Prince Philip in the West End. She refuses to accept responsibility, even when presented with evidence. How can Ancaster folk stomach such a poor leader? Who'll vote for such a person?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:24:38 in reply to Comment 97060

should be noted the same thing is happening on the Mountain too.

Absolutely - the mountain north of the Linc is getting shafted as badly as the lower city. If you'd be interested in writing an article for RTH, please email me.

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By SallyB (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 14:22:59 in reply to Comment 97060

True, but Mountain School only admits MID students (students with intellectual impairments), so the vast majority of Parkview students would not be eligible to apply to Mountain for admission. You could not simply join the two schools together and have Parkview kids and Mountain kids in the same classes. You could, however, have a vocational school that offers programs to both students with MID and students with learning disabilities, but students would be in math and English classes with others of similar ability.

I think the amalgamation of Mountain and Parkview rather than pairing them with neighbouring schools would be a fantastic move and show real leadership to the city. Both schools offers services to students with learning disabilities in smaller class sizes; they use Jump Math and the Wilson Reading program, offer life skills programs and vocational programs that dovetail with Mohawk College's trades programs. Paul Beattie's pedagogical approach could be applied (whether or not he's principal) and special needs students of Greater Hamilton could rest assured that their specialized needs would be met.

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By Jim Street (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 13:22:31

^ This is crucial. Johnstone is playing a political game and I hope her time as trustee is close to over.

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By JBJ (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 13:39:45

My daughter attends Parkview and is very upset that the school is closing. All of the students have needs that are not likely to be accommodated in larger high schools where resources will be stretched thin. The Board's perspective is myopic: it wants to shut schools to save money rather than repurpose existing facilities to create the walkable and liveable neighbourhoods that people desire. I would really like to see the Spectator do a Code Red type of piece on Parkview and Mountain to demonstrate to the community how important it is to have these types of high schools available to students who through no fault of their own are often ignored and excluded from mainstream educational programming. I urge you to write the Board, the Board Trustees, City Council and Hamilton area MPPs to let them know that closing schools is illogical.

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By J McGreal (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 17:34:26

Good comments but damaged is done by HWDSB on Oct.21,2013 by trustees vote on closure of lower city High Schools The challenge by taxpayers to trustees was at this time.read the report to trustees Board ITEM 3.1 standing committee meeting Oct.21 2013 on HWDSB web site by Senior Taxpayers Coalition.It tells the attitude of HWDSB Trustees toward students of the lower city.Voice your opinion to HWDSB, MPP"s MPs but horse is out of barn.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 22, 2014 at 20:31:05 in reply to Comment 97073

The challenge by taxpayers to trustees was at this time

Yeah, that's kinda what happened. Westdale was blanketed in "We Need 3" signs, run by some of the regulars on this site. The trustees didn't care.

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By jonathan (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 18:38:17

There was a resent opinion piece printed in the Toronto Star related to this, and pointing out why it's done. While it was focused on a school closure in Kingston, it made mention of the same goings-on in both Hamilton and Peterborough. Basically, it's like this:

In 2003, the provincial government changed the rules. No longer would new-school construction be taken from the local school board budgets; rather, the funds would come directly from the provincial government. The end result? School boards made the (for them, financially prudent) decision to reduce funding on maintenance, resulting in deteriorating schools that would ultimately need replacing. Win-win for them--less funds siphoned off for maintenance, and free replacements!

Commentary here.

EDIT: On the plus side...it shows we're not alone in this. Which begs the question, if the same thing is going on across the province, why hasn't it been addressed? (also edited b/c this comment box still refuses to accept a single carriage return as a new paragraph)

Comment edited by jonathan on 2014-01-22 18:41:55

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By Mark Coakley (anonymous) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 20:07:44

The whole board is corrupt. Vote out all incumbents in October.

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 20:53:58 in reply to Comment 97076

I hope so. I'd like to get more info from those running. I wonder if Raise the Hammer could generate a question/response effort like they've done with municipal campaigns.

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By verhovm (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 21:27:34

This whole series of decisions made by the HWDSB is really depressing...hopefully common sense will prevail.

For what it is worth, I just sent an email to my MPP asking that she and her colleagues in the Ontario NDP party vociferously oppose the planned school closures, and the provincial funding structure that contributes to the bizarre destruction of well-functioning, structurally sound neighbourhood schools in favour of unnecessary new mega-schools.

I am not in a neighbourhood that would be directly affected by these school closures. But I think the responsibility to stop these poorly-thought-out decisions is on all of us, for the benefit of the youth and neighbourhoods of our city.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 21:28:02

If there was any doubt that the HWDSB trustees need to be cleaned out next election this is it. I wanted to see Scott Park demo'd and replaced with something, like a mid sized apartment with storefronts or some kind of community sports & rec centre. Instead my tax dollars are going to buy back a school that was already sold, so they can demo it for a parking lot? Even as a Ti-Cat fan this ticks me off.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 21:48:20

The Board will tell you, as it did at recent Central Accommodation Review Committee meetings, that they did all they could to invite private investment of businesses and community groups into their schools, but to no avail. Don't worry: they've done their best.

I'll be visiting my Member of Provincial Parliament, Monique Taylor, about this. Officially, the Ontario Secondary School-Teachers' Federation's education platform includes the necessary addressing of the funding formula and that's been distributed to all our Members of Provincial Parliament in Hamilton, whatever political party.

This Monday, the 27th of January, 6 p.m. at City Hall in their Council Chambers: Board meeting. I believe we should, as work and family obligations permit, be there to be sure our voices are heard.

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By Joshua (registered) | Posted January 27, 2014 at 14:54:39 in reply to Comment 97083

Due to inclement weather, the Board meeting noted in the above comment has been cancelled. Keep your eye on http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/board/meetings/ for the re-scheduled date or telephone (905) 527-5092.

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By Kevin (registered) | Posted January 22, 2014 at 22:22:52

Talk about time theft, as well. Put cameras in the board office and you'll hundreds of highly paid "educators" doing NOTHING all day, at the expense of students and and their schools. Yet, the sense of entitlement and self-rightheousness that oozes from board staff and trustees is sickening. These are the same clowns who stick with and defend discovery math, when the whole world knows it's an idiotic disaster. Without hyperbole, I have more respect for bikers and the mafia because they, at least, don't mess with kids. These creeps have no qualms about it.

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By Left the Barn (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 00:59:05

Sorry to be downcast, but all of this concern at this point strikes me as far too little far too late. MPP's should have been contacted in 2009, not now. Movement towards the decisions made by Hamilton's Trustees has been clearly visible for years and, though there was some protest, nothing nearing the force required to take on the process and achieve success ever congealed. In Peterborough, an incredibly well organized group of parents, students, alumni and urban advocates fought against the closing of their downtown high school --- even gaining a visit by Rick Mercer to back the cause on RMR --- and lost. Here, the usual suspects said the usual things and the usual occurred.
What I think this really shows is the need to broaden bases and impart to folks the need to be aware of what is going on, and the potential implications, when something can be done. This horse has, sadly, left the barn.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 09:31:39 in reply to Comment 97089

Short of outright civil disobedience, the ARC process just formalizes the outcome sought by the provincial government ... they set the rules and determine the framework that leads to school closures. There is a saying that applies to delegated powers in our system of government: the engineer [i.e. board] drives the train, but the train goes where the tracks lead. The ARC process simply offers the board and provincial government a means to engage in consultation so they can claim to have done it ... most people don't see the total picture until the process is in its late stages and then they are told its too late. We need to be more disruptive of the process itself ... call it the farce that it is and force our provincial government and MPPs (or provincial candidates) to state where they stand firmly.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 23, 2014 at 07:48:25 in reply to Comment 97089

It sounds like you're saying the campaigns in Hamilton to save neighbourhood schools should have been bigger and broader, but the Peterborough case study you raise suggests that would not have made a difference. So I'm not sure what you're proposing.

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By Left the Barn (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 01:23:16 in reply to Comment 97089

BTW: The barn really stinks and the horse isn't looking so healthy.

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By Steve_Calverley (registered) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 08:15:40

The North ARC Secondary Accommodation Review report noted "Throughout the entire ARC process, the one issue that resonated most with Committee members and the public was the safe environment and programming offered at Parkview Secondary School." The report recommended the preservation of the Parkview program and that the staff and students remain together. (page 21 - http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/secondaryarc/file... ) We need to understand clearly and specifically, what is going to happen in response to this recommendation.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 23, 2014 at 11:25:03

Tim Simmons gets an 'F' for his time as the local School Board Trustee in Ward 3 and most recently former board chair. He's now running for Bernie Morelli's position as Ward 3 Councillor.

He should be flunked out!

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By rednic (registered) | Posted January 24, 2014 at 11:07:41 in reply to Comment 97102

I hadn't read that about tim running for ward 3 … As a ward 3 resident I going to do all I can to make sure he is unemployed in November.

Comment edited by rednic on 2014-01-24 11:08:09

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By GoGo (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2014 at 13:07:09 in reply to Comment 97139

. I'm with you there rednic!!! This CAN NOT happen.... we'll be doomed!

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