Special Report: Education

The Parkview Closure: A Parent's Nightmare

I've spent thirty years dealing with our education system and mental health system with three children who have complex needs. Now the Board is creating a more unequal education system than ever.

By Cheryl Hobbins
Published February 18, 2014

Parkview Secondary School was a part of our family's life not too long ago.

My son struggled within a regular school and was placed on a "wait list" for an available spot into Parkview's special programs. My son had given up on his education and did not care about his future.

On return in September to Parkview, every support was made available to my child. That team effort within Parkview began an extraordinary journey of life changes, trust and forgiveness. As a mother, I watched my son mature, embrace learning and create a vision for his future.

Parkview became our extended family as my son began to embrace life and build trusting relationships with the principal, staff, teachers and supports within the school. He was not only a part of the special program but could now accept the value of an education and thus improve on all the subjects he once despised.

Parkview undoubtedly became the stepping stones that would build up his self esteem, motivation and skill to someday do something in his life. The uniqueness of the program and the qualities of each individual member can never be duplicated or re created under any circumstance.

There are currently 233 children enrolled in Parkview's specialized programs. I strongly urge city representatives to review all documents relevant to the process of the Parkview closure.

Presently there are close to a thousand people who have signed our petition asking to stop the closure until a real community consultation takes place, and the number continues to grow.

That number shows great concern not only with a decision made by the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), but also the path chosen by the Board to ignore the important recommendations of the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC).

Students with complex mental health needs deserve both an education and their own school to call their own. The population is small compared to the other secondary schools, but the School Board has decided the fate of each individual student without due process in our democratic society.

Parkview allows for 233 individual education plans (IEP), customized to each individual child related to specific educational needs. Parkview provides specific qualities of each teacher, staff and support worker that are rare and irreplaceable. Losing these unique assets for children's mental health will leave a disparity in the education system.

Transitional planning will never measure up to what is being dismantled. There is clearly a separate agenda interrupted by our once-trusted Board officials. These enrollment numbers, manageable because Parkview is a specialized placement, will only grow more inequality within the 'traditional school setting".

Parkview students, teachers, supports and staff need to be appropriately housed and not pushed into another school space temporarily.

Attention needs to focus on the obvious "short-cut" made by the HWDSB; the unjustified decision to close a specialized school and the decision reversed until all recommendations are matched or compatible to the specialized programs. Parkview Students are vulnerable and at risk if this mindset continues.

I've spent thirty years dealing with our education system and mental health system with three children who have complex needs. Now in 2014, the Board is creating a more unequal education system than ever.

I stress that we are going backwards. The entire process as a parent and advocate stress that the Parkview students gained will be lost forever in manipulated statistics and numbers outside of the public eye.

In closing, here is a quote taken from the Ontario site for Parents for Children's Mental Health:

PCMH maintains that the only way to effectively and meaningfully transform our system is through input from families, children, and youth - those who are actually receiving services and being required to navigate the silos and uncoordinated system currently in place.

Cheryl Hobbins lives in Hamilton with her family.

11 Comments

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 08:20:45

Children being sacrificed on the altar of greed. Not Hamilton's finest hour.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 13:26:30

How do we ignore these stories? How do we ignore something that regardless of the visions of some, we know there are examples of how well environments like Parkview and Mountain work?

How do we ignore requests like this. "- Our own school – not shared" ?

How do you read a valedictory address such as this, and tell the community we will be okay without these supports?

How can there exist works warning us about the Illusion of Full Inclusion by special educators, and tell us that we won't lose the children whose lives we have been able to turn around by offering children and families choices in alternate education environments?

How do we look down the highway at cities like Toronto, where they have 40 alternative elementary and secondary schools, some schools within schools and some separate facilities, and close two of our three instead of realizing their importance and boosting their worth across this city?

How do you not read how other cities are doing it, and tell us you have really done your homework?

How do we not listen to voices such as this, and realize that if it means this much to those who have lived with these experiences their entire lives, then we must not only say that we are listening, we need to actually grant their wishes because they know best and you know it.

"There are many cities in Canada that would like to have what you are giving up," Paul W. Bennett, founding director of Schoolhouse Consulting in Halifax, N.S., told The Spectator."

How do we respond?

"Communities all over the province would die for a new high school. ~ Tim Simmons

It shouldn't matter how we get there. It only matters that we get there.

We are all different. That's the only argument that we need.

Choice. It's a human right.

Comment edited by lawrence on 2014-02-18 13:38:09

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 21:40:54 in reply to Comment 97666

How do we ignore these stories? It's called greed. Putting money ahead of children. Disgusting.

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By rednic (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 15:58:15 in reply to Comment 97666

As a resident of ward 3 I'll be responding to mr. Simmons with a big fat NO WAY come november. Hopefully all of ward 3 will follow suit.

The implications of such a wreaking ball being given any real power are frightening.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 17:59:59 in reply to Comment 97672

You'd be best to respond in October. I don't want you to miss the October 27th Election date ;)

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By McGreal (anonymous) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 17:01:06

Is HWDSB unique in special knowledge of Students needs of the subject.While other school boards are reconsidering vocation schools in Ontario i.e.TVDSB London ON
TVDSB trustee reject Boards recommendation to mothball two secondary school and merge
to one (B.Davison S.S.)for 360 special needs students recommendation by their ARC.Parents." Vocational Centre of Excellence ". Students have 2 options of S.S.
for graduation.and larger "Technical SPECIALTY" SUCH AS Montcalm S.S.check TVDSB.ca
or London Community News.ca June 11,2013 Thames secondary survives as centre of excellence story. Time to challenge HWDSB trustees with petitions to reconsider.
mcgreal@shaw.ca

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 18, 2014 at 19:33:09 in reply to Comment 97676

Actually, it looks like the to boards are on the same page in terms of their philosophy on vocational schools. The difference is Toronto trustees listened to the concerns of the community and rejected staff recommendations, whereas our lumpen trustees turn deaf ears to the community, and see their role as a mere rubber stamp for staff's wishes.

Comment edited by highwater on 2014-02-18 19:35:20

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 18, 2014 at 17:29:06 in reply to Comment 97676

Thank you for sharing this!

Debate about the future of vocational high schools in the city was swift, with trustees rejecting senior staff’s recommendation to close both Ross and Thames and move students to larger schools.

Before the Ross/Thames decision, Trustee Ruth Tisdale, who chaired the committee that recommended keeping at least one vocational high school open, spoke passionately about the need for such a school.

“I continue to be afraid that putting these students into larger schools won’t meet the needs of these vulnerable students,” Tisdale said.

“The concern that came out loud and clear (during public consultations) was that these students have sensory issues, they have developmental disabilities, mental health issues, and I would hate for them to fall through the cracks.”

Students who attend Ross and Thames told the committee they felt unsafe and unwelcome in traditional elementary schools but felt secure, safe and performed better when they got to the specialty high schools.

“I don’t want to set any children up to feel worse about themselves,” Tisdale said.

Taken from this story.

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By CheyAMuir (registered) | Posted February 21, 2014 at 15:08:07

Feb. 21, 2014.

Just the other day, I took a sit in the foyer at Parkview to rest and observe. I’m familiar with students, staff and the school and watched as students repeatedly gathered with fellow school mates. Most often words shared between adolescence, echoed, not suitable for printing. A teacher/support over heard the language and came to seat herself next to one of the students and began a conversation. “Why are you not in class (name)?” Student: “not going cause ** angry about (issue).” Student continued to detail circumstances using a few words not printable. The support/teacher carried on and shared her own insight, listened, and also reminded her about language that isn’t very ladylike. With time, there was calm and the student rose to proceed to class. Timeframe (Thirty minutes) While seated it was a constant repeated gathering of students traveling the halls, rough housing, and socializing briefly? Always a teacher/support would appear and briefly chat with students giving them added direction. In two and a half hours, witnessed various interventions, individual counseling, outreach techniques and motivational speakers all under the same roof. I was observing the intricate framework that made Parkview Secondary a specialized school, a safe place for children at risk, familiar with the mental health challenges that often created conflict within a “regular school structure”. Now imagine the day when you “transition” students of Parkview into a “regular system”, 1300 capacity bricks and mortar, with existing policy and regulations for all. The “illusion of inclusion “we begin to see the reason why we had Parkview in the first place. This will never be able to come close to the standards and qualities meshed tightly within a specialized school. Our children all deserve equal access to a safe, suitable place to learn and not be filler for the education system to balance the cost of public education. This all has to do with funding cost vs children’s rights to an education that have complex needs. The HWDSB needs to invest in our children, in a bricks and mortar to properly transition our students instead of placing them at risk. That is the bottom line reality as they push ahead with a “transitional plan” that leads only to an illusion that everyone will have their educational needs met. Without a specialized school, it is only an illusion. Cheryl Hobbins

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted February 21, 2014 at 17:29:30 in reply to Comment 97807

Witnessed much of the same Cheryl during my visits there. I have the utmost respect for all of them. What an extremely special place. That is our model right there. That's the kind of school I want my children going to. A small, connected, compassionate family.

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By Stephen Kennedy (anonymous) | Posted May 31, 2014 at 06:38:12

I concur. It's where I "cut my teeth" as a Teacher. I wouldn't have become the teacher I became without "one-and-all" at Parkview SS. Thanks Parkview. You will live again, people will make it happen.

- Stephen Kennedy
Special Education Teacher: Parkview SS (1980-88)

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