Education

Trustee Bishop Explains Vote to Disband Task Force

By RTH Staff
Published June 13, 2012

Judith Bishop, Trustee for Wards 1 and 2 of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), just sent an email to her constituents explaining her decision to support a motion to shut down the task force to find a downtown Education Centre location.

Here is the text of her email:


I voted to terminate the Task Force with the City for the following reasons. Originally the Task Force was to report to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board at the end of March. By the end of May, financial figures were still not available, and the City's proposal entailed properties, some of which it did not own yet, or only partially owned. Further delays have negative financial and other consequences, while the model proposed would need a new business plan which needed time to develop. Finally there is uncertainty that HWDSB could afford the City's model.

A new Education Centre has to be funded by the School Board. There are no provincial funds or grants for such projects. Neither are there other donors. The process to fund a new Education Centre began in 2007. (More information can be found about this process at http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/aboutus/education-centre-project/).

The present Business Case for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board's new Education Centre is built on the following components:

Repairs for the buildings would cost $28.7 million. A new education centre will cost $31.6 milion.

To accommodate McMaster University, who need the land for their purposes as soon as possible, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is vacating its 100 Main Street West site before a new Education Centre is ready, and going into rented space. However, the cost of leasing this space is higher than the cost of operating the present four administrative buildings (i.e for heat, light, cleaning, etc.). The difference is being covered by a grant from McMaster, and is available for two years only.

If HWDSB were to extend its leases beyond that period, it would need to find additional funding or use funds earmarked for schools and students. So continuing in the present leased space after two years is not an option.

Why, on May 31st, the HWDSB terminated the joint City /Board Task Force set up to explore further down town locations for an Education Centre.

Possible Delays - As can be seen from the above, a new Education Centre has to be ready in two years, otherwise additional expenses will be incurred through leasing temporary space for which the HWDSB has no funding source. The plan put before Trustees by the City staff for a down-town location involved some land which the City does not already own. Land acquisition may take considerable time. Any plan needs to provide HWDSB with a permanent Education Centre by August 2014. The City's proposals could not guarantee this.

In addition, any changes to the business plan require the approval of the Ministry of Education. The present Business Case took eight months to complete. Any amendments could face similar time delays as well as some uncertainty as the Province is now proposing further amalgamations of school boards in southern Ontario. Delays could be both expensive and detrimental to building a new Education Centre.

Cost Efficiencies - As Councillor Farr indicated, the former Knitting Mills near Dr. Davey school were part of the City's proposal. It contains building elements dating from the 19thcentury. No financial figures have yet been received from the City. An essential component of the Education Centre business case is that the new Education Centre will help pay for itself through a more efficient new building. There was no guarantee that this would indeed be the case or, if it was made efficient, that it could be afforded by HWDSB.

The core responsibilities of the HWDSB are to schools and students. The cheapest and most efficient solution for the Education Centre has to be found that will not compromise building and maintaining new schools, or services for students. So obviously, funding the new Education Centre must not use funds that could be used for schools and students.

The Task Force with the City was terminated when questions arose about possible delays, and the proposal could not guarantee an efficient building, or an efficient building that is affordable to HWDSB. Funding was at risk of being taken away from the Board's core responsibilities.

Although not a glamorous solution, the Crestwood solution is the cheapest and least risky. It enables HWDSB to continue to direct all its available funds towards schools and students.

10 Comments

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 09:39:19

Maybe the Board is just trying to exhaust us into compliance, so I resisted the urge to write another long email in response to this sad communique and just left it at:

Ms. Bishop:

Feeling cornered into making the cheapest, least risky option does not abdicate you of your responsibility to vigorously represent the best interests of Ward 1 and 2 residents. It took you over two weeks to draft this response to constituents, and it does nothing to ease the betrayal I felt after your vote. Your choices to close schools and move the HQ represent a broad retreat of the HWDSB from the most densely populated and neediest areas in Hamilton, and many of us downtown now know we cannot count on our School Board representatives to stand up for our interests. We will not forget this.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2012-06-13 09:39:29

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By sch (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 09:41:39

Cheapest and least risky. How very aspirational for our children's educators and thought leaders.

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By Keanin Loomis (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 09:55:35

"Cheapest and least risky." I guess that's one way to run an important civic institution. Small thinking would be more palatable if the trustees actually had a good track record to run on. However, when it comes from a body that has consistently failed this community, it's not just uninspiring, but the cherry on top of a pattern of downright negligence.

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By Zephyr (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 10:33:22

My response to Ms Bishop:

"I suspect very few important, inspirational, creative changes have been made in this world by taking the "cheapest and least risky" path. And our city needs inspirational change.

While I believe deeply in fiscal responsibility, I also believe that the city of Hamilton is poised to become something more than it is, given just a few good decisions from people in leadership positions. Let's face it, the kids of our poorest neighbourhoods will benefit little from this new headquarters building. Especially as they can't even easily reach it due to the inaccessible location. But imagine the rejuevenation the Beasley neighbourhood could have experienced through the location of 400 good-paying jobs there, with the spin-off benefits those sorts of jobs entail.

Instead you have chosen to remove yourself as far as possible for the neighbourhoods that need assistance the most.

Your email proves that you did not even have the information you required to make an informed decision, and yet you still chose to terminate the process of finding a downtown location before it had finished."

My determination to elect a creative thinker has grown by orders of magnitude.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 13:05:33 in reply to Comment 78445

My determination to elect a creative thinker has grown by orders of magnitude.

We don't even need a creative thinker. Just someone who is open-minded enough to listen to creative thinkers. God knows we've got enough of them in this city.

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By Zephyr (registered) | Posted June 15, 2012 at 21:08:01 in reply to Comment 78453

Good point. But why don't we elect these visionaries in the first place? I bet these creative types got where they are by interacting with and learning from others.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 13, 2012 at 13:07:46

Repairs for the buildings would cost $28.7 million.

This is a ReCapp number.

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By JM (registered) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 08:52:17

obviously renovating City Hall 3 years ago wasn't the cheapest and least risky solution... (well, we know it definitely wasn't cheap) they should have just moved up to Lime Ridge mall too, based on these principles (please note sarcasm...)

i'm sure an addition could've quickly been built onto that little brown K-lite office building!

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted June 14, 2012 at 19:23:02

Don't do what's cheapest.

Do what's best.

In the end, you get what you pay for.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 17, 2012 at 17:12:57

NDP

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