We should all be an­gry at school clo­sures

A par­ent says the de­ci­sion to close Pear­son and Bate­man was not a good one

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - HEATHER KUYK

The clos­ing of Robert Bate­man High School and Pear­son High School in Burling­ton should make ev­ery cit­i­zen an­gry. You might ar­gue that it’s not your kids, or your school, our even your school board, there­fore it’s not your prob­lem. But here is why it should be.

The cit­i­zens of Burling­ton have been grossly let down by the very peo­ple we have elected to be our col­lec­tive voice. They are the same peo­ple we trusted to put our needs and the needs of our chil­dren first. They have failed us. These elected of­fi­cials who promised to hear our voices as we ad­vo­cated for some of the most vul­ner­a­ble among us have turned their backs on us and were deaf to our ques­tions, our ideas, and our pleas.

The clos­ing of schools is a hot-but­ton is­sue and it shouldn’t be treated lightly by the peo­ple we elect to run our city. What other is­sues will go by the way­side be­cause a city coun­cil has re­fused to take a stand on such an im­por­tant is­sue.

Be fu­ri­ous that our Mayor Rick Goldring and his coun­cil voted down the mo­tion to be­come in­volved in school clo­sures while Goldring stated, “the process by which this de­ci­sion is be­ing made could be im­proved, not­ing what was miss­ing was no clear un­der­stand­ing of how schools were iden­ti­fied for pos­si­ble clo­sure.”

Be an­gry that even though Goldring ac­knowl­edged that the process was un­clear and flawed, our city coun­cil still voted to sit on their hands. Mean­while, the fate of thou­sands of stu­dents was left in the hands of a di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion who ad­mit­ted the school board had a prob­lem with com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the public. Clearly, his band of eleven trus­tees were lit­tle more than pup­pets.

Be skep­ti­cal of a di­rec­tor who changed his ini­tial rec­om­men­da­tion with­out ever clearly stat­ing his rea­sons. Be in­censed that the school clo­sure process pit­ted school against school and com­mu­nity against com­mu­nity. Be con­cerned that the process that will af­fect the lives of al­most 1,000 fam­i­lies took less than seven months to draw to a flawed con­clu­sion.

Be out­raged at the un­will­ing­ness of the 11 trus­tees who chose not to ask for more time to thor­oughly re­search any op­tions out­side of clos­ing schools. Solid op­tions such as dual cam­puses, bound­ary re­view, and com­mu­nity part­ner­ship re­ceived lit­tle but lip ser­vice.

Be alarmed that crit­i­cal is­sues in­volv­ing our schools were not ad­dressed and so other schools in the com­mu­nity will still be 140 per cent over­ca­pac­ity. Where is the con­cern for those stu­dents and their qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion as they are stuffed like sar­dines into porta­bles with over­taxed teach­ers and re­sources.

Be sus­pi­cious of the board’s prom­ises that tran­si­tions and up­grades to ex­ist­ing fa­cil­i­ties will be bet­ter than those of schools that are clos­ing when ques­tions re­gard­ing fund­ing and plans of ac­tion go unan­swered.

Be an­noyed that trus­tees failed to lis­ten to the opin­ion of On­tario’s Ad­vo­cate for Chil­dren and Youth that Bate­man’s school model should be copied and not shut down. Ask your­self why would they close a com­pletely ac­ces­si­ble, re­cently retro­fit­ted school that has a pool, pro­fes­sional kitchen, world-class auto body shop, the only IB pro­gram in the city, the largest group of com­mu­nity path­way and spe­cial need stu­dents and not other much older schools.

Then ask your­self, if city coun­cil voted not to be­come in­volved, why did a city coun­cil­lor see fit to sit on the school clo­sure com­mit­tee and use, to her ward’s ad­van­tage, the breadth of knowl­edge, con­tacts, and tools at her dis­posal to aid one school un­der the dis­guise of a con­cerned par­ent?

Ask your­self, was that fair or was it a con­flict of in­ter­est? We know the an­swer.

The peo­ple who re­ally know what’s best for a child are the very peo­ple who raise them, whose sup­port is daily and con­stant, whose strug­gle is real and po­tent. So why was their knowl­edge of what is best for their chil­dren com­pletely ig­nored?

Do not idly sit by com­pla­cent with the thought that it’s not your prob­lem. We elected these city of­fi­cials and we elected these trus­tees and they have failed ev­ery sin­gle one of us.

Cit­i­zens of Burling­ton, you should be an­gry to­day be­cause to­mor­row it might be your child, your school, your board, your com­mu­nity whose voice is be­ing ig­nored.

Heather Kuzyk has been a Burling­ton res­i­dent for 18 years and has a daugh­ter who at­tends Robert Bate­man High School.

GRA­HAM PAINE, METROLAND

Save Bate­man sup­port­ers gath­ered out front of Robert Bate­man High School, in March in an un­suc­cess­ful bid to keep the school from be­ing closed.

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