As many of you are aware this past October the Ministry of Education appointed Margaret Wilson as an independent facilitator to examine the accommodation Review process undertaken by the HDSB in 2016 and 2017. Based on the concerns expressed by residents in Burlington about the PAR process here I supported their decision to pursue this review.
The objective of the review was to determine if the board was in compliance with its accommodation review policies. Ms. Wilson’s review determined that the board did not deviate from its policies in a manner that would influence the outcome of the Review.
I would like to thank PAR Committee members, parents, students, teachers, principals, HDSB staff, school trustees and concerned constituents for all their hard work and feedback in what has been, at times, an emotional and challenging process. It is clear to me that every person played a vital role in the interest of ensuring that our children receive the best education possible. Having met with a number of residents, stakeholders and parents what has emerged as a common theme is the care and concern we all share in terms of the importance of ensuring equality of opportunity and access, to the best education possible for young people in Burlington.
I have every confidence that Ms. Wilson performed her duties responsibly and to the best of her ability with the wellbeing and education of our students as her chief priority.
This is a matter of their education and equity in the quality of programming, courses, care, extra-curricular activities, and opportunities to set them up for the best success possible.
Decisions regarding student accommodations, school closures and programming are the sole responsibility of locally elected school boards. This ensures local input is reflected via the representations made by trustees who work closely with Board staff. I have confidence in this framework, where local decisions are made by duly elected representatives.
Throughout the PAR process, reflecting the concerns of my constituents was my priority, and as Ms. Wilson’s report has pointed out, improvements can always be made. I would strongly encourage the HDSB to consider adopting her recommendations.
I have met with many people on these issues, and have heard concerns as well as suggestions for improvement. I have also heard a divergent set of views with some supporting the Board’s decision, and some not. I will continue to take those concerns to my colleagues at Queen’s Park, as I have always done.
Indeed, the decision by the Ministry of Education to start a review of the PAR process was initiated based in part on our experience here in Burlington and I believe that the changes and improvements to the PAR process review - which commenced last summer and is currently ongoing across the province – will be shaped by the feedback from stakeholders in Burlington who are participating in these policy changes and enhancements. I asked for this review of the PAR process based on what I saw and what I heard from Burlington residents and I would like to thank those residents who continue to share their feedback with me, and my colleagues.
Our government’s commitment to and support for education is unwavering. In Halton alone, funding has increased by over $775 million since 2003. There have also been investments of over $45 million in licensed child care for the region, along with the implementation of full-day kindergarten.
As we move forward, I look forward to working with Trustees, Board staff, parents, students and educators to ensure that the needs of students remain paramount during the transition period that will take place in the months ahead. I am confident that every effort will be made by HDSB staff, school trustees, principals and teachers to support all students in the transition.
The continued level of care and education of our students is of the utmost importance to me, and as your MPP I will continue to ensure that the voices of my constituents are not only heard – but that they lead to important changes.
In that regard, one final point. As a consequence of discussions with constituents about the Administrative Review process, I have asked for changes to this as well that would see enhanced access for residents and in the end a better instrument, much in the same way that our government has embraced reform of the Ontario Municipal Board the result of which has been enhanced access for citizens and an improved dispute resolution process.
As always, if you have any specific questions please do not hesitate to contact me.
Eleanor McMahon, MPP Burlington
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