Courts Uphold Trustees’ Decision
The District School Board of Niagara is welcoming the decision to deny an application launched by a special interest group in Niagara-on-the-Lake. On April 30, a three-judge panel dismissed the Citizens for Accountable and Responsible Education’s (CARE) request to set aside Trustees’ decision to close Parliament Oak Public School at the end of the current school year. The suit forced the Board to spend over $170,000 of taxpayer money to defend its position.
In its decision, the panel wrote:
- “The duty of fairness for members of the public to participate in a meaningful way was respected”
- The applicants “failed to prove a denial of procedural fairness”
- Objective evidence “confirms that the Trustees did not approach their task with a closed mind.”
“Closing a school is never easy,” said Sue Barnett, Chair of the Board. “However, the decision was the result of a thoroughly meticulous and fair process which took into account all the relevant information at hand.”
“We have said all along that this decision was made in a reasoned and responsible fashion by the people democratically elected to decide these matters. It is unfortunate this group felt the need to try to seek relief from the courts for a decision it simply did not like,” added Barnett. “We are especially disappointed that this action has taken over $170,000 of taxpayer dollars out of the public system. This is money which should have been spent on students.”
DSBN Director of Education Warren Hoshizaki said he was pleased the judges’ decision affirmed that staff and Trustees followed a process that was fair. “Board staff acted with integrity and professionalism in preparing painstakingly accurate information for Trustees to consider,” said Hoshizaki.
The Ontario Government spends $1-billion dollars per year on schools with excess empty space. To encourage school boards to make efficient use of space, the Government has committed to eliminating the base top-up funding that had supported the operation of underutilized schools. The Government has introduced a new funding model for the School Foundation Grant that funds principals, vice-principals and secretaries. This new model is intended to direct funding away from very small schools.
DSBN enrolment projections revealed that enrolment at Parliament Oak would have remained consistently below 100 students, requiring triple-split grades which the DSBN does not support. Consolidating Parliament Oak and Crossroads will eliminate over 220 empty spaces; eliminate well over $650,000 worth of renewal work required at Parliament Oak and result in $270,000 worth of annual operational cost savings.