As the parent of two students in Hamilton’s public secondary system, I was especially interested in the two guests for the Foundation’s final Vital Signs show for the season: HWDSB director John Malloy, and board chair Tim Simmons. While I confess that my children’s school is not one of those directly affected by the accommodation review , I know many families who are and I have a sense of the depth of emotion that goes beyond the pages of the newspaper.
I hope you will take the time to watch the program. It presents clearly the board’s rationale for the tough decisions it is making. Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Simmons are clear that declining enrolment and deteriorating facilities are concerns, but the focus is on putting resources into what kids need to be successful – now, five years from now and beyond.
More important than the decisions already made are those that lie ahead, with respect to programs, boundaries and transportation; decisions that are intended to create the type of diverse learning environment in which research shows students learn better. As Mr. Malloy states, by offering more access to the range programs that kids need to be successful, “we open doors that, right now, they don’t know exist”. He recognizes the complexities and the concerns but asserts that diverse programming that attracts a diverse student body is one of those things that works. Creating that kind of learning community and engaging the community around that guiding principle, he says is “important, significant and challenging work…but our work wouldn’t be finished until we went there and that’s our plan.”
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing that is indisputable for me is that the school board and its trustees are making brave decisions, with the community’s best interests at heart. They are fully aware of the associated emotion and the difficulties, but also steadfast in their belief that we must take a long-term view for the success of the Hamilton’s students.