Monday, July 26, 2010

Another possible judicial review

This came across the news alerts the other day, on municipal support from Huron East to possibly help bankroll a judicial review of the closure of Brussels Public School.
"We made it very clear that we don't want to do this as a stalling tactic," (Brussells resident Charlie Hoy) said.
Seaforth Coun. Joe Steffler said the issue of school closures is going to have a big economic effect on all the municipalities of Huron County.
"These small schools are in our small towns and families don't want to be where the school aren't. Let's support one another here and if it takes an appeal, that's what it takes. We can file and then see if the odds are stacked against you," he said.
Hoy pointed out that the Huron-Perth Catholic school board has schools with very small enrolments but chooses to keep them open.
"We both get money from the same dad so something's not right," he said.
Since an appeal must be launched within 30 days of the closure decision, council decided to hear current information about the grounds for the appeal in closed session with the expectation that Hoy and Prior would return to the next council meeting with more information two days before the deadline.
McKillop Coun. Bill Siemon pointed out that council could at that point decide not to support the appeal if councillors didn't believe the arguments to launch the appeal were strong enough.
Is this another gamble?
I would quibble with a few things in this article-- for example, reading this, I can't tell whether the community has already petitioned for an administrative review of the Avon Maitland District School Board decision. It doesn't appear so, in which case the court may simply rule that the community should proceed to do so before it appears before the court again.
I also quibble with Hoy's statement-- the Huron-Perth Catholic board and the AMDSB is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Without knowing the particulars, I would bet Timmy's on the fact the HPCDSB is smaller, period, and has fewer schools, period. Therefor it likely qualifies for supported-schools allocations the AMDSB doesn't. Plus, as some of my coverage area is now learning first-hand, even the HPCDSB can't stall the inevitable forever if it's running really small schools (ie: <90FTE, JK-8).
My municipal reporting bones also ache with the mention council would consider its next steps in-camera. Council certainly has the right to consult its solicitor and receive advice from solicitors behind closed doors (as any other client has the right to not breach solicitor-client privilege), however if Hoy and Prior are able to be in attendance, then the doors should be open to the whole community.
If this proceeds to judicial review, it would make two underway within the province.


Anonymous said...

It's good to finally hear people focused on the concept of the Judical Review.

As you detailed first step is the appeal to the Ministry. Who will simply rubberstamp the Board's decision.

However the judical review is an open process where the issue is whether the ARC process was fair and met the letter of the ARC guidelines. It isn't about whether the decision was right or wrong.

In essence a favorable decision that Avon Maitland failed to provide fair process sends the ARC back to square 1. Restart.

It is an extraordinarily good strategy and this area of Ontario has a history of standing up for its schools.

Koodos to the council.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 26 July 20:06:
The administrative review would speak to whether the board followed its own policies and procedures, in light of the provincial guidelines. People keep misinterpreting these as appeals of a board's school-closure decision.

A judicial review? Best I can tell as someone who isn't a lawyer, it will do the same-- rule on whether the guidelines, policies and procedures were followed.

Seaforth won a judicial review and then lost one. I question whether there's any room for Brussels here. If the community participated in the ARC process, if the ARC reported to the board with options and the board simply decided to make a different decision, there's not much to review.

Pointing out the small Catholic schools in the area and other similar water-cooler conversations are great distractions and perhaps very valid points, but they don't prove anything when it comes to a judicial review of the process that took place.


Anonymous said...

The point with the Judical Review is that it is a public hearing with a Judge sitting who is required to make a decision based on the law. He can decide the issue has to go back to square 1.

The Administrative Reviews are just smoke and mirrors from the MOE.

The JR can result in the whole ARC having to be restarted and done under the new Guidelines.


Anonymous said...

here's an update on the Avon-Maitland dust-up ER

Education Reporter said...

Anon 29 July 23:27
I understand your points on the judicial review.
However-- an accommodation review is a public process. It has its own quasi-judicial (guidelines based on Ed Act regulations) rules to follow as well.

Yes, the justices *could* recommend the whole review be rebooted and that it begin at square one again. But -- and I'm not privy to all the ins and outs on this particular review -- that outcome is only likely if there has been an abuse of process. Was the community consulted? Was the committee presented the information it needed to form a set of recommendations? Was that done consistently within the board policy/procedure and provincial guidelines in effect at the time?

If this is just an attempt to reverse an unpopular decision made by trustees after they were presented with the committee's report and didn't choose to support the recommendations, there's no abuse of process.

There's nothing I see in the little I've read to suggest there was an abuse of process. So, though I'm no lawyer, I don't see a heck of a lot of daylight where a judicial review could send this back to square one. Even if it did, what's to guarantee the area won't still lose a school? Re-running the review does nothing to change the student populations, the age of the schools, the condition of the program spaces, etc. The same tough decision(s) would remain before trustees-- just later instead of behind them as they do now.


Anonymous said...

I attended a meeting hosted by a local political party recently in the Huron North area.

The top two issues on the minds of the 200+ in attendance was

1) agricultural issues
2) ARC process and cutting out the heart of rural Ontario one community at a time.

It was suggested that the current government has done nothing at all to consider and understand what the ARC process is doing to communities who have been using their schools as the hubs of their towns for years.

I don't think this is as much about reversing a decision that they don't like as an issue of fairness and the bad habit the current government has of forgetting about rural/small town Ontario.

Anonymous said...

ER - the link you have on here to some one called the Retired Educator is not an education blog at all but looks to be a bunch of conservatives beating up on media that they know nothing about. Sure doesn't deserve exposure on your great blog.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 9 Aug. 8:06

Thanks for the compliment.

The Retired Educator's owner is a very experienced blogger who writes about education, integration and disability issues. She was/is a lifelong educator. Occasionally, as an active supporter of a political party, she does post items related to her politics.

Just today she posted about the Toronto Star article on the Health and PE curriculum. She makes it very clear her space is on education and Canadian politics.

We're all adults here, so if you can't handle what Sandy puts on her blog, then don't visit it. That goes for any of the other links in the blogroll too— which include disgruntled former educators, early childhood advocates, ivory tower types and some guy blathering on twitter.

I won't be removing the link.