Dundas and Ancaster will share a single public school trustee under a proposed realignment that would also see Stoney Creek,Winona, Vinemount and Glanbrook collectively elect two trustees for their area.
Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board trustees on Monday agreed to consult the public on the plan, the second attempt this year to address imbalances in representation and workloads after a previous proposal to couple more wards was rejected.
The new plan would also give Ward 1 its own trustee, a change that would see wards 2 and 3 share a trustee. Wards 1 and 2 presently share a trustee.
All other areas would keep their existing representation.
While most trustees said they will reserve judgment until they hear from the public, Karen Turkstra, who represents Flamborough’s wards 14 and 15, objected to pairing Ancaster’s Ward 12 andDundas’s Ward 13.
She argued it makes more sense for Ward 14 and Dundas to share a trustee because schools in Ward 14 feed into Dundas, suggesting Ward 15 and 1 could also do likewise since Waterdown students go to Westdale Secondary School for French immersion.
“I pity the trustee who has wards 12 and 13. One trustee, 5,700 students, with one of the highest levels of parental involvement,” Turkstra said, noting Ancaster’s population continues to grow.
“That person will go nuts. That is not fair and I will not support it.”
Dundas trustee Jessica Brennan said she agrees her area could be coupled with Ward 14 – or even Ward 1 because of its proximity – but finding the right balance remains a challenge because the board cannot add trustees.
She said any plan also must work with the city’s ward boundaries and council has opted against revising them or adding wards despite concerns about unequal population distribution, particularly in Ward 7 on the central Mountain.
“I’m at the stage where (I say), let it go out to the public. They’re smarter than we are, anyway. Let them tell us what will work,” Brennan said, adding the board can no longer wait for the city to act. “We have to fix it for what works for us.”
Alex Johnstone, who represents wards 11 and 12, said she supports the changes because she’s been told by Ward 11 voters for years that they’d rather be matched with upper Stoney Creek’s Ward 10.
She said none of Ward 11’s schools feed into Ward 12 and the realignment would still see the trustee for Ancaster and Dundas represent fewer students and schools than she presently does.
“It can be difficult at times to get out to all the school council meetings, but it certainly is manageable,” Johnstone said.
But Ward 7 trustee Lillian Orban said her area has been unfairly left out of the proposed solution, even though it has the highest population and number of schools.
She said she is unable to attend many school council meetings and events, suggesting her ward should get a second trustee.
“For us to say, well it’ll be all right, it’s manageable, I tell you it isn’t manageable,” Orban said. “Let’s look at it fairly as to what is happening in that area.”
Trustees will formally consider the plan following an as-yet unspecified public consultation process and any changes must be approved by March to be in place for the November 2014 election.