January 26, 2012

It took 15 years, but the county wins: HWDSB moving to Crestwood

Fifteen years ago, the Board of Education for the City of Hamilton and The Wentworth County Board of Education merged to form District School Board 21 – the now named Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

Today, after 15 years, the HWDSB is leaving the downtown core and the headquarters originally built for the Board of Education for the City of Hamilton. The new location – the Crestwood site that provides ‘better access’ to highways and suburbia.

I enjoyed a front row seat, or more accurately, a front row hot seat. I sat on many transition school board committees as the tie-breaking vote between city and county factions.

The transition committees served to create the policies of the new board, but many became forums for wrestling between adopting the county or city way of doing things.

It was a great learning experience for a 15-year-old teenager.

One of the most contentious issues for all committees was where to meet. The county members nearly always voted to meet at Crestwood with its easy access to the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. City members nearly always voted for meetings at the Board of Ed building downtown. As a compromise, meetings would rotate between the two sites. As a teenager using public transit, the Crestwood site was out-of-the-way and inconvenient.

Neither side showed much enthusiasm for the former county board headquarters in Ancaster.

The debate about the site for new school board’s headquarters was a short-lived, but nonetheless contentious. With a large building suited for governing a large school board already existing at 100 Main Street West, it was obvious the board would be downtown.

It didn’t prevent discussion of creating a new headquarters more accessible to the suburban transit method of choice – the car.

Today, that school of thought prevails with the Crestwood site.

The irony in all of this, the county faction was terrified they’d be gobbled up by the city board. It seems the opposite happened.