The Loss of a Voice that Understood the Need

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I remember the first time I met Trustee Bingham. I had been invited to join the Parkview Secondary parent council, which Christine chaired, as a community representative. It was eye-opening going from my girl’s school where the council was raising funds for an audio system, to one fighting their entire existence and the unrecognized value of its programming.

From the first day these families began their journey through our public education system, to that point in time where – after years of struggle – they faced the loss of a building and its staff that had created such a strong sense of belonging and purpose for students, their families, and within the staff as well. Adversity is what these families knew.

By the new calendar year, both Christine and I had put our names forward as Trustee candidates for our wards but by the time we were elected, Parkview had locked its doors one final time and a skeleton crew of staff and students made the stressful move up to Mountain Secondary which also once offered hope within an otherwise one-size fits all system.

Then Trustee Candidates, Christine and Larry protesting school closures at Hamilton City Hall – 2014. Photo credit Alex Zafer, The Candid Flaneur.

From the moment Trustee Bingham and I had our orientation at 20 Education Court, we formed a tight bond through our joint advocacy for students with special needs.

We fought to continue the Parkview programming at Mountain but year by year as students graduated, another grade disappeared from the halls until we attended the graduation of the last cohort to know the compassion, patience and determination the staff brought to helping these students see their full potential through the Parvkiew and Mountain secondary education models.

From meals and conversations before board and committees, to the discussions on the drive home after sometimes long, frustrating and emotional meetings. If our ID badges could talk.

Christine and I have remained friends. I have missed those after meeting chats and sometimes rants, and our joint initiatives in the boardroom. Although I thought highly of everyone I worked with at the board and I miss the role and each and every one of them, there was a different connection with Trustee Bingham having had an arms length connection to Parkview; enough to truly understand how critical the loss of this special programming was and still is.

Trustee Bingham and I got each other – as much as I could really understand a lifetime of constantly having to advocate for your child, or the behind the scenes struggles you don’t see not being at home every day through these parents’ tribulations. Like waiting for the call that their child had acted out and was being sent home because before Parkview and Mountain, not nearly enough supports weren’t there. From the friends I still follow in the community, that promise of an inclusive system that was going to magically make it better for new families coming through the system, was the mystic wand solution that wasn’t.

I was saddened to hear that Trustee Bingham was stepping down because our system has not only lost a wonderful advocate and human being,  it left a vacancy in the form of a true understanding of the need and what was lost as a parent who had seen a bright light in education blown out.

Thank you Christine for your friendship, what you and your son taught me, everything you have done for children and families in our communities, and for all your support and encouragement during our time as colleagues at HWDSB. Those four years were the highlight of my professional life and you, my friend, played a critical role in getting me through a very long, emotional, yet rewarding journey.

And that’s The Point.

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