The Comment

A new standard for professionalism: be serious and be sensitive

A breath of fresh air – reflecting the headline – found its way through the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) at its Board meeting on April 30. This is a Board that, in 2024-25, will receive $648.5 million in Core Education Funding for its estimated 48,241 students.

Somehow, not everyone got the memo (sarcasm intended). We should celebrate the good fortune of those who did and who took the trouble to read it.

Let us begin with those who did. Several individuals – graduates of YCDSB – were recognized for their accomplishments in Law, Sports, Research, Public Service, Advocacy (Religious and Secular), Administration, Therapy and [‘non- traditional’ roles for women, at the time,] Mechanical Engineering (here below is the video of ceremony celebrating each one).

To a person, they expressed gratitude to the individuals and to the system for nurturing and promoting the qualities to which they attributed the success being celebrated. Classy! Whether prompted or spontaneous, each of them emphasized the importance of the collective values of their Catholic formation.

There are those who may think that such values are merely aspirational and their practice not consequential. Somehow, a disgraced Catholic-phobia who administers a “stop the Catholic hate” twitter account was allowed to make a presentation. He rehashed a puerile argument to fly an anti-Catholic flag, rejected, last year. No questions; no comments; no vote. Happily.

In the last academic year, he and his “allies” in the teachers’ union disrupted board meetings with their attention-seeking, hatred fomenting, police-intervening tactics for five consecutive meetings. Tuesday night, the leader of that motley crew, attired in what appeared to be the latest in beachwear styles (minus the surfboard), was unable to attract any attention whatsoever.

They were not even an after-thought as a group of “young-ish” mothers, clad in ‘business casual’ attire, presented a cogent, thoughtful, plea that the Board expand the geographic boundaries of their elementary school so that their children could grow in a community with a viable demographic while learning academically. The Board and the Planning Staff took due note.

Would that the concept of consideration for others were a value grasped by all who make decisions.

Alas, when it came to consideration of the final report of the Integrity Commissioner, Michael Maynard, tasked with investigating an alleged breach of Trustee Code of Conduct by Theresa Mc Nicol against her Colleague Maria Iafrate, we saw something different.

Maynard’s Report was a finding of fact; and accepted unanimously by trustees. They had one task: the “severity and duration of sanctions”, if any, as per the Education Act. Trustee Iafrate, the object of McNicol’s disrespect cited in the Report proposed a one-year bar from attendance and voting at Committee meetings. Such a sanction to run concurrent with any other sanctions McNicol might have drawn. Iafrate left open the door to any eventual public apology by McNicol – an option she had eschewed to this point.

Kudos to Chair Crowe for keeping colleagues on topic. An ally of McNicol attempted to talk down the sanction. Crowe reminded everyone that the Report had been available for at least 72 hours and the decision was not prone to adjustments with sophistry. In any case, she pointed out, the Board had unanimously agreed with the findings [Mc Nicol was guilty, and this was not the first such breach of the Code of Conduct by her]. She called for a vote. Only trustees Grella and Wigston voted against Iafrate’s Motion.

It may not be the last word. In 2022, Iafrate, on her own behalf and for four of her previous colleagues had convinced the current Board to hire an independent investigator, JMJ, to investigate allegations of discrimination by McNicol against them because they are of Italian origin. JMJ’s finding of fact was equally not contested when presented to Board, last September.

Mc Nicol filed for judicial review to object to the sanctions applied by the Board. The Divisional Court heard the case on April 23. It will publish its decision in due course.

The awarded former students together with the YCDSB trustees (photo: Corriere Canadese)

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