TORONTO - The current educational “vision” statement of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), judging from the March 24, 2022, Board meeting, is devoid of school or Catholic issues. Whether the Board can survive after this provincial election requires an act of faith not supported by “the debate” offered last Thursday. If you have children in the system, you will have to reassess why.
Many parents have already done so according to the 2022-2023 Report to Regular Board on Preliminary teacher Staffing Projections. Those projections estimate a drop in enrolment of 4,167 students. Almost 5%, from the previous year. Commenting on her own presentation, Executive Superintendent, Lynda Coulter, responsible for Human Resources, Leadership and Equity, said “there is a significant decline in enrolment … [it is] very pronounced at the elementary level.”
No kidding! Her boss, Director Brendan Browne, piped in that there has been a net loss of approximately 10,000 students from pre-Covid days when the TCDSB used to brag that they had some 92,000 students (TCDSB current website). In 2021-2022, in fact, they claimed to have had 87,656 students, projecting only 83,489 for 2022-2023.
Except for twenty-four students, the entire decline is in elementary school aged children category. That decline will see its impact in the High School panel over the next four years, as the “body count” deficit works its way through the system. Before you say so what, hold on.
That deficit translates into a $50 Million shortfall in revenues for student needs and an additional $10 Million for capital expenditures and upgrades. TCDSB had similar enrollment and revenue issues last academic year. As then, the numbers have implications for “executive compensation” issues. Maybe it is time to ask the Minister for a forensic audit.
Under current staffing formulae, at least 384 teachers will lose their full-time status for September as a result. Hello labour unrest and administrative nightmares, not to speak of class disruptions and reconfigurations.
The blame game has already begun. Director Browne pointed to the old stand-by Covid-19 for depopulating the City as parents move their children to safer environments (no specifics here), or travel restrictions for the loss of International Visa Students (whose parents evidently prefer health safety to a good Catholic education under Browne’s guidance). Trustee Li Preti announced, with all the seriousness she could muster, parents are telling her that they are moving their kids to Private Schools (at a cost of at least $20,000) because they are tired of teachers’ work to rule. She knows because she is canvassing to become an MPP, while she is a trustee.
By the way, the Board must report to the Ministry its preliminary projections by March 31, unless they ask for and receive permission to defer. Count on them to make the request as they did earlier to avoid conducting EQAO testing for fear the results would make their students the laughingstock of the educational community in Ontario, if not the country.
Incidentally, the highlight of the Board meeting was the debate on ward boundary adjustments. Trustee Rizzo, whose history in the area has earned her the enmity of its electorate, wanted to “drop” the Eglinton Lawrence (south of the 401 to Eglinton) section of her ward. Her buddy on the Board would gladly accept to “receive” it.
This obvious Gerry-mandering (blatant manipulation for personal political gain) was unacceptable even for this crowd of trustees. Despite her screaming and obstructive belligerence, they turned her down.
The only one who spoke favourably, trustee De Domenico, thought everyone should “help a colleague”. Interesting. He led the character assassination effort against another “colleague”, whose response is likely to result in a defamation suit that will make the dollar amounts above seem like chump change.
Here is the TCDSB’s mission statement: [to create] “an inclusive learning community uniting home, parish and school and rooted in the love of Christ…[to] educate students to grow in grace and knowledge to lead lives of faith, hope and charity.” At least that is what it says in the English language version.
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