Lecce’s threats: this passes for leadership?

di Joe Volpe del 11 November 2020

Ontario has been registering record number of Covid-19 infections, daily: five times the rate when the first wave of the virus reached its peak in May.
Minister Lecce and his government shut down schools after the March Break. The School year 2019-2020 was a total disaster. Did he instruct school boards to conduct a disinfection and sanitization program to make the buildings and classrooms safe from a health perspective for academic year 2020-2021? Not really.
Did he demand that Boards and Teachers’ representatives develop plans for “the new learning environment” in the event that he would authorize a return to school for 2020-2021? Apparently not or they we not listening. Administrative staff and teachers were being paid while at home; they had plenty of time on their hands. Was there any co-ordination for distance learning, remote learning, expenditures for the appropriate technology to be made available to students in advance of September?
Judging from deferrals of start dates, the exodus of students from in-class, in-person environments the answer would seem to be a resounding no.
The two school boards in Toronto and their teachers bemoan the fact that a combined 8,000 fewer students than those registered in June had returned by the end of September (There will be an associated reduction of $96 million in payments from the Ministry to the boards as a result.)
The students that did return found themselves in an unsustainable milieu. Students exposed to contagion are sent to isolation rooms – closeted spaces; parents of their classmates are not advised. Teachers' union representatives in the Catholic board have called for a complete shut down and reorganization, the hiring of additional teachers and/or classroom aides and a serious sanitization program - before children are returned to school.
Superintendents and middle managers (principals and vice-principals) demand bonuses for twiddling their thumbs since March. The Catholic Board continues to tear itself apart because some trustees are consumed with a "Trojan Horse" issue that threatens the legitimacy of their governance process and the essence of a Separate (Catholic) schools’ system.
A damning report (to coin a phrase) by former Interim Integrity Commissioner points to the virtually total disregard for decency, professional courtesy toward colleagues by some disruptive trustees, and the “weaponization” of code of conduct guidelines to obstruct decision-making. She does not name them, but, having followed almost all public sessions of the board, I am convinced of the identity of the four donkeys of the apocalypse.
Lecce is providing them with cover. He too seems obsessed with the “virtue signalling” directed by self-defined victims of alleged systemic homophobia in the school system. It seems, he leaked a copy of a confidential report whose author had no problem with words used in debate but was unhappy about the “tone” of the language not to her liking. Lecce, faced with now 1,626 students infected by the virus thundered, “I continue to be disturbed by the language used by this individual”.
The Investigator and her law firm (eighteen lawyers – two of them male) have been central to a “public stoning” of the trustee in question. Email requests to her for comment have gone unanswered. However, her comments elsewhere appear to have emboldened a “professional victim” – an LGBTQ2+ radical activist – to threaten a Code of Conduct violation against four trustees who did not vote with his friends, the four above, to condemn their colleague.
Lecce is reported to have added, “my expectations [are] that the board make this report public and deliver accountability trustee’s offensive and irresponsible actions”.
This is a novel and pernicious, disconcerning concept, permeating due process demanded of duly elected officials: “do what I want or else.”  Lecce, for his part, also preceded these shenanigans with two announcements for construction at schools in the wards of two trustee co-leaders in the cabel who act as if they run the board.
There might not be a connection, but one must ask what happened to the $750 million the federal government allocated to Ontario to prepare for prepare for opening day of school - $500 million for infrastructure adjustments. Earmarking 10% of that to two schools was probably not part of the plan.
No matter, one trustee, Markus De Domenico, has now publicly referred to a colleague as “homophobic” and splattered the accusation everywhere. The other is Maria Rizzo, the subject of no less than nine investigations for violations of the Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Will both vote to reopen and “censure” their colleague?
It is a motley crew. If they had a shred of decency, they would disqualify themselves.
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