TORONTO - “Consultation” farce number three at Regina Mundi Catholic Elementary School (Regina) and Dante Alighieri Academy (Dante), March 9. This one advertised as a “Relocation Options” for Dante, despite the fact that a previous consultation on February 10 had provided a resoundingly negative community response to the proposals placed before the public.
Then, as on the ninth, the meeting included senior sta. from the Board, local residents, teachers and students. Save for one intervenor, it seemed to this observer – judging from the response of the attendees numbering approximately 350 – that there is NO enthusiasm for the options presented.
There is a simple explanation for the community response: no one has asked for any of the options or their collateral consequences, except for the Trustee Maria Rizzo. This is “her baby” as the saying goes.
She has become a belligerent proponent of building a new Dante and razing Regina to the ground. Why? If the reader thinks it may have something to do with “better and safer” student accommodation or sound pedagogical rationale or innovative use of facilities to improve teaching and learning outcomes, they would have heard none of them last night.
Rizzo refused to express a view on the options presented. None could have been prepared and disseminated without her guidance an approval. At the last “consultation” she had categorically stated that no matter what the TCDSB were to decide, she would vote with the community. That commitment didn’t last long – she shouted down a mother who wanted to know what option Rizzo was going to advocate.
She and Board sta. seemed surprised at the quality of questioning by parents who wanted to know about the level of preparation by the TCDSB regarding environmental and personal risk factors potentially to be faced by their children in an ongoing construction and renovation setting.
The Administration was talking about “workers safety”, parents about children’s vulnerability. One parent asked about “background checks” on people coming into contact with their children. Rizzo and her officials hadn’t even bother to think that one through.
Regina parents didn’t feel comfortable with teenagers mingling among elementary and preschool children. Flippantly, Rizzo answered that was they reason they were relocating Dante students.
To Dante parents and students who refused to resign themselves to the concept that they would be removed to abandoned Don Bosco S.S. or to Monsignor Johnson (previously Regina Pacis S.S.), she answered that it’s not the building that makes a school and, besides, they shouldn’t complain they would be getting a new school …even if they will all have graduated by the time that happens.
Ever flippant, Rizzo met those observations with an incredible (I paraphrase) “that will be your legacy; your sacrifice will give future students better facilities”.
Pressed further on why this, why now, she blurted that TCDSB had already decided and approved the plan long ago, maybe a year a year and half ago. That would coincide with a “consultation” she had on “her plans” for Regina and Dante two weeks after the Provincial election and in anticipation of the scheduled Municipal and School Board elections in October 2018.
No one took her seriously then. Administration, weak and browbeaten by her and her cronies as it is, by its own admission at the February meeting not even prepared site plans for construction and heavy-duty renovation required for City Planning approval.
The “gem” of the evening’s “consultation” came towards the end when a parent asked whether, given the circumstances, there would be further consultations. No, she stated in frustration, we’ve been consulting for years on this Villa project.
It may have been a slip of the tongue, but she had tied the illfated project to convert Villa Charities/Villa Colombo Home for the Aged into condominiums and townhouses to reconstruction and relocation of Regina/ Dante. It explains why the TCDSB spent $25 million to acquire the Convent of the Sisters of the Good Sheppard, adjacent to Dante for a “land swap” with Villa Charities.
That project went badly. But Villa Colombo is now claiming a cash crunch and an inability to provide services in its current physical infrastructure. Its Chairman at a TCDSB meeting in 2017 proposed to demolish and build stacked townhouses in its place, and, was in search of a partner.
The “land swap” model would still be available in the Regina/ Dante relocation model. There is nothing planned for the property once Regina is demolished. The site is about the size of the Villa Colombo. A land swap would satisfy its needs; and, answer the question above concerning the urgency to get the children out of the Dante/Regina complex.
Is it unfair to ask who would profit, or how turning the TCDSB into a land developer somehow enhances its deteriorating reputation as a Catholic Education system?
We’ll ask Minister Lecce if he wants ownership of that response.
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