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Old habits die hard at York Region School Board

Old habits die hard at York Region School Board

TORONTO – The more you stir it the worse it smells.

Some citizens must have though that the York Region District School Board had hit rock bottom two years ago (times flies) when an array of allegations regarding abuse of public dollars, heavy-handed, insensitive staff conduct towards students and parents, perceived intimidation and manipulation of subordinates by senior staff and injudicious conduct by Trustees nearly “sank the Board”.

The incumbent Chair, Trustee Anna De Bartolo – herself the subject of swirling rumours related to trustee travel – stepped aside for her colleague Loralea Carruthers.

The Minister of Education assigned two investigators/commissioners to get to the bottom of the matter. They filed a report.

Very shortly after, the Director, John Parappally was dismissed “with cause”.

Initially he went quietly. Then he filed a Statement of Claim against the Board and Ms Carruthers to recover the balance owed to him under the balance of his tenyear contract, the foregone benefits, including pension and health contribution, car allowances and costs for additional health expenditures he incurred from a resulting depression.

He included the opportunity cost of the missed Superintendency he had been guaranteed for life at the end of his term as Director.

He named Chair Carruthers separately for damages in amounts totalling %500,000. He did not name Anna De Bartolo.

The entire claim exceeds $2,000,000. The reconstituted Board following the election on October 22, 2018 is composed of eight new members. Only Corrie McBain (now Chair), Juanita Nathan (vice Chair), Alan Tam and Anna De Bartolo from the “old Board” were returned. Two thirds of the Board is composed of new Trustees unburdened by the baggage earned by their predecessors.

Now the Statement of Claim is making its way towards resolution. Issues related to the scandals of 2016- 2017 are rearing their ugly heads.

Anna De Bartolo resigned less than four weeks after the swearing-in ceremony.

The leadership of the Board is in the hands of the three returning Trustees and Louise Sirisko, the Director who replaced Parappally. One of those asked the City of Vaughan planning Department, Elections division, for an estimate to conduct a bye-election in Wards 1 and 2 “immediately after the New Year” (January 3rd?).

The estimate came in at $177,424.34, on January 8. The next day, on the 9th, De Bartolo resigned. On the 10th, contrary to practice of appointing the second placed candidate observed in 7 of 8 previous instances of vacancies, the Board voted 7-4 to hold a by-election.

The second placed candidate was the Parent whose persistence at seeking justice for her children had been at the source of the public relations disaster that “did in” Parappally and some of the trustees.

Voters are questioning whether this influenced the decision taken by the four returning people to spend eight times the amount a single Trustee is paid, on the off chance that the electors will help keep her out.

The Minister has not yet returned email questions by the Corriere in this regard. The Board can reverse it previous decision if one of the trustees who voted for the election process moves to change and the motion to rescind is then accepted by a 2/3 majority.

They will have an opportunity at the scheduled board meeting. They just need courage to open the debate.

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