Purge the Toronto Catholic School Board

di Joe Volpe del October 16, 2018

TORONTO - The educational systems in Toronto are a mess. The Toronto District School Board, an organization with an annual $ 3 billion operating budget and an additional $ 0.5 billion for capital expenditures, has had several unique challenges in this last mandate.

An antagonistic relationship developed between several Senior Staff members and Trustees. The Ministry had to step in. A new Director is now in place. Some Trustees are not re-offering. Good.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), smaller - $ 1 billion in annual operating budget and about $ 0.25 billion for capital expenditures – but of direct importance to our readers because they are, in the main, Catholic school supporters. Their numbers are dwindling.

The TCDSB, once rooted in the three pillars of Church, Family and School, suffers from a clear sense of vision, questionable professional leadership and a dysfunctional Board of Trustees.

The Cardinal has other priorities. Families are adjusting to unprecedented relational challenges. “Schools” reflect the resulting poor or inconsistent quality of leadership.

For a “faith-based” educational system, it risks losing “perceived purpose” and the “confidence” of its intended clientele. This last mandate has not been a stellar one for the Board entrusted with restoring and maintaining both.

But, not all Trustees deserve to be thrown out. There are men and women who have demonstrated the ability and willingness to rise above the pretence and pettiness that observers at Board meetings see all too clearly.

It is a Board that has difficulty coming to grips with its poor ratings against Provincial measurements for student performance – your children and mine. The Administration’s understanding of transparency and communication is best exemplified by smoked glass.

Truth, for them, like beauty, lies in the eyes of the beholder.

For our readers, two issues laid bare the incompetence and chicanery of the Administration and some Trustees that now define direction and vision at the TCDSB.

First, the International Languages Extended Day Program. The Program requires extending the day by 20 minutes so that all students can partake in the study of “third” language.

After semi-nonsensical discussions about sources of funds and relevancy of some of the languages, it turned out that the real reason was a petty grievance launched by some short-sighted officials at the Teachers’ Union. Some teachers apparently complained that they had to work 20 minutes longer than some of their colleagues in other schools. Children first.

Neither the Administration nor the Teachers’ Union would release the Arbitrator’s report that formed the basis for this pedagogical and cultural decision.

The newly elected Minister of Education had to intervene to save the program, thanks to a request by Trustees Piccininni, D’Amico, Martino and Andrachuk.

The former Minister(s) of Education had allocated some $32 million for the improvements at two schools adjacent to the Columbus Centre in 2012.

The local Trustee (Rizzo) and her allies on the Board turned it into an opportunity to partner with predatory condo builders at Villa Charities Inc (VCI) to associate a condo complex with the schools.

Community engagement, the former local MPP, the Minister of Education, the Preservation Board and finally City Council put an end to that back-door chicanery.

But Senior Staff were prepared to go ahead anyway until the Minister pulled the plug.

Throughout the process, Villa Charities, the Staff at the TCDSB and several Trustees either misrepresented the truth or outrightly lied. Until the Agreement of Purchase and Sale signed by the TCDSB and VCI revealed the facts.

Two generations of high school students at Dante Alighieri and one generation of elementary school students at Regina Mundi will never see the benefits of that $32 million grant.

In a Board meeting following the Minister’s decision, Trustees regrouped. One would have expected them to resolve issues and move forward. No. They reorganized Board Committees to exclude all Trustees who had argued for a reasoned approach: Andrachuk, D’Amico, Martino and Piccininni.

It was a pathetic and telling display of “up your nose with a rubber hose” petty partisanship. The authors of this cabal-induced manoeuvre (Rizzo, Poplawski, Bottoni, Del Grande, Davies, Tanuan, Crawford and Kennedy) do not deserve re-election.

Catholic ratepayers do not deserve them.

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