Rizzo, the Trustee “tail wagging the TCDSB dog”

di Joe Volpe del 16 January 2020

TORONTO - If you attend the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) meeting tonight, Thursday, at 7:00 pm, keep a couple of issues in mind: (1) the Province (on behalf of all School Boards) is in the middle of contract negotiations with all teachers, (2) the pressure is mounting inside Ford’s Cabinet to merge Catholic and Public district school boards, in part to find cost efficiencies in the delivery of educational services.

The purported reason for the meeting is to table reports from various committees for the consideration of the Trustees. The Agenda was dutifully available online on Monday, even though the posting had been strategically leaked to some interested parties beforehand. It has virtually nothing to do with the education of your children.

It reads and smells like horse-trading in a closed barn. Here’s some key take-aways. The 2020-2021 The School Relocation Plan (SRP) is heavily concentrated on some needs and desires of Trustee Maria Rizzo – you be the judge.

The SRP devotes an entire page to the deplorable conditions at Loretto Abbey at Yonge Blvd and Wilson Ave. as justification for relocating all 963 students to Nelson Boylen S.S., a relatively modern high school just east of Jane and Wilson. It is 7.6 kilometres away and no transportation plan has yet to be developed. When it is, the price tag will be in the millions.

Nelson Boylen has been vacant for four years. Its acquisition had been promoted and begun by former Trustee Sal Piccinnini to accommodate the overcrowding at St Fidelis elementary, where hard-to-please parents have been agitating for better facilities for years. They’ll have to wait some more.

Engineering reports on Loretto Abbey made available to potential buyers ten years ago, when the TCDSB “scooped” the heritage site for $25 million, revealed dangerous presence of asbestos and mold. An unsuccessful potential buyer (who was prepared to relocate students in a modern school facility three km to the east - at no cost to the TCDSB, for two years – and spend an $30 million to clean and upgrade the facility), was turned down.

There is no such urgency for the demolition of Regina Mundi, another School in Rizzo’s Ward, unless the vacant lot will then revive her dream of relocating the Church St. Charles Borromeo from the corners of Lawrence Ave. and Dufferin St. and paving the way for Condominium construction at 901 Lawrence. TCDSB paid $22 million for the acquisition of yet another convent (the Sisters of the Good Sheppard) adjacent to Regina Mundi and Dante Alighieri High School. It has been utilized for “administrative purposes” for four years.

The 338 students at Regina Mundi will be moved next door in the Dante facility, after some upgrading. The facility had been labelled “decrepit” during the heated arguments in favour of demolition for the facility to favour Condominium construction on the Villa Charities site. The Dante Alighieri Site is apparently in great structural condition. Children from Regina Mundi will love it. No sarcasm intended.

Meanwhile, students at Dante, all 926 of them, will be relocated to Jane and Finch at the former Regina Pacis Secondary School site, 11.7 kilometres away. Transportation plan pending, and it will cost millions. Regina Pacis was constructed under a Hydro corridor in 1980 one of the reasons why it was later abandoned and designated for adult education programs. So far so good, Ms. Rizzo. Sarcasm intended.

Now, remember that “we are in the middle of contract negotiations”. The next item on the Agenda is the proposed levy on teachers and support staff for the use of parking facilities. The administration, citing a Labour Relations Board decision prompted by a Teachers’ Union complaint, recommends a withdrawal of the proposal in favour of placing it in the collective bargaining process. Cost? $6.4 million.

The Fire Department and Chief Inspector Lecce are readying to put out the flames of all those dollar bills being burned. At least Rizzo and her mignons at the TCDSB will be happy.

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