Rizzo’s Chaotic School Board: Her Colleagues Tethered on a Short Leash

di Joe Volpe del September 21, 2020

TORONTO - I ask forgiveness of my grandchildren. Thursday was their first day of school. I should have spent more time listening to their experience of the day. Out of the mouth of babes…

Instead, I subjected myself to yet another quasi-useless exercise, remotely related (no pun intended) to their education - a five-hour public meeting of the board of trustees at the TCDSB. And yet again, the presence of trustee Rizzo looms menacing like a cloud over a picnic in Alabama.

In fairness, some members of the Board and the Administrative Staff reflect genuine understanding of their role in the life of the children under their care. Their actions occasionally reflect an appreciation for the minimal expectations their Catholic parents have of the school system: a safe, clean, healthy environment; a sound curriculum and a formative (ethical) construct allowing for the development of well-rounded responsible future men and women.

Rizzo appears to have developed an immunity to such vocations. And she shares that immunity with her sycophants. After five months of inactivity, most school boards jumped into school re-openings with varying degrees of readiness.

The TCDSB must be vying for last place with the purveyors of the idea that focusing on the provision of few homeless shelters in Toronto will somehow restore the economy of Southern Ontario. We are still talking about education…

By the way, one of those shelters has been approved for operation next door to St. Michael’s Choir School on Bond Street - a hop, skip and a jump away from the Cathedral. The local Trustee, Norm Di Pasquale, says he only learned about it on August 20- 21 (like everyone else) but now it has 100% of his attention… whatever that means.

Impressed? On TCDSB Agenda items, he does not go to the washroom unless Rizzo gives him toilet paper, and then only if the NDP caucuses at City Hall or Queen’s Park provide a road map. It is an indication of how some of those trustees arrive at their decisions. They cannot, or will not, do anything unless Rizzo agrees.

As per Thursday evening’s meeting, 23,000 students – 25% of all students previously registered for attendance in the Catholic schools of Toronto - had opted for remote learning. Some of the explanations for the disorder beggar the imagination. Among the reasons for the chaos, one will surely find the inability of the Board of Trustees to authorize action on recommendations presented to them by Staff at summer “virtual meetings”, thanks to Rizzo’s belligerent bullying of the Board.

Last night, they had a golden opportunity to deliver a message to her bullying… and blew it. The Board, which had unanimously found her in contravention of Conflict of Interest guidelines and by-laws, had prepared “possible sanctions”, including a suspension from meetings for six months.

Just as the vote was being called, Ms. Rizzo’s “technology connections” to the meeting su.ered “a hiccup”. So convenient. Another 90-minute delay. Obviously, time well utilized by Rizzo to text back and forth with the mover of the Motion, Angela Kennedy, to mitigate the eventual impacts.

The ploy must have worked, Kennedy opted for the proverbial “caress on the wrist” to which all colleagues agreed: Rizzo has to complete a course within 30 days in lessons on how to work within those by-laws. She has operated in the public domain for decades; she is unlikely to learn in 30 days what she had ignored for 30 years.

Her first act after “exoneration”? The humiliation of her [Philippine] colleague, Garry Tanuan, before community and Consular o¦cials who had appeared in support of a Motion/request to have the TCDSB recognize the 500th Anniversary of the Christianization of the Archipelago and to host the opening ceremonies. Her message was clear: nothing happens here unless I give the ok. She clearly motivated a young student Trustee, also Philippine, to leverage against Tanuan.

The Philippine population comprises roughly 30% of the TCDSB’ student population. He wanted to have due consideration for the impacts of “colonization” – in Canada, no less.

As of Friday afternoon, a further 700 students opted to register for “online learning”. What a team!

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