Tough week, this one coming up

di Joe Volpe del February 19, 2020

TORONTO - “The Prime Minister is back in Town” – for a visit. Aboriginal thugs vow to continue to hold their community and the rest of us hostage. The Federal cabinet is using the language of surrender. The Ontario Legislature is “back at work”. Teachers have scheduled a province-wide strike for Friday. The Premier prepares for back-to-work legislation and a Budget.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce needs to find savings in the Education Budget of $31 Billion, of which $25 Billion goes to teacher salaries. Despite the rhetoric, on money issues, he needs to find $250 million to bring negotiations to a “happy ending”: they want 2% raise, he says no, 1% is fine. For every day that teachers strike, the Province nets a $22 million saving. So, they are not far oŽ the mark.

To help matters along, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) appears determined to show him that at least another potentially $80 Million (and more) is available to him. He simply needs to deny them the authority misuse those sums in their pursuit of “housing games” they call student relocations.

The problem is that the TCDSB not only “has money to burn”, it can’t seem to make decisions to start bonfires to keep warm. It starts with clear dysfunctionality between StaŽ and Trustees and percolates when fed by the animus among Trustees themselves.

This Thursday TCDSB will make decisions on “relocation/ not relocation” involving schools cited in a Report for Board consideration and approval on January 16, 2020. What appears to have prompted the latest round of nonsense is that eight years after having spent $25.48 Million (plus non-monetary benefits for five years for the original owners) to acquire Loretto Abbey High School, TCDSB finally moved to remediate the 90-year old building and make it fit for both teachers and staŽ to occupy.

At least three publicly available Reports dating from the sale in 2011, 2014 and 2017 conducted by engineers, environmental health experts and architects calling for action to remediate structural, ventilation, heating/air conditioning, mould and asbestos-related problems had been ignored. It would cost an estimated $30 Million to $42 Million to make the school truly operable as a High School said the 2017 Report.

Sources not authorized to speak on the record point to other “studies” that prompted Board StaŽ to recommend “urgent” action finally be taken: vacate the school in June and start remediation immediately. In a written response to the Corriere, the Chair of the TCDSB acknowledged that 223 students of the 924 registered would be graduating, therefore unaŽffected.

A temporary move to a school purchased at a cost of $30 Million – Nelson Boylen (unused even by the TCDSB, but a “gem” to be torn down and sectioned oŽ to real estate developers) - seemed like a good idea. It is virtually student ready. Except that TCDSB no longer behaves as a Catholic educator but rather as a nominally Catholic land speculator/developer. Its Chair when that 2019 Report was generated insisted that her pet project at the Playfair/Villa Charities site be included in the relocation plan: demolish Regina Mundi E.S. move the children into Dante Alighieri Academy provisionally and rebuild the latter, for no other reason than to “use up” the $34 Million allocated for dollars for her ill-fated proposal with Columbus Centre. Something that she had re-proposed two weeks after the Provincial election in June of 2018.

She moderated “a public consultation” meeting at Dante on February 10. In response to a question from a resident, Board StaŽ indicated that a reconstruction of Dante would now cost at least $11 million additional (total $45 Million).

Three hundred attendees (300 is a conservative number) gasped in disbelief. Not one intervenor supported her proposal. How would that help improve Learning? Who is profiting from this waste? They muttered.

For the failed Dante/Columbus Centre project Trustee Rizzo had caused the TCDSB to spend $23 Million to acquire the Columbus Centre for the purposes of demolition and a further $25 Million for the acquisition of the adjacent Good Sheppard convent for purposes undeclared.

Not a single student was provided with any additional educational benefits in the process. It is unlikely that Rizzo will announce her resignation.

On Thursday, the 20th the Board will vote on a “revised” Relocation Report presented last January 16. The Report repeats the rationale for its original proposal -especially concerning Loretto Abbey H.S. However, in response to a flawed “consultation process” attended by 56 parents, 50 of whom provided written responses to predetermined questions that “glossed over the health, safety, liability and structural concerns of the studies noted above, it recommends a “stay put” scenario for Loretto Abbey students.

Apparently, the substance on which the proposals are founded carry less weight than flawed, purposed consultation processes. TCDSB has become a horse-trading marketplace. On January 16, a senior Board official found the position and argumentation of Ms. Rizzo so repugnant that she stormed out of the chambers.

She may have to do so again to maintain any semblance of selfdignity. Or, Stephen Lecce will have to show leadership: place the TCDSB under supervision, seize the money and use it against cost for instructional staŽff.


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