Trustees in the TCDSB set aside policy and process for personalities and pettiness

di Joe Volpe del June 15, 2020

TORONTO - Life may be all about the art of compromise. But there is a fine line between compromise and hypocrisy. The first involves “pouring a little water in our wine” to make it “drinkable for all tastes”. The latter is about marketing sugar-added, artificial, grape-colored drink as “fine wine”.

Some Trustees at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) either cannot tell the difference or are genuinely confused about the product they are supposed to attempt to produce. They seem unable to keep their eye on the ball, so to speak.

That “ball” is the delivery of a Constitutionally mandated education system founded on the principles and values of a Catholic ethic. There is another publicly funded system available for those who do not subscribe to that same value construct. A third, privately funded one is available for those who want neither.

In all three scenarios, the Provincial government sets the required curriculum and standards of evaluation – performance standards. Boards of Trustees in local districts may add to that curriculum and dedicate resources to improve performance standards.

How they accomplish that presumably takes place after seeking information, debating reports, and making decisions. Codes of Conduct, derived from authority conferred under the Education Act, attempt to “guide” process to purpose. In the TCDSB, that Code of Conduct applies to interaction between and among Trustees and “petitions”/complaints registered by the public against Trustees.

Just how serious a problem the perception of transgressions against the Code of Conduct by Trustees might be was laid open for the public in Thursday’s virtual Board meeting. It was a marathon session that shifted from Private to Public then back and forth again until 2:30 AM Friday.

If the reader will allow this brief digression… we are in the midst of a pandemic which has closed schools since March - and for the foreseeable future - with no plans announced related to the preparations for re-opening (as in adapting to social distancing in a closed environment and/or disinfecting that environment); little, if any, teacher/student preparation for distance learning etc.

The main issue was the discussion of six-page legal opinion marked PRIVATE and CONFIDENTIAL on “Trustee Code of Conduct”. It is publicly available.

The Board had spent monies on the hiring of an investigator to research complaints (by the public and by trustees) and invested in an interim Integrity Commissioner simply to address the problem. It was apparent to this participant that not all Trustees had read the document prior to the meeting.

The soon-to-depart Director, Rory McGuckin, in answering a question from one of those Trustees said that there was a lot of confusion about how and who could bring forward a complaint. More importantly, the legal opinion was designed to address the “procedural fairness” issue in dealing with such complaints.

The legal opinion is replete with references like “vulnerable to challenge in Court via judicial review”. The lawyer/author is an outside “go to” solicitor for the Trustees, who, on the face of the written opinion is not afraid to remind trustees of their duties and obligations: either change the Code (and risk the consequences in reputational damage) or do your duty and fulfill your obligations under the Education Act and your own Bylaws. The choice would seem to be clear.

(tomorrow: sloughing off parents)


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