YRDSB: Public Relations disaster in the making

di Joe Volpe del 17 January 2019

TORONTO - Louise Sirisko, veteran senior bureaucrat, now Director of Education at York Region District School Board, has her work cut out for her.

She was specifically selected after the Ministry of Education sent in a couple of supervisors to investigate the dynamics leading to the charged atmosphere at the YRDSB.

Mr. John Parrapally, the former Director, appears to be in litigation with the YRDSB, among others, regarding the financial losses for him resulting from his ouster/involuntary resignation.

He was on a ten-year contract. As at writing, the Corriere Canadese was not able to verify this independently.

Neither Director Sirisko, nor the Communications Director were willing to speak about the issue, preferring to direct us to Freedom of Information process or to the Chair, Corrie McBain.

The latter has not been able to return our call, and Tuesday evening left hurriedly at the close of the Board meeting.

This was a special, full Board, meeting convened to address a “few issues” of urgent importance, in both Private session and Public.

The Public session lasted a full 21 minutes before the Chair called for an adjournment motion.

Some 20 members of the public and Press (some of whom had registered to present delegations) were taken by surprise. As Trustees rose to leave, frustrations started to over-flow and anger mounted.

People had expected a re-opening of the Motion presented and passed on January 10 to proceed to a by-election, instead of the conventional appointment of the second-place individual at the previous election. The cost would be $177,424.34.

Board briefing notes for the January 10 meeting pointed out that on seven previous occasions, the cost factor dictated the appointment process. Trustees are remunerated to the tune of just over $22,000 per annum.

The one time the Board opted for a by-election, in 2017, public engagement was so minimal that the strong suggestion emerged that the YRDSB was correct in the previous seven instances.

For reasons that the Board refused to reveal at the meeting, the decision was made to go to a bye -election. There is a process to reopen the discussion, but it did not include Tuesday’s meeting.

Once adjourned, all trustees left the premises except for the four who voted against the by-election the previous Thursday (Cindy Liang, Dr. Elizabeth Sinclair, David Shurman and Elizabeth Tyrrel-Tracy).

Two returned for a very brief appearances as the Director tried her best to keep her composure and usher everyone out. Her repeated exhortations to “respect our process” were met with responses of “collusion” and not so veiled suggestions of cover- up and compromise.

If even a small fraction of what was being voiced is eventually proven accurate, the consequences will spill over to the Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson.

Meanwhile the Board are forging ahead, the nominations are open until March 11th and the election date is April 25th. So much for “urgency” of meetings.

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