TORONTO - Out of deference to the Trustee’s request, I will not name the school community. It is after all a laudable collective of parents (and teachers) who, necessarily, have the interests of their individual children and their schoolmates at heart.
I counted representatives from 30 families and teachers. In some cases, there was a companion or partner/spouse.
Convened by the local trustee, they had come together expecting to hear proposed solutions to a problem not of their making. To wit, the introduction of 8 children with severe behavioural issues from outside the community into their school.
No advance communication. No preparation of staff. No indication to the host parent community of the challenges they and their children might have to address. No indication of strategies and tactics to be employed. No explanation of how to respond in moments of “stress”. No indication that anyone took into consideration the additional stress they were placing on the “behavioural” children who themselves now had to adapt to yet another set of unknowns.
What they got instead was a noxious dose of smarmy, condescending, dismissive stonewalling by senior school board bureaucrats who long ago lost sight of the “vocation” aspect of their “career”.
Oh, to prove they went to school to learn about educational philosophy and social behaviour, they fashioned a seminar presentation (laced with slang) as supporting resource for the “lecture” they had come to deliver to “recalcitrant” parents. As if these did not know any better.
There were lawyers, accountants, managers, teachers, business owners (large and small) and community activists in the room. All capable of understanding the responsibilities and obligations of a public body towards the clientele it is supposed to serve.
If only the Board officials had prepared for the meeting. The Associate Director for Academic responded was that they would study the matter and get back to the community. He needed to be pressed to come up with a date. The Board needs to investigate, he repeated.
For the last six weeks at least, the principal, the Superintendent, the Director and the Trustee have been inundated with calls of concern by parents, and he still needs to investigate.
Children in the host school are “terrorized” by the behavioural students to the point they will not go to the washroom, hide under desks or crowd together. Too frequently, the teachers are devoting most of their attention to the disruptive behaviour generated by the behavioural kids, to the point that their instructional responsibilities to others in the class is reduced considerably.
Parents are “horrified” at what is happening to their kids’ conduct and language. Morale is at a low ebb. The Head Social Worker, who attended as a “resource”, felt he needed to express regret that the parents present were not more charitable in their understanding of the difficulties of the students the Board was trying to “integrate”.
Poppycock. He had no right to make parents feel guilty for asking whether Board officials, with all their expertise, had done their homework in preparing students, parents and teachers for the tumult that has ensued.
On the evidence, they had not.
Parents were and are right to ask for a plan of action. They pressed, and got a commitment to deliver some options at a subsequent meeting to be held in two weeks time.
Hoping that matters would not deteriorate further in the interim. It is a strange position for TCDSB spokesperson to find themselves.
There is growing pressure from the wider community and from within Legislative circles (of all political persuasions) to abolish Catholic School Boards. Some of those bureaucrats who exude “careerism” over “vocation” might be well advise not to alienate natural allies.