Photo: Don bosco Secondary School - now closed by TCDSB
TORONTO - Bet you did not know that the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Mission Statement is to “educate students to grow in grace and knowledge and to lead lives of faith, hope and charity.” Nothing in the statement or its vision does it mention reading, writing or arithmetic.
Arcane and irrelevant skills, you say, in the modern world of twitter, Instagram, selfies or other things that matter… like Educational Developments Charges, or transparency, for example.
The valiant group trying to save the Columbus Centre from the Wrecker’s Ball, a.k.a. Villa Charities Inc (VCI), are puzzled as to why the TCDSB would partner with such a group, whose public relations/consultations tactics would have made the Cold War Era USSR’s state-run Pravda proud.
Money might be a motivating factor. Let’s go back to arithmetic. Toronto’s hot demand for Condominiums is prompting Developers to seek permits at a rate of more than 15,000 units per year to satisfy the demand. The TCDSB is authorized to levy an Educational Development Charge of $1439 on each one.
If you are counting, that would be $21,585,000 - annually. Of course, the numbers are estimates and rounded, but it is “funny money” for the TCDSB in the sense that, like all other Boards of Education, it already gets full funding from the Ministry of Education for educational services it must provide students.
As a developer preparing for a construction project, you would want to make a first call to the TCDSB. To be more specific, its Corporate Affairs, Strategic Planning and Property Committee.
The TCDSB is a ready-made “lobby group” to influence local ratepayers through their parent committees, and there is “something extra” built in for them. At the Columbus Centre demolition project, for example, there would be land freed up for 3000, units according to the proposal put forward by Villa Charities to the Planning Department.
That would net a tidy $4,317,000 for the TCDSB. How much more if they rent some unused space on the first floor of Dante Alighieri Academy (described by Trustees as “dilapidated and decrepit”) to the Day Care run by VCI, during the demolition process? Their record as a “caring provider” is spotty anyway.
Dante was supposed to be overcrowded at 1300 students – another justification for demolishing the Columbus Centre and building a new facility with VCI. Its numbers have dwindled below 900. Even the number of students enrolled next door at Regina Mundi in September fell well below those anticipated only last June.
Maybe the TCDSB can bus in students from other schools [under stress], like St. Charles. Or Don Bosco S.S., which they just closed because of insufficient enrollment, despite its beautiful theatre and “state of the art” equipment. Who is the Trustee there?
Let’s continue with arithmetic. TCDSB bemoans its “overcrowded” schools, pleading for additional funding to expand or build more. Yet, it boasts an increasing number of International students (VISA children, primarily from China) – 1300 according to the Board, 1800 according to sources who speak on background.
Each of those students nets the TCDSB a minimum of $14,000 ($18.2 million, if one sticks to the lower number) annually, because they fill available inventory - empty classroom space so that no new teachers need to be hired.
TCDSB claims that these students do not form part of the overall numbers reported to the Ministry for granting purposes.
What to do with all that money? “On June 8, 2015, the Corporate Affairs, Strategic Planning and Property Committee approved the terms and conditions for the acquisition of a 3.467-acre portion” of  Lawrence Ave West, thus paving the way for a joint facility between VCI and TCDSB.
That parcel, valued at $22 million, according to sources within the TCDSB speaking on condition of anonymity, includes the Columbus Centre.
When asked “if the TCDSB owns Columbus Centre”, Trustees replied “No”. Aldo Cundari, Chair of the VCI has allegedly threatened legal action if the TCDSB does not close the deal.
The Corriere has yet to obtain a copy of the letter in support of that claim, and Mr. Cundari did not immediately respond to queries by the Corriere.
Meanwhile, back to arithmetic, test scores for math by students at the TCDSB, according to a provincial testing organization (EQAO) and reported in the Corriere, rank below provincial averages and those by children in grade six at St. Charles and at Regina Mundi, part of the redevelopment Reimagine campaign, are among the worst.