Schools which forget that
their priority is to teach children

TORONTO – From words to deeds. Since the work of three school trustees of the San Francisco School Board left something to be desired, the residents of the city decided to relieve them of their duties. Their wrong, according to the citizens, was to have given space to “wrong priorities” and to have “put progressive politics before children”.

The revocation of their mandates, as confirmed by the San Francisco Department of Elections, was overwhelmingly decided in an extraordinary election. “Voters in this city have conveyed the clear message that the school board must focus primarily on the important issues to ensure a well-run school system,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

Breed, who praised the parents saying they “are fighting for what matters most: their children,” will now appoint the trustees’ replacements who will remain in office until another election to be held in November.

The board has seven members, all Democrats, but only three could be removed: school board president Gabriela López, vice president Faauuga Moliga and commissioner Alison Collins.

But despite opponents calling the decision a waste of time and money, the students’ parents were adamant. Their frustration has risen exponentially since January 2021 due to the slow reopening of district schools: the priority of the Board was instead to rename 44 school sites including those that bear the name of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

“The city of San Francisco has raised its voice and decided that it is not acceptable to put our children in last place – said Siva Raj, father of two children – it will not be speeches that will instruct our children but actions. It’s not about a symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name of a school, it’s about helping children inside the school building to read and study mathematics.”

The complaints of parents across the border make us think that after all the whole world is a country and bring to mind those experienced daily even here in Canada in a public school system that engages in battles that have nothing to do with the academic preparation of children. Mathematics, English, history, science and the list can go on, are the core subjects of the school curriculum.

But now teaching seems to take a back seat: it does not matter if children do not know how to count, they barely read and grammar is for them something that belongs to another planet. What matters, for school trustees are the social battles that at school are like having cabbage for a snack.

In the school system of Ontario, and Toronto in particular, in recent months trustees have focused their attention on issues light years away from the true essence of the school. An example? Trustees from the Halton Catholic District School Board have discussed at length the advisability of waving the Pride flag in its Catholic schools. Safety plans for Covid-19, the difficulties of distance learning, the two years of lessons discontinuous – or rather the time lost by the children as regards the study program – are not taken into account. To lose out, after all, are only the children.

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