We publish a letter by Phil Hornak, a member of the TCDSB Parent Coouncils, which points out a series of issues that worry the families of students attending Catholic Schools in Toronto.
TORONTO – TCDSB staffing and contractors have been added and established to lay the cover deemed required in this less than genuine operation. The Parent Engagement Group, Integrity Commissioner and Social Media Group are excellent examples of these type of initiatives. Look and sound nice but facilitates what? How many parents are actually being reached by the schools or Board?
The school year has now begun and the establishing of CSPC’s and their Standing Committees across the school network is underway. Parents will be motivated to get engaged and do all those wonderful things these committees are intended to deliver for the student body and their schools.
The Parent Engagement Department held virtual Workshops the last school year reviewing CSPC By-Laws, Finances and the Roles of the Chairs and Co-Chairs and soliciting feedback from the parents that participated in the three workshops. CSPC’s are called to grow communication to and from the parents and to “empower and support parent learning that enables all children, regardless of their beginnings, to be provided with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school and in life.”
The TCDSB Parent Engagement Department has provided three excellently done presentations detailing By-Laws, Finance and Roles. The staff addresses items such as social media and fund raising in these documents. Nothing moves forward, even if it is part of the Board presentations, unless the school principals agree it can indeed take place.
The TCDSB has retained a third party to act as the independent Integrity Commissioner to police Trustees behaviour, to provide guidance and training related to Code of Conduct, social media activities and ethical conduct, and handle non-compliance complaints.
The issue being that the Integrity Commissioner is a Co-principal at Principals Integrity, a contracted entity, that reports to the Trustees.
This is in place because trustees do not report to the Director of Education. The Director reports to the Board of Trustees. The Integrity Commissioner is monitoring, evaluating, and investigating the individuals they report to at the Board and the cover is provided, and results are ineffective.
The Director of Education should be an elected official and the Integrity Commissioner role should be part of the Ontario Ombudsman duties to ensure integrity and accountability.
As it is structured now the appetite to deal with serious Policy and Code issues and parent concerns and complaints is lacking. The social media activity of several Trustees and their minions has also gone unaddressed.
The Policy says – “In all media communication, including social media, Trustees will treat each other, staff, and members of the public with decorum, dignity, and respect, and shall avoid messaging that amounts to abuse, bullying or intimidation.” Not happening across all Trustees.
The TCDSB Social Media Policy has been under discussion and being crafted for more than two years. As a result of its restrictions and requirements being in a constant state of flux the Board has needed to develop Guidelines that exist alongside the Policy. Neither of the documents have been effective in illustrating decorum, dignity, and respect.
The Board now has an expanded Communications Department headed up by a Chief of Communications and Government Relations that adjusts and interprets the Guidelines as required. No one’s actions ever appear to be in violation of policies or guidelines yet are meanspirited, accusatory and in more than one case untrue.
The Board, the Trustees and staff are there for the benefit of the students and their families and no other self-serving activities. Students and their Catholic education are two highlighted values – (1) Living our catholic values and (2) fostering student achievement and wellbeing. Let’s stay focused.
Member of the Parent Councils (CSPC’s)