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Premier Ford, here is an example of what Boards do (badly)

TORONTO – Toronto area school boards spent the better part of the last academic year drawing negative attention to themselves. The manifest disdain for process and jurisdiction at the Senior Staff level and the complicity of pliable Boards of Trustees has been toxic for publicly funded education.

One need only look at the Agenda for the Executive Committee of the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) to get a sense of the disconnect between the educational leadership and the parental response. Three topics for discussion and decision on the agenda will have you scratching your head in disbelief.

One. Will trustees allow a delegation in support of Catechism-based curriculum, as per the Constitutional denominational rights of Catholics? The Director, D. Scuglia, supported, or caused, the calling of Police on four separate occasions, last Spring, to provide protection for activists in the teachers’ union when they made “safe spaces” stickers for practices not consistent with the conventions of Catholicism an issue.

Statistics Canada figures suggest 0.03% of the population over the age of 15 may identify as non-binary. “Public” boards wilt under declining enrolment (in a period when Canada and Ontario are experiencing unheard-of levels of immigration). Private, religious and independent schools educate one in fifteen students in Ontario, 6.8% of the student population.

In York Region, three busloads (50 students per) of Catholic students from Woodbridge, Concord and Maple, board buses every morning to make their way to De La Salle and St. Michael’s, twenty kilometers away in Toronto. They alone represent $12,000 to $14,000 each in lost educational revenue to the YCDSB. The Board, under Scuglia, is running a deficit of $11.919 million.

Two. Director D. Scuglia, who oversees the board’s $615.342 million budget, had incurred the wrath of the Board and the Chair in May for a series of issues, including his unauthorized trip to Saskatchewan. The Chair, spurred on by a Motion presented by a colleague, wrote a letter asking the Minister to conduct a forensic investigation of the Board’s finances.

The morning after the Board meeting, Scuglia left for the airport with some trustees and a busload of senior students who had been selected via a nebulous process that also included the student trustees. Equally obscure was the procedure by which the participants were to be funded.

Tomorrow, the Executive Committee of trustees will deliberate the “commissioning” (swearing-in) of a new student trustee. Seems odd. The Education Act and relevant Regulations are “prescriptive” not permissive. Is there a connection? We’ll see later today.

Three. At the start of calendar year 2022, Trustee Theresa Mc Nicol made unfounded public allegations of a discriminatory nature against her colleagues of Italian background. Forty per cent (40%) of the population in Vaughn (and circa 30% in all of York Region) is of that same ethnic background. Mc Nicol neither withdrew her statements nor did she apologize. Four of the Trustees refused to seek re-election in disgust.

The Director dallied until Trustee Iafrate caused a Motion to be passed to prompt an investigation by a law firm that, until that point, had not been in an economic relationship with the YCDSB. Now, eighteen months after the initial offense, a report is in the hands of the Executive Committee.

At this point, we know only that the discussion will revolve around whether the Report will be released to the public. It should be a no-brainer.

From the left: Dominic Mazzotta, Maria Marchese, Maria Iafrate, Dino Giuliani and Rosa Cantisano (photos: YCDSB)

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