Corriere Canadese

TCDSB, Villa Charities: Institutional Arrogance and Life’s ironies

Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher
One sometimes wonders about the value attributed to some of these locally-elected Boards, Institutions or “mini governments”. They are supposed to be responsible and accessible to very local or task specific goals – therefore very democratic and transparent.
If the meeting of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) held June 15 is any indication, it goes a long way to explaining why successive Provincial governments have been openly musing (and threatening) about the desirability for One, single Board of Education. Or, at the very least, combining public and separate schools under one roof.
But first, let me acknowledge that there are many decent, dedicated and upright individuals who consider community service and careers in education as a vocation, not simply as a job. The TCDSB rightly recognized some that night. How it handles urgent and pressing matters that weigh on its mandate is a little less clear.
One delegation came forward with what it claimed was documented evidence of racial discrimination in a specific school, committed by none other than a staff member. A similar situation earlier in the year at the York Region School Board (YRSB) prompted Ministry inspectors, public protests, resignations and lawsuits or threats thereof.
The Chair in this instance advised the delegate not to name individuals or to provide any telling indicators that might reveal identities. The Board proceeded to “receive and refer” [to Staff for further study and subsequent report back]. When? No earlier than next September. Maybe it doesn’t carry the same weight as the incident at the YRSB. 
Another delegation was perplexed at the fashion in which decisions had been reached in respect of a family of schools when Staff reports had never mentioned the option chosen – one seemingly contrived and selected after the Board had voted in favour of another.
The delegation, dismayed and disappointed, wondered, understandably, whether the appropriate recusal had been exercised by the local trustee whose economic interests may have been potentially enhanced by the decision. The Chair cautioned the delegate against identifying the subject of the veiled allegation. The Trustee was in the room.
Again, the matter was voted “received and referred”. The TCDSB seemed unfazed by the fact that last year their co-terminus Board, the TDSB, had experienced internal upheaval and public discredit after similar issues (among others) surface in their regard. The TCDSB will not have been unfamiliar with that scenario given that it had, itself, been placed under Ministry supervision, not that long ago, for practises that included similarly questionable conventions.
But, Life is a Life-long Learning process, so to speak..
A third delegation, appearing in order to advise the Board on the Italian Community’s (and others’) position on the massive Construction Project envisioned for the South-West corner of Dufferin and Lawrence Avenues – because it hinges on a shared-used facility with a TCDSB school – was met with what can best be described as aggressive badgering and hectoring by yet another Trustee.
The lead-off speaker, a retired University professor and one of the original founders of the Villa Charities, a community organization now turned Developer, remained – to his credit – cool, calm and collected. He had come to offer his perspective for the Board’s consideration, as is his right and duty as a citizen, even if the Trustee had difficulty grasping the concept.
The Professor’s two colleagues - a lawyer and a former MPP – followed with valiant presentations imploring the TCDSB to re-assess the project on technical matters and on its socio-cultural impacts. In vain, on the face of it, even as the local trustee, Maria Rizzo, tried to salvage a smattering of respect for well-intentioned citizen delegations.
The Board voted to “receive and refer”. Their mind was made up, so to speak.
Ironically, the very next day, as reported by the Corriere Canadese, the Minister of Education sent the Chair of the Board a letter outlining the government’s position. In brief, its contents signalled the withdrawal of the Ontario government’s permission to proceed with the joint-use facility. Moreover, it reminded the TCDSB that it cannot proceed with capital projects without the expressed written consent of the Minister.
And, that is not coming anytime soon … so to speak.

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Joseph Volpe

Joseph Volpe

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