A look at the state of public education in the East End

School has begun again and there is enthusiasm and excitement and an anticipation of learning. I am told by those who have had way more experience than I, that the desire to learn is imbedded in a child. They hunger to learn. While there are some who do an interesting job of disguising that longing, I do believe that all children want to know and grow.

I always hope that we as adults don’t interfere too much with that passion.  That we feed those hungry little minds with the beauty of knowledge…

Last year in the top half of the ward – from the Danforth north to the ward boundary – a Program Area Review Committee (PARC) was struck to review enrolment projections, grade configurations, building design, etc. of each school.  PARC Committees included representatives from the Board, the school and the parent community as well as a resident in the neighbourhood.  Committee members met on a number of occasions to discuss the data provided and to develop options which would best address the specific needs of each school. These options were then shared with all school and community members at public meetings.  Comments were noted, surveys were collected and final recommendations for all Ward 16 schools north of the Danforth were presented to the Board for approval. As one might expect, a few minor changes and adjustments were suggested but ultimately, the final recommendations made by the PARC Committees were approved, unanimously. As a result, some of these schools will become K-8 schools, some schools will make no changes and one school will make a program change but will not cease to be a local school.

This fall, we will begin the PARC process in the south half of the Ward – from the Danforth, south to the lake. I expect that this, too, will be an interesting process…one that will certainly not be dull!

This past year has not been one of the Board’s most sterling. The budget was a disaster, the facilities disclosures were depressing, and the Provincial take-over of all School Boards’ negotiations is deplorable.

First, I feel the need to apologize to you all for a big mistake that I made earlier this year.  On June 13, I voted for a motion that did away with regular classroom Educational Assistants (EAs) without realizing the full implications of that decision.  Had I better understood the fallout this decision would have for schools not yet included in the Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) program, I might have been able to craft a motion that would have kept EAs in those schools until the FDK program came to them. I didn’t, and once done there was no going back.

Also in June, The Star did an exposé on dreadful mismanagement practices within the Facilities Department of the TDSB. I was delighted!  For the past eight years I have been trying to get people to take this mismanagement seriously.  However, there is a fault with The Star articles, they have covered only the union part of the scandal. In my opinion, if employees are acting inappropriately or illegally or dishonestly, one must look to their managers. No employee can slack off, overcharge, misappropriate funds or materials, or in other ways waste time, money, or goods, without the tacit consent of their immediate bosses.

The Facilities Department is now undergoing a thorough audit and, in a very short time, we should know the full extent of the mismanagement. I beg of you, as taxpayers, to make a mighty roar for the disclosure of that information. You, as citizens, have every right to know what was done, who did it, and what the consequences will be. If heads should roll, that should be public.  I am sick to death of dishonest and dishonourable conduct being swept under some carpet while things are allowed to continue, unabated, in the old manner.

I promise you that I will do everything I can to disclose any and all wrong doing at the earliest possible opportunity. Please hold me to this promise!

Finally, it’s déjà vu all over again. Not for 10 years have we begun a school year in such turmoil – not since Mike Harris left office.

I wish I could tell you exactly why this state of affairs was necessary. I can’t. However, what I can tell you is that the provincial government has total power over our education system, and that the agenda they want to deliver is doable without all of the theatrics we have witnessed over the past few weeks. Lord knows no school board in the province, either individually or collectively, could stand in their way.

As I write this before school began on Sept. 4, I expect that all went off without fireworks by any TDSB employees. I lament the fact that this government, which has mandated that school boards implement a pile of anti-bullying policies, should chose to behave like unabashed bullies themselves.

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