September the best time to celebrate the new year

I don’t know about you, but for me, the holiday on January 1 is an anti-climactic event.  The real New Year is the day after Labour Day – the first day of school. Since I was five years old the first Tuesday in September has been the real beginning of the New Year!

Just compare the number of ‘resolutions’ you made this week to the trifling number for that inconsequential day in early January.

There is a freshness, an exuberance, a buzz about the first day of school that compares to none other, no matter what your employment or position.

I love that feeling!

So Happy New Year! May your days be filled with learning and good camaraderie…

Having said that, I’d like to look at the expectations of us all – teacher, student, parent, taxpayer.

Most of us want great teaching, exciting learning, after-school activities, clean, smooth-running schools, labour peace and probably most of all stability!

The schools are clean and ready for action. The full day kindergarten classrooms are completed.  Earl Haig’s three new classrooms made it by a whisker due to the fabulous efforts of our staff.  I am seldom lavish with praise but I am happy to say they were splendid.

The Board is working really hard to get the appointment of a new director as quickly and smoothly as possible.  Because of the sudden departure of Chris Spence, the usual process of retirements, promotions and appointments has been backed-up for seven months and all positions have had to be filled on an acting basis. It makes bureaucratic life a little difficult. We expect to have the new director  voted on by mid-September. Stay tuned…

This year’s work will be difficult and frustrating.  Our big task will be to deal with that difficulty and frustration without having a negative impact on the education of our children.

Beyond the director’s appointment, our first issue will be the 2014-2015 budget. This year we are starting to deal with it in October. From the out start, it is expected that the province will cut our funding again by probably $30 million – at least that is the prediction at this time.  Given the evidence of the last eight years, the formula and grant supports will arbitrarily be further changed to produce a shortfall of another $20 to $50 million. At least that has been the pattern in the past. This will happen despite raising enrollment.

I am so tired of public education being a partisan political issue. I’m tired of every larger level of government thinking it is okay to play partisan games with the next level down.

The federal government does it to the provincial government; the provincial government does it to both the civic government and school boards. And it is all partisan game-playing; buck-passing; responsibility-avoiding!

Sorry for the rant but we will be trying so hard to provide necessary programs and stay within our budget.  We have 39,000 employees, 420,000 learners (regular and adult), nearly 700 buildings, our students speak 150 languages, 52 per cent have a family income of under $48,000, 40 per cent of our kids go to school each day hungry and we have a budget of $3 billion. This is not a job for sissies or the partisan political wannabes.  The future of all those men, women and children are in the balance.

So at the beginning of each ‘New Year’ one needs to have a huge mound of resolutions and resoluteness. There’s work to be done and my sleeves are rolled up – let’s get to work.  Get engaged in the school in your neighbourhood.  Hold us accountable for the learning environment of all those people.

Sheila Cary-Meaghar is the Ward 16 trustee for the Toronto District School Board

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