Province is keeping school board from doing its job

Lord, love a duck, what a year!

Five months ago we trustees took our oath of office with a spirit of cooperation and fellowship – 11 new trustees and 11 incumbents. A good mix for a new beginning. Enthusiasm ran high and people were full of hope and new ideas.

Then BAM!!! The province swept in with an “investigation” of the Board.

We really believed the election had purged the board of the really toxic personalities and that we were starting fresh. We really were starting afresh.

Since Dec. 8 we have been asked for justification for the actions of the previous board with no time to actually begin again with new people and new ideas.

I know this sounds like whining, and maybe it is. But it is also a cry of frustration at not being able to do real work, to create policy, to try to fix our problems, to concentrate on the needs of our students, the problems with our buildings, and the issues of inequity in our neighbourhoods.

I am a person of boundless optimism and energy. I have been forbidden to have an assistant to deal with 80 to 100 emails a day and countless phone calls and parent contacts. I work a 12-hour day and cannot keep up. I have a budget to hire an assistant but am forbidden to do so by provincial directive. No trustee is allowed to hire an assistant except from their own pocket. Our salary is $25,500 a year.

How can I serve your children? I haven’t been able to do a school visit since October.

On April 28 I held a community meeting about a land swap with the city. A trade of land at the old racetrack for Pantry Park. It was, I thought, a really good news story. Kew Beach Public School, which is in need of more play space, would have use of the park during school hours and the rest of the time the park is just a park for everyone.

It got contentious because I was so busy I didn’t do what I should have done and call a community meeting to discuss it. Had I been properly tuned in, I would have called a meeting six weeks ago and prevented a blow-up but I was so distracted I didn’t do my job.

It was an awful meeting full of angry citizens who felt that we were trying to pull something over on them. A year ago this would never have happened because I would have been on top of the issue. They deserve better from their elected representative but I just don’t have the time to do it all alone.

Part of my job is the protection of people’s democratic rights. Not just the running of the schools but also keeping the faith of the people who elect me. I dropped the ball and I am on the edge of not being able to do the job I have been doing for almost 30 years.

None of us is able to keep up. Every one of my colleagues is running flat out and buckling under the work load.

We brought in a balanced budget despite more provincial cuts and have handled every challenge the province has thrown at us – on time and on budget.

Our reward was to have a second provincially-imposed make-work project.

Three months into the four-year term we have been told to look at ways to break up the board because we are too big – like amalgamation was our idea! We did not ask for amalgamation and neither did you. It has taken us 18 years to get things working.

I fought amalgamation with all my heart and energy. It was a terrible act by the provincial government of the day. It has disrupted education in this city horribly. It was a shotgun marriage of six wholly different cultures and histories.

And now just as we are coming to grips with the organizational structures needed to do the job, just as we are starting to come together as a board, there is the threat of a new disruption. Now that we are starting to build structures to deal with our rising child poverty and insufficient funds we are to be thrown back to square one to build a new system, again!

Is this any way to run a school system? Are we not supposed to be focused on the education of a generation of young people? The citizens of tomorrow? Should our attention not be on levelling the playing field for the disadvantaged and instilling the love of learning in 250,000 lovely, eager minds?

If the TDSB is too big to function well, what about the Ministry of Education, which is trying to micromanage 72 boards and care for 2,000,000 children across the province from Queens Park? How do you think they are doing?

Are you impressed with their implementation of full-day kindergarten? Are you impressed with their implementation of the new sex education curriculum? Are you happy with the way they are handling the funding of building maintenance – where we get 1/20 of the dollars for 1/8 of the children? What do you think of the cuts to special education? How happy are you with the negotiations with the unions?

They run it all. Are you impressed? Well I’m not!


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