Archive for category Nancy Elgie

Epic Battle Ensued With YRDSB To Give Georgina Residents a Choice

 

One of the major issues facing school board accountability in Ontario is that when school boards appoint trustees, boards tend to favor appointees who are friendly with the board and tend to vote with the board.  In politics it’s extremely hard to unseat an incumbent, so many board appointees have somewhat of a leg up on other potential candidates during elections. Over the course of the past several months, the trustees at the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) have come under fire for misuse of travel expenses, appointment of an unprecedented multi-million dollar contract for a director of education, lack of transparency, loss of public confidence and a lot of infighting.

There has been growing calls to expand the legal roles trustees play in our public school sector to ensure broader public oversight of our education system, and on the flip side some are suggesting trustees have outlived their role and are vocally calling for the role itself to be abolished.  Whatever the side of the fence you belong to, this issue is likely to become a part of the provincial election next year, since the YRDSB is just the most recent board to come under fire over the past several years for misbehaving trustees, and board staff.

A few months ago I posted a blog regarding debates that were going on how to fill a vacant seat at the YRDSB as a result of Georgina Trustee Nancy Elgie resigning.  Since Elgie’s resignation I’ve spoken with YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers expressing concern regarding an appointment and that the people of Georgina need a choice.  There are significant issues that Elgie utterly refused to deal with.  Many of those concerns from constituents the Toronto Star bought up with Elgie over a 2 day interview with her and her family, in which hours after the interview Elgie resigned.  There were a large number of concerns the Star presented to Elgie regarding her representation at the board from her constituents and fellow trustees which a lot of Elgie’s supporters and her own family shrugged off as being partisan.

Carruthers admitted that she supported the by-election option back a few months ago, but the majority of the votes on the board were looking at appointing the only other candidate to run against incumbent Nancy Elgie in the last election which was Cynthia Cordova. The board, at the time this decision was going to be made, was under review by the province, and the board was concerned about public backlash as a result of that appointment.  So the board decided to hold a public consultation for mid-March with the people of Georgina and ask what they wanted.

What ensued looked very much like the board manipulating information and the process of consultation to try desperately seek the appointment of Cordova, rather than actually seek the input of the people of Georgina.

The first issue that was present was costing.  The Town of Georgina provided the YRDSB a “very rough estimate” of the costing of a by-election.  The estimate that was provided to the board by the town was the full costing of the 2014 municipal election, in which is headed on the report given to YRDSB staff.  The total cost of the full 2014 municipal election in Georgina was $300,000.  This includes election of town council, mayor, and trustee.  Carruthers during this time was all over media explaining that the board would have to spend $300,000 for a by-election.  Carruthers left out that the $300,000 was actually the full costing of the last municipal election in Georgina, and rather providing due diligence in ensuring accurate information got out to the public on the costing of the by-election, Carruthers ran to media with the $300,000 figure almost immediately. Weeks later, the town halved that figure to approx. $160,000 upon investigation by myself and curious editors at the Toronto Star.  Carruthers blamed inaccurate information by board staff for this mess, and she was just going by information the town provided her, which was titled “2014 municipal election expenses”.

Next up was this so called community consultation.  It was hastily done.  Parents didn’t get notification in some cases until hours before this “consultation” took place on where to attend ensuring that other potential candidates didn’t have time to rally their supporters, all the while ensuring an overall low turnout by holding this consultation essentially during March break.  I spoke with Carruthers to try and get this moved back a week to allow the public proper notification, which she refused.  The ballot asking people what they wanted in this consultation listed the net zero option of appointing Cordova at the top, second option was appointment of another candidate the board would select (costing for that was $60,000), and the final and last option was the by-election.  A lot of policy and law were included on this ballot as well which even for a policy wonk like myself was quite a bit, and should have been simplified for public viewing by the board.

While most living in York Region are somewhat used to this board pulling this type of thing and ensuring the voices of the public don’t actually get through, what is surprising is that all of this took place while the board was under investigation for losing public confidence for exactly that. All throughout this nonsense I was keeping the YRDSB reviewers informed of the situation.  I also consulted with a few legal experts I know well as a result of my time as a youth advocate in the policy trenches, some of whom stated that this situation could be precedent setting if the board had appointed, in that it would put into question the entire provincial school system’s legal ability to appoint, and quite possibly question the legal role trustees have – within what is supposed to be – a democratic institution.

I wrote to all trustees and CC’d the YRDSB reviewers (to ensure the public had access to my concerns at a later date.  Everything sent to the reviewers is subjected to freedom of information requests and a matter of public record).   Here was what I sent on March 17th, 2017 to all trustees:

I’ve been involved for many years working with the province as an advocate to further school board accountability.  In fact I was one of the main advocates advocating for the Ontario Ombudsman to have oversight over the school boards as a result of how dysfunctional the democratic nature of our Provincial School Boards are and how much at risk that is putting our kids in.  The following was sent to Board Chair Loralea Carruthers last night on my behalf.  I wanted to share this with all of you regarding the vacant seat in Georgina, and what the board has chosen to do, and how you have all handled this.  There will be consequences for ALL boards across the province if there is any decision to appoint anyone to this vacant seat:

In my time in the policy trenches both federal and provincially I have met and had the pleasure of speaking with politicians from all sides of the isle. Most politicians that I’ve had the pleasure of working with are very strongly committed to furthering democracy in their respected institutions.  I don’t know of any politician that would ever drop unvetted and unverified numbers on the public, and try and deter constituencies from any democratic process based on costs. Even verified numbers. I think the vast majority of those in both our provincial legislature, and our federal HoC would never do anything like that, since it would undermine the very fabric of democracy in those institutions in which they serve.  There is NO valid argument against any democratic process.
 
You are a good politician.  I know you care about the institution you serve, but I strongly believe the shortsightedness, or the inability to step outside your bubble, is one of the reasons why you are still a trustee. If anything, whatever this turns out to be, will be an fantastic case study as to why our public learning institutions shouldn’t have the legal ability to appoint. In fact you have my word, that if the YRDSB appoints in this circumstance for any reason, you will be the last board in the province to do so.  I can almost guarantee that.
 
Jason Koblovsky
Georgina Parent/Policy Analyst

Days later the ad-hoc committee tasked with this consultation delivered their recommendations to the board which recommended a by-election.  As expected a record low turnout, and those few that did were Cordova’s supporters asking for her appointment.  Publicly Cordova did state that she favored this community consultation process, however Cordova at the time of posting this blog was unavailable for further comment. Board Chair Loralea Carruthers will be at an event on June 12th, meeting with Georgina parents.

Why this blog, and why now?  It is important that all candidates know the issues present in trying to give Georgina a voice at the YRDSB.  I don’t normally get involved in local issues.  A lot of my advocacy around school board accountability was done at a provincial level, through provincial youth advocates and started back in 2009 during a high profile bullying incident at Keswick High and the responses – or lack there of – by the YRDSB and then Trustee Nancy Elgie.  The end result of that advocacy was the province agreeing to expand the Ombudsman’s investigative powers to school boards in 2015.

As a strong supporter of democratic institutions, I would rather see public voices return to school boards.  I would rather see openness and inclusion of the community in the board processes, and above all an end to protectionist behaviors of the boards, which have cost lives across this province and put even more children at great risk due to lack of accountability on the boards by those we elect to them.

Whomever wins this by-election in Georgina will have a very tough role going forward.  Not only will they have less than a year to turn this board around, and produce results for a community long forgotten, but post provincial election in 2018, they will most likely have to publicly defend the role of a trustee in the current school board system.  As a parent, I would rather have a say and my voice respected, rather than not have any voice at all.

JK

Advertisements

, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Serious Questions Remain as York School Board Trustee Steps Down

elgie2

(York School Board Trustee Nancy Elgie Tenders Her Resignation via Youtube)

Yesterday York Region District School Board [YRDSB] Trustee Nancy Elgie told her constituents via a Youtube video that she would be stepping down as a Trustee, months after uttering a racial slur by “mistake”.  In the almost 10 minute heavily edited statement on youtube, Elgie stated that the whole situation is a misunderstanding, and she didn’t mean to say those hurtful words to a parent in York Region. Elgie went on to say that there is no “sanction” under employment laws for trustees under which she was investigated and she felt was wrong (Elgie under the employment investigation was ordered to take “equality training” as a sanction). She also stated she didn’t resign immediately because she wanted this to be a teachable moment for the kids and the community.  I fully agree with this being a teachable moment for the community in Georgina, and also within York Region.

Over the past several months there has been a lot of questions as to why the York trustees chose to investigate this matter as one that suits “employment law” rather than the appropriate trustee code of conduct. By treating this incident under employment law, the board and its trustees effectively shielded Elgie from accountability measures that were put into place nearly 14 years ago by the Province of Ontario to deal with trustee conduct (who are publicly elected officials).  Trustees are NOT employed by the board. They are employed by the tax payers of this province and the YRDSB had no authority to make this matter one of employment law.

YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers (who is a defeated Liberal candidate in York-Simcoe and long time YRDSB trustee) posted up a statement after a tremendous amount of public pressure was put on the board to follow through with a code of conduct review on Elgie.  Carruthers stated:

The Education Act does provide Trustees with the ability to initiate a Code of Conduct complaint when a colleague commits a breach. The Trustee Code of Conduct process is complex, has limitations, must be conducted in private and its outcome is not always able to be made public. We are unable, under the rules that govern us, to even let the public know if we are proceeding with a Code of Conduct complaint. The process typically takes months, is expensive and, should a breach be confirmed, Trustees are limited in terms of what sanctions can be applied.

If the YRDSB followed through with a code of conduct complaint after Elgie was sanctioned under employment law, the board would have needed to take Elgie to court to argue the board erred in law and sanctions needed to be under the trustee code of conduct. This would have cost the tax payers and the board massive amounts of money had Elgie fought the board legally on this.

Under the trustee code of conduct, not much can be done to sanction a trustee other than short term suspensions.  Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was recently questioned on the lack of “teeth” in the trustee code of conduct, too which her reply was basically – we put that in over 13 years ago, and its better than nothing.  Last year the Ontario Auditor General found the Wynne Liberals gave a $22 million blank cheque to the school unions, and just this month gave teachers across the province a 4% raise.

The huge problem not just the YRDSB is having – but boards across the province – is protectionist behavior.  Protect their own, rather than be held accountable for their mistakes, which continues to this day even when the YRDSB is under investigation.  This should be of great concern to the tax payers of Ontario.

York trustees on February 13th, 2017, one by one urged Elgie to resign, effectively throwing her under the bus to protect the “institution” and once again tried to sweep the misconduct of other trustees who fought to wrongfully protect Elgie from a code of conduct review under the rug.  Wynne has stated in a presser earlier last week that the province has sent in investigators to the YRDSB to uncover why the YRDSB did not follow through with a code of conduct complaint, and to determine if other trustees are in violation of that code of conduct as a result.  Wynne also stated that the investigators she has sent into the YRDSB may make recommendations to the province in order to tighten up and properly sanction trustees around their code of conduct laws.

Now that Elgie has stepped down, the residents of Georgina need to ask themselves; is this cover-up of misconduct by Elgie at the YRDSB an isolated incident?  Over the later part of the week, the Toronto Star was in contact with Elgie, and her family for several days. Several of her constituents came forward to the Star regarding Elgie’s conduct as a trustee.  The Toronto Star over these several days questioned the family and Elgie herself on several situations where she was seen to be dismissive and non-responsive to concerns of the community.  In one instance the Toronto Star brought up:

“Desiree Makuto, whose son was videotaped being beaten and racially taunted by classmates in a high-profile incident at Sutton District High School in 2014, said she called and emailed Elgie for support, to no avail.

“She never did respond — she was surprisingly silent on the issue,” said Makuto. “… She had an obligation, a role to play.”

Elgie’s son Stewart dismissed the concerns of the community stating to the Star:

“these allegations are a disappointing attempt to re-write history and smear the record of a trustee who has earned consistent praise from her colleagues and constituents over the years.”

There was growing pressure for Elgie to step down over the past few months, and her resignation seems to have come following serious questions from the community she serves on her conduct, and leaves serious questions about the conduct of other trustees and the board in its wake.  If we are truly looking to reform the YRDSB, than we must take a good close look at the protectionist behavior these institutions are well known for, and why it’s been allowed to continue in law for so many years while the province has known about the problems of conduct, and developed legislation with nothing meaningful in play to stop it.

As a resident of Georgina in which Elgie has served and parent myself, one can only hope that the members of my community will elect someone who understands that the role of a trustee is to hold the board to account, knows the problems in our local schools, and can properly and effectively advocate for ALL in their constituency. A board meeting will be held on February 21st, 2017 to discuss whether the board will appoint a replacement or rightfully allow the community of Georgina to go to the polls.

, , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

The Circus That Is Our Unaccountable Education System Coming to A School Board Near You

wyneeblankbook

(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Likely To Read From A Blank Book On School Board Accountability)

Over the past few months, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) in Ontario has been embroiled in controversy surrounding governance, accountability, and racial tensions. The governing Liberal Party of Ontario promised to get to the bottom of these systemic issues at the YRDSB by appointing two “arm’s length” investigators to the board to look at recommendations on how to solve systemic issues, rather than using the independent Provincial Ombudsman who in 2015 was given the legal authority and jurisdiction to look at the specific issues the YRDSB investigators have been tasked to look at.  Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals who have a long history of throwing blank cheques at the education unions are all that serious about systemic change at the YRDSB which would require legislation with the ability to hold those in the system to account.

Two weeks into getting the investigation set up, the YRDSB investigators (Patrick Case + Suzanne Herbert), are already hearing from a staggering number of parents.  These two investigators appointed by the province seem to be ill-equipped to handle the sheer volume of complaints coming in, to which the province’s ombudsman would have been better equipped to handle.  I had a conversation with Patrick Case on twitter yesterday.  Here is that conversation:

case1

case2

case3

case4

Both Case and Herbert are widely connected to the education sector in Ontario.  Herbert was a deputy minister in Ontario, including deputy of education (way to close to government for my liking), while Case served as former trustee for the Toronto District School Board which has had its fair share of problems.  While I don’t question these investigators credibility to pin the vast majority of problems with board governance on YRDSB Director J. Philip Parappally and a few “rouge” trustees implementation of more equality training board wide, and quietly sweep this controversy under the rug to avoid any drafting of accountability legislation to deal with systemic problems province wide; I do not see how this investigation would be beneficial to the kids the public education sector serves. The only beneficiary to this investigation as it stands right now would be the education unions who have deeply embedded themselves in Wynne’s government.

Racial intolerance in any profession or work place is wrong, against our values as Canadians, and most importantly against our civil rights in the charter of rights and freedoms. One of the root causes for racial intolerance at the YRDSB is the lack of accountability on staff, directors, trustees.  It’s a symptom of a much larger problem in the province.  The lack of accountability in the education sector is province wide, and if we are truly looking to send a message that racial intolerance is not accepted in our public school system, than it is law and legislation with teeth that is needed to hold those in the education system to account, not non-binding “recommendations” from a rushed, arm’s length investigation.

A much better more responsible approach would be to slow down, allow the community to appropriately respond to identify systemic issues, and ensure that the investigation is done in an independent way, rather than recommendations that in the end will duck any real legislative accountability and favor political donors over that of our school children due to the closeness of the investigators to the legislative process.  To do otherwise would only serve to pass the buck to the next school board to have issues due to the lack of legislative accountability, and put more of our children across the province at further risk.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Head Injury to Blame For Racial Behavior At York Region District School Board

nancy-elgie

(York Trustee Nancy Elgie Blames Racial Slurs on Head Injury as Public Calls for Her Resignation Grow Louder)

The scandal ridden York Region District School Board met with emotional parents Tuesday night.  Many parents in York Region are concerned about the level of accountability the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) currently has in place, and presented the YRDSB with a petition asking for the resignation of one of its Trustees over racism allegations.  The YRDSB in recent months has been hit with several human rights complaints of systemic racism and bullying by staff members and students that are seemingly shrugged off by the upper ranks of the board and their trustees. Now the racism that was observed in one York Trustee is a result of banging her head on a foreign object according to official public records read in during Tuesday’s meeting.

At issue; York Trustee Nancy Elgie was overheard by several throwing out a racial slur towards parent Charline Grant who was confronting the board in a meeting in November last year (get this) regarding racism.

On Tuesday night, parents and media packed the school board meeting looking to confront Elgie and the Board regarding systemic racism and bullying the board is currently observing.  Elgie was supposed to be in attendance but wasn’t there for “medical reasons”.  A very bizarre apology letter from Elgie was read aloud by the board in which Elgie blames her actions and words on a head injury, prompting quite a few amusing twitter responses:

coletweet1

volpetweet1

zhoutweet1

During the meeting Tuesday night York’s Director of Education J. Philip Parappally walked up to the Grant family, and apologized.  This family has been at several of these meetings since November, and I find it extremely interesting that it wasn’t until the cameras were present that the director actually engaged.  Prompting this tweet from Newstalk 1010 host Desmond Cole who was at the meeting:

coletweet2

Considering that Parappally is on the public pay roll for the next decade with a handsome salary no one seems to have vetted publicly, you would think he would meet with Cole to discuss the issue of racism, bullying and student safety.

Trustee Elgie is also my trustee.  I’m a resident of Georgina, and I have been following the lack of school board accountability regarding racism since the 2009 Keswick High indecent. I have been in contact with  Elgie several times over the years on several concerns I’ve had with the York Region District School Board’s implementation of the “Safe Schools Act”.  The safe schools act is legislation that was put into place to help curb bullying and racism in Ontario schools by the province.  Currently the Ministry of Education does not audit boards for compliance with this legislation nor tracks each boards programs to ensure the money is actually being spent on successful projects.

I have found Ms. Elgie to be rather combative and dismissive of several concerns I have brought up to her over the years regarding the conduct of the board and following through with proper legislation and law regarding safe schools legislation.  I have heard from several parents locally here over the years, even wrote about one instance around this time last year where Elgie refused to respond to complaints within the system, often leaving parents and students to fend for themselves.

In the complaint I wrote about last year, Elgie in an interview for this blog and on the record blamed the parent for lying with no evidence to back that allegation up. She refused to fully look into the situation and provide any sort of advocacy on this family’s behalf towards the school board and work towards any type of solution when questioned. Elgie stated eventually stated she would meet with the parent at a scheduled protest, but never showed up.  This is something that over the years seems to be a common theme with Trustee Elgie.

In one instance while I was questioning Elgie on the Keswick High situation in 2009,  Elgie claimed on the record I was bullying her when requesting a full break down of the boards budget around the Safe Schools programs supposed to be implemented by the board under legislation to fight acts of racism and bullying.  As a result she would refuse any further requests for that information and completely cut off any communication with me on the subject. The board quoted close to $900 for that information through freedom of information, which is why I had approached Elgie on trying to obtain this information since it should be publicly available on the boards website.  To this day a full and complete break down of the money allocated to safe schools and tracking of those programs is still not posted on the boards website.

A trustee’s job is the public overseer of the school board.  They are there to hold the board accountable on our behalf.  Too often than not I hear from parents across the province where trustees turn into lap dogs for the school board. That can be clearly observed at the YRDSB, when just last year trustees voted to approve an unprecedented 10 year contract and a 40% wage increase to their current director Parappally, after only being on the job for a year and a half. Not one board across the province as granted a decade long contract, let alone a contract of any length to a director that has been on the job at that length of time.

Last year it was also revealed that Trustees at the York Board took advantage of traveling overseas at the expense of the board with little to no value added for those trips.  The Ministry of Education put a moratorium on York Trustees travel expenses and just a few months after that was lifted, Elgie took her 3rd trip to Finland and was unable to come up with any benefit the trip had towards the board when questioned by media.  The systemic racism that parents have been reporting to their trustees, as well as trustee expenses are now currently under investigation by the Ministry of Education.

It’s almost a full circle. Parents for many years have had to sit and watch as this board protects its image rather than the children within it.  As parents have sat helpless in bringing in accountability and change to a board that puts its public image above everything else, the YRDSB now looks at Elgie and the damage she has caused to the reputation of the YRDSB. The longer Elgie stays on as a trustee, the more and more damage is done to the Boards reputation, and there is nothing meaningful enough the Board can do to force that accountability on Elgie to save its own reputation from this women. It’s Elgie’s lone choice to resign or not.  How fitting for a board who is obsessed with its own image over that of the safety of its students, to not be in the position to control the public perception of it.

, , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: