Posts Tagged Desmond Cole

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

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(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:

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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.

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Ministry’s Hands Are Tied On The Racial Slurs Of Trustee Elgie

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(The York Region District School Board Acted To Protect Trustee Nancy Elgie From a Code of Conduct Review)

This week has been a very tough week for the York Region District School Board (YRDSB).  After Tuesday’s emotional meeting with parents, and bizarre apology for racial slurs by Trustee Nancy Elgie,  the Ministry of Education has appointed two investigators to come in and make “recommendations” on how to improve leadership and equality at the York Region District School Board.

Today, Ontario’s Minister of Education appeared on CBC’s Metro Morning to discuss the issues plaguing the YRDSB and did not commit to removing Nancy Elgie as a trustee after several calls from the community for her to step down.  One of the reasons why, is because the YRDSB treated the racial slurs coming from this Trustee’s mouth as a human resources complaint, rather than a code of conduct complaint thus protecting her from the accountability mechanisms that are in place to hold trustees publicly accountable under board bi-laws.

By treating this as a human resources complaint, her fellow trustees at the board can not hold Elgie to account on those racial slurs on code of conduct violations and neither can the Ministry of Education.  Nor can they speak publicly on it as a result of this complaint being confidential.  This is precisely the problem at the York Region District School Board who continually ducks from public accountability, and I fail to see how exactly trust can be instilled back into this institution without Elgie’s outright dismissal which is unlikely to happen as a result of her racial slurs.

Patrick Case, a University of Guelph political science professor is one of the two investigators the Ministry of Education has sent into the YRDSB.  In a recent interview Case stated:

“People need to look at the process as one that will take time. It’s not that the two of us are going to go in there and sprinkle pixie dust. What people should be looking for is steady progress, rather than a quick fix.”

What I think is likely to happen, is that these investigators will come in and provide “short term” solutions to equality.  However, for long term solutions the board and its trustees need to be held accountable if those solutions are to be solidified within the board.  Otherwise this “investigation” by the Ministry seems to be rather a public relations stunt by an unpopular premier looking to solidify votes in the 905 rather than acting on the issue of systemic racism at the YRDSB which requires that Trustee Elgie be held to account publicly under the Trustees code of conduct.

This isn’t just a YRDSB problem.  The school boards are set up as self governing with public representations and accountability.  If the public can’t hold a trustee to account under codes of conduct, than this is going to send a message province wide, that if you become a trustee in the school system, you can do and say what you want without fear of being held accountable.  That’s not a system that has the best interests of the children and communities they serve.  In fact this is and already has made our kids less safe as a result, and this systemic racism will stop short term, but it’ll be business as usual at the YRDSB a few months after the public attention has gone away.

No matter what these “investigators” recommend, if trustee accountability is not put forth regarding Elgie than those recommendations are meaningless and nonbinding.

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

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(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:

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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:

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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.

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