Posts Tagged York Region

York Board Sets Georgina Community Consultation For March 23rd, 2017

 

The York Region District School Board [YRDSB] has set its “community consultation” on how to fill the vacant seat in Georgina for March 23rd, 2017.  This is remarkably right after March break, when most parents are getting caught up on other things, and very little notification is being given out, so I’m not sure if this consultative process will be an accurate representation of Georgina as a result.

What the YRDSB is NOT telling parents and citizens is that any costs associated with t a by-election will not cost the tax payers extra money.  The board has a “contingency fund” it can rely on already factored into its current budget to pay for any by-election.  There would be no extra costs to the tax payers or the province.  Something board Chair Loralea Carruthers confirmed to Mind Bending Politics today in a phone call, and something that hasn’t been properly communicated to the public, by Carruthers and the YRDSB.

There are three options the YRDSB wants the people of Georgina to consider:

  1. Appoint runner up trustee from the last election Cynthia Cardova (Cynthia was the only candidate that ran against Nancy Elgie who resigned earlier last month).
  2. A Consultative appointment which will mean the board would appoint from a select number of candidates
  3.  By-election

Those that do show up should recognize that it is very difficult to remove an incumbent from a position.  So if the board appoints someone, we’re pretty much stuck with that person.  I for one prefer a by-election. I think the people of Georgina need to vet each candidate themselves, rather than having the board do it, and having a good selection of candidates running in a by-election will foster not only interest in the problems we have in our local schools, but also have our voice properly heard and represented at the board, than from some board appointee.  A lot of interest has been generated for this position locally as a result of Nancy Elgie’s resignation.  Choice is a good thing.

Interested residents are asked to go to Sutton High or Keswick High on March 23rd, 2017 between 7:oopm – 8:30pm to let the board know your choice.

 

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YRDSB Leadership Crisis Builds As True Cost of Trustee By-Election Not Known

YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers (right) Still Dealing with Massive Public Confidence Issues

This past week there was much indecision at the York Region District School Board [YRDSB] on how to fill former Trustee Nancy Elgie’s seat, punting the ball in an unprecedented move to the people of Georgina.  Trustee Elgie stepped down last month after being caught making a racial slur to a black parent in a meeting regarding systemic racism at the board.  The YRDSB has two options under law.  One is to appoint a trustee; another is to hold a by-election. Both options are being put to the people of Georgina in a “community consultation” process.

A report tabled on March 7th to the YRDSB listed the costs for a trustee by-election at a staggering $300,000. That may be an exaggeration Mind Bending Politics has learned.  In an e-mail to Mind Bending Politics, Georgina spokesperson John Espinosa stated that the estimate for the $300,000 that was provided to the YRDSB was a “very rough” estimate, and noted that the basis for the high costs was the 2014 municipal election in which was a full election of town council, school trustee, mayor, and not a trustee by-election. The breakdown of the by-election estimate provided to the YRDSB is displayed here.

YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers has been largely stating in media (page 7), that the approximate $300,000 is a lot of money to spend, and potential candidates for trustees would also be on the hook for thousands of dollars due to campaigning. Questions have arisen over whether the YRDSB is actively trying to deter the people of Georgina, and potential candidates away from the electoral process due to high costs.  In an e-mail to Mind Bending Politics, Carruthers replied:

I’m just speaking the truth – no agenda here.

It is unclear when the YRDSB plans on holding its consultations with the people of Georgina, or what form this consultation will actually take.  Several witnesses to last Tuesday’s meeting including some in media got the impression that these consultations will be in a town hall in person format, something Carruthers denied in her response to Mind Bending Politics when asked about the town hall style approach.

Carruthers stated to local media that the people of Georgina would have to fill a room in order to ensure that there is enough interest to justify the expense of a by-election:

With the board currently under investigation by the province as a result of a major loss of public confidence, can it be a realistic goal that the public will actually show up for a meeting like this in droves?  Realistically if people have lost confidence in the board itself, how can they not expect a low turnout for a meeting like this? An election is much different since campaigning and a good selection of candidates generates interest, something that is currently happening in Georgina’s Ward 1 by-election.

I’ve asked whether or not the costs of the trustee by-election to the Town of Georgina should be shouldered directly by trustees and staff (rather than taken from kids in the system) as a by-election would be seen as trying to regain public confidence in the board.  Carruthers replied:

I’m really not sure what this means.

When asked if appointing a trustee would be largely seen as sending the wrong message to the public regarding public representation, and public confidence at the YRDSB.  Carruthers replied:

I think we answered that [on Tuesday] by going to the public to ask them what they would like.

On the outside allowing members of the public to decide whether or not to appoint a trustee or go to a by-election looks to be a good idea.  On the other hand what seems to be transpiring is a lot of misdirection and misinformation to protect the board from criticisms over a decision to go to the polls, or to appoint.  If the YRDSB goes to the polls, then they are likely to get heat for spending any money on an election as a result of how current trustees have mis-spent tax payers money.  On the other hand if they appoint than it’s viewed as a detriment to the electoral process, and the democratic nature of the board.  What better way to avoid more controversy, than to punt the ball to someone else, in this case the people of Georgina.  That doesn’t really sound like leadership, it sounds rather representative of the protectionist nature of the YRDSB – a nature that has currently landed the board and all its trustees under a provincial investigation.

What’s even more troubling is that I sent Carruthers several e-mails to get her response on questions relating to the $300,000, and the by-election for this blog.  When none was offered I took to twitter, in which Carruthers told me she had not received any of my e-mails and asked that I delete any tweets suggesting she didn’t respond:

 

It seems to be clear to me there is no credible public representation at the YRDSB. Trustees have pretty much decided not to decide on how to handle the most basic of functions of democracy on the board leaving the decision to others to save the institution from more criticism – or worse – they are intentionally misleading the public on costs and manipulating a process to ensure a desired outcome of an appointment.

One thing is for certain though, the YRDSB seems to be in a lot worse situation that I had previously thought with its leadership. Can the board be justified whatever the outcome of this “consultation” is to appoint while in a crisis of leadership and public confidence?  Would anyone appointed be legitimate to their constituency under these circumstances? If an election is held, where will the money come from, and how much will it cost?

I have requested an accurate quote from the Town of Georgina regarding the actual costs associated with a trustee by-election, and I’ve asked Carruthers to provide me with an explanation as to why board staff have seemingly left out the fact the $300,000 quote was a very rough estimate, and essentially that the costs reflected in the $300,000 are the costs of the full municipal election in 2014.  I will post a follow up blog once I receive that information.

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Parent’s Plea To Stop The Bullying In Her Child’s School Goes Viral

yrdsb logo

(York Region District School Board Still Plagued With Accountability and Bullying Issues Seven Years After High Profile Rally)

 

Back in 2009, over 400 students walked out of their classrooms denouncing staff at Keswick High School’s decision to wrongfully suspend an Asian student who was the subject of bullying.  This incident in 2009 took the York Region District School Board [YRDSB] off guard and continues to be a black eye on the board regarding how not just Board Trustee Nancy Elgie handled the case, but how the bigotry and blind eye towards victims of abuse ran rampant in York Region Schools.  It wasn’t until media was involved and a public outcry, that Trustee Elgie (who’s profession is a clinical psychologist) and higher ranks at YRDSB actively got involved to correct the situation.  The Keswick High protests brought forth change in YRDSB policy, however not the attitude of the board to listen to students and parents.

Fast forward to 2016.  Seven years after the Keswick High boondoggle, there have been several reports that a school just blocks away is displaying again intolerance around bullying to the point where even the staff seem to be taking an active role in it.  Keswick parent Robin Legault took to facebook in horror, and desperation after feeling nothing was being done to correct her concerns by school staff and the YRDSB.  Legault stated in her facebook post, that she had complained to the school several times regarding the bullying, and staff gave her the cold shoulder:

My fiancé and I have repeatedly complained to the school about these issues in hopes the school staff would rectify this, but it seemed they would just ignore the problem and tell us they were “looking into it”.

Legault goes on to say that as a result of the relentless bullying her daughter tried to take her own life, not once but twice.  Legault was horrified to find out recently that school staff seem to be taking an active role in the abuse of her child.  Legault stated:

On Wednesday March 9th 2016, I was expecting my daughter to have had a really good day at school. I never had any phone calls or anything and was hopeful she had a rare, but peaceful day. Quite the opposite. When she arrived home, she told me that her special education teacher had prevented her to leave the classroom at all costs and also asked another teacher to “make sure she didn’t leave”. Her special education teacher was sending her down to the office and as my daughter asked why she was being sent, the special education teacher demanded her to do ten crunches in front of the class. Every time my daughter opened her mouth to ask what was going on, another ten crunches was added to make a total of eighty crunches that my daughter was forced to do before she left. She was escorted down to the office and remained there for the day. She was not allowed to read, do her schoolwork, or even draw while she was there. When my daughter was finally allowed to return to her special education class, my daughter was terrified to speak, as she didn’t want more crunches. In addition, her teacher told her that something must be wrong with her head and using anxiety and depression is just an excuse.

The facebook post quickly shared by thousands on facebook produced comments from across the country of support and similar issues with other school boards and staff.  Legault, is planning on a rally in front of Jersey Public School Monday March 21st, 2016 at 7:30am to denounce bullying problems at this school with the support of several other concerned parents. She is asking those that plan on attending to wear pink.

Legault has since approached Trustee Elgie, and the superintendent of the school only to be met with threats of a lawsuit from YRDSB, and dismissal of her complaints on staff.  According to YRDSB spokesperson Licinio Miguelo, upon a complaint from a parent on the conduct of school staff the board is supposed to initiate an investigation on the incident at the school.  There has been no indication or documentation provided to Legault that any investigation is ongoing regarding her complaint, just threats of a lawsuit against Legault’s family by the board, nor did Miguelo provide any indication of an ongoing investigation into Legault’s concerns.

Under safe schools legislation YRDSB is supposed to implement anti-bullying programs board-wide.  Miguelo wouldn’t comment on whether in Legault‘s case proper policy was followed citing privacy concerns, and did not have any specific information regarding what anti-bullying programs were in place at Jersey Public School at the time of the interview.  I was told the board would provide that at a later date. In 2010 the Ontario Auditor General found a total of $30 million $50 million in tax payers money earmarked for anti-bullying programs unaccounted for by all school boards across the province.

I spoke with Legault’s Trustee Nancy Elgie today on the record.  When questioning Elgie on the threatening behavior of the board, Elgie acknowledged that the board provided “legal advise” to Legault, and essentially called into question Legault’s story on facebook as being not truthful.  Elgie provided nothing to counter Legault’s claims, nor did she elaborate. Upon questioning regarding the bullying problems at Jersey Public School which is well known in the community, Elgie stated that she hasn’t heard of any systemic bullying issues from parents at this school, meanwhile there is documentation that shows Elgie was e-mailed by the superintendent showing systemic issues being investigated by the board on Legault’s daughters bullies in 2014. Legault stated that Elgie refused to get in contact with her in 2014, along with the superintendent that was copied on the e-mail thread.

When questioning Elgie if she would be willing to meet with concerned parents regarding the bullying issues at this school, Elgie agreed however offered that she would only be there to listen to concerns, and would not offer up any solutions to the systemic bullying issues at Jersey Public School.  Elgie did state however that she will be attending the rally on March 21st.

What saddens me from following this story, is that we just had a national discussion on bullying, to the point where the Federal Government in 2014 tried to address the issue through federal legislation.  The Ontario Government passed safe schools legislation years ago, that seems to be rather voluntary regarding the boards implementation of it.  The country, it’s people, and elected representatives are all on the same page regarding bullying, so why aren’t educators and trustees?

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Ontario Accountability Legislation MIA With Reports of Abuse Rising

During the Ontario election Kathleen Wynne made it part of her election platform to bring forth accountability legislation that would see greater public scrutiny and accountability of the public sector by expanding the Ontario Ombudsman’s powers to investigate wrong-doing.  Wynne was elected with a majority and the accountability act received royal assent on December 11th, 2014.  The act (also known as Bill 8) expands the Ombudsman’s powers to investigate municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, and law enforcement.

Several sources have written into Mind Bending Politics stating they have recently filed complaints with the Ontario Ombudsman’s office on the public sector, however the Ombudsman is still powerless to investigate. His office along with the people of Ontario are currently in limbo as to when the accountability act will come into force.  When approached over twitter Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin seems to have been left completely in the dark by the Ontario Government as to when this legislation is coming into force, and when to start investigating complaints.

Over the next few days, the Regional Municipality of York will spend a total of $15,000 of tax payers money on a luxury resort to hold secret budgetary meetings (which should be fully open to the public to begin with) while the region is currently in about $2 billion in debt.  This is precisely an example of the lack of public accountability on municipalities.

The accountability act is sitting on the desk of Treasury Board Secretariat Deb Matthews, while Matthews’ office figures out exactly how to implement it. Mind Bending Politics has reached out to Matthews’ Office for comment.  Ann Doose spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat did not offer any specific timetable as to when the act will come into force, however had this to offer:

Bill 8 impacts several other acts that are already in force and we are working on a timetable to proclaim the changes. We will be working with the Ombudsman and affected organizations to determine the best timing for proclamation.

Marin has responded to the government’s comments stating:

I look forward to the consultation and the proclamation. Operators are standing by.

The York Region and London Anti-bullying coalitions have worked with many concerned parents across the province regarding school board accountability, and they are also eagerly awaiting the implementation of the accountability act.  Karen Sebben of the York Region Anti-Bullying Coalition has stated that there is some uncertainty as to exactly how this bill will be implemented.  Sebben stated:

We have been communicating with the Ombudsman’s office and will continue to do so to gain clarity on what this means for education. While the government already has a process in place to deal with financial concerns in school boards, it will be interesting to see what Bill 8 will do that is different. Shifting investigation responsibilities with less power to affect change is something we are keeping our eyes open for.

Sebben added that both coalitions hope that the Ombudsman’s new powers (when implemented) will further extend to school boards to ensure student safety is taken seriously.

All Marin, Sebben and the people of Ontario can do is wait while this file collects dust on Matthews desk as municipalities like the Region of York, take full advantage of the delay in secret behind closed doors luxury budget meetings.

JK

Twitter: @jkoblovsky

Mind Bending Politics Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/mindbendingpoltics

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