Monthly Archives: April 2015

Promoting Fix Our Schools made easy

If you believe that a large group of connected people all asking for safe, well-maintained schools can be a powerful mechanism for change, then please help Fix Our Schools grow to 1,000 subscribers by June 25!

Here is a note that you could simply copy and paste into an email to send off to your networks and your school council:


If you are frustrated by the disrepair in our children’s schools, you may be interested in the parent-led grassroots campaign called Fix Our Schools ( that is focused on addressing the $3.3-Billion repair backlog in TDSB schools. I hope you will check out their website and consider joining the Fix Our Schools mailing list to stay informed and find out how you can help. Visit: to subscribe and you can also find Fix Our Schools on Facebook:

Since launching on Oct. 29, 2014, Fix Our Schools has built a subscriber list of over 500 people across Toronto and aims to grow this to 1000 by June in an effort to create a large, connected group of people all asking for the same thing:

  • safe, well-maintained schools (who can argue with that?)
  • public schools funded as an integral part of our public infrastructure – on par with roads, transit and healthcare

Here is a one-page document that outlines more about the Fix Our Schools campaign and here is a sample e-newsletter from Fix Our Schools: so you have a sense of what you’ll be receiving when you sign up at: . Please share this email with other people in your networks!

Thanks for you help,

Minister Sandals & Barbara Hall both respond on April 22

Fix Our Schools received  this letter from Liz Sandals in response to our letter of April_13.

We received an email from Barbara Hall, Chair of the TDSB Governance Panel, on the same date as the letter from Liz Sandals, which read:


Thanks for your message, and for participating in the consultations on the TDSB. Our mandate was set by Minister Sandals, and it is to consult with the public and make recommendations to the Minister with respect to possible structural and governance changes within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). We will also explore the impact potential governance structures may have on operational decision-making at the TDSB for the Minister’s consideration.

Provincial funding for education is not in scope for the panel’s work. As you know, Margaret Wilson recently wrote a report to the Minister in which she expressed serious concerns about the culture of the board. In her report, Margaret Wilson identified that the TDSB, as a whole, has not worked effectively together to act in the interests of all students of the board. Effective, transparent, and accountable governance is essential to the success and well-being of students, and our panel is focused on making recommendations to the Minister that she will consider to help the TDSB move forward.

 We are consulting with the TDSB community – with parents, students, staff, trustees and other community members – to hear the best ideas and advice on how decision-making at the TDSB can be improved.


Barbara Hall

Barbara Hall’s email was in response to our email of April 14, 2015:

Hello Barbara, Richard, Briony, Vicki, Patrick, Shirley, and Jennifer –

After attending last night’s consultation, I am writing on behalf of the Fix Our Schools campaign to urge you to please include the topics of funding and the Provincial government’s role in governance in the remainder of the TDSB Governance Advisory Panel consultations. It has come to our attention today that this panel has the authority to expand the discussion to include these important topics.

The definition of governance given at the first consultation was: PROCESS FOR MAKING AND IMPLEMENTING DECISIONS. Nobody can argue that it is much easier to make and implement good decisions when a group has sufficient resources. Whereas if that same group faces continued scarcity, making and implementing good decisions becomes increasingly more difficult. The majority of participants last night expressed that having a real conversation about governance without including funding and the Province’s role as the sole funder of public education with power over policy decisions was nearly impossible and seemed disingenuous and blame-based, rather than solution-oriented.

So again, the concern is that the work of this Panel will not benefit 246,000 TDSB students and their families because it won’t address the issues that actually matter to parents such as:

– unacceptable state of schools, as reflected in the $3.3-billion repair backlog

– cuts to special education

– potential school closures

– overcrowding at 146 TDSB schools, which operate at 100% utilization or more

With a professional PR firm fully engaged, this consultation will easily cost taxpayers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If these consultations seemed solution-oriented and included a real focus on seeing the Province work with the TDSB to find solutions to the massive issues facing the TDSB, they would be a good use of money. Who knows? Maybe the panel would even hear feedback that citizens of Toronto would be willing to pay a local education tax to improve public schools! However, this panel, as it currently stands, is poised to be simply a distraction from addressing real issues.

Yesterday, with the understanding that the Provincial government had authority over the scope of discussion for these consultations, we sent the attached letter. However, with our new understanding that the people on this panel can choose to expand the conversation, we are also writing you. I have cc’d all included on yesterday’s letter so they are aware that, with this new understanding, Fix Our Schools is also writing directly to the TDSB Governance Panel about expanding the topics included in consultations. Our letter to the Province still, of course, stands with the four requests outlined below.

Recognizing that the next public consultation is imminent, we look forward to hearing back from you soon confirming your authority over the scope of the discussion and on how you intend to integrate the feedback from last night’s session and move forward.

Kind regards,

Krista Wylie – On Behalf of Fix Our Schools

Write a letter to Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals

On April 24, Fix Our Schools launched a letter writing campaign to send a clear message to Premier Wynne and MInister Sandals that funding solutions must be found to address the urgent issues that impact 246,000 students and their families.

The full body of the letter being sent is below and if you have found your way to this page and would like to send a letter, please click here:

Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Sandals, Deputy Minister Zegarac,

While governance of school boards is important, funding of school boards is even more important in resolving the issues that impact students’ daily safety, wellbeing, and ability to learn. The TDSB Governance Advisory Panel consultations exclude discussion of funding and, as such, delay the pursuit of funding solutions to urgent issues such as the $3.3-billion repair backlog, cuts to special education and overcrowding at 146 TDSB schools.

TDSB Governance consultations also exclude the Province’s role in governance, even though the Province has power over both the money and major policy decisions. In refusing to take any responsibility, your government is undermining public confidence in the TDSB. As such, will you please:

1. Start working with the TDSB and the City of Toronto to find funding solutions to resolve key issues such as the $3.3-billion TDSB repair backlog?

2. Start fulfilling your stated mandate of using schools as community hubs and acknowledge that selling off public schools is an incomplete funding solution to the $3.3-billion repair backlog and could be shortsighted? *Even if the TDSB were to immediately sell all 130 schools operating below 65% utilization (as per provincial calculations), there would be over $1-billion of repairs in the remaining 458 schools.

3. Release emergency funding immediately to repair all leaking roofs and complete every “urgent” repair currently outstanding at TDSB schools to ensure children attend school in safe, well-maintained buildings?

4. Commit that any recommendations from the TDSB Governance Panel concerning board reorganization, such as splitting up the TDSB into smaller boards, will not delay the Province’s pursuit of funding to the above-noted problems?

There are $14.7-billion in capital repairs needed right now in public schools across Ontario. The $11-billion your government plans to allocate over the next 10 years to building new schools and making capital repairs is grossly insufficient to address the current state of disrepair in public schools. Given the $14.7-billion capital repair backlog in Ontario’s public schools, the $248-million that was noted as a decrease in education sector expense in yesterday’s budget surely ought to have been used towards ensuring the two million children in Ontario who attend public schools learn in safe, well-maintained buildings.

Kind regards,

Your Name

Your Address


$14.7-billion repair backlog in public schools across Ontario

The TDSB has 588 public school buildings and a $3.3-billion capital repair backlog in those buildings. The Province uses the terminology “$3.3-billion of assessed renewal needs”.

Across the 4900 schools in the 72 school boards across Ontario, there are $14.7-Billion of assessed renewal needs. In fact, every single Ontario school board has a repair backlog, which ranges from $7.4-million to the TDSB’s whopping $3.3-billion.

While the TDSB’s $3.3-billion repair backlog is certainly the largest in the province, you have likely never heard that province-wide, our public schools have a $14.7-billion repair backlog. You may be surprised to learn that Peel DSB has almost $1-billion in outstanding capital repairs, Ottawa-Carleton DSB has $743-million, Thames Valley DSB has $691-million and the Toronto Catholic School Board has $534-million. So public schools are in a state of disrepair across the province – not only in Toronto.

“Capital repair backlog” , “assessed renewal needs” and “outstanding capital repairs” are terms that can be used interchangeably and include many urgent repair items such as: fire suppression and alarm systems; electrical systems; heating/cooling systems; and structural issues. If these types of items fail before repairs can be done, there is a risk to student safety.

We are extrapolating data presented in this blog post from the following facts:

  • TDSB schools have $3.3-billion of assessed renewal needs as per the latest provincial data
  • According to slide 23 titled “School Condition Improvement” in the Ministry of Education’s technical briefing on funding for 2015-16, a total of $500-million is being provided to Ontario school boards for “School Condition Improvement” (SCI) and this SCI funding will be allocated in proportion to a school board’s total assessed renewal needs.
  • According to pages 8 & 9 in this Provincial memorandum, the TDSB will receive $112-million of the $500-million total in 2015-16, or 22.4% of the total SCI funding, which would indicate that the TDSB’s $3.3-billion repair backlog is 22.4% of the total repair backlog for all Ontario schools.
  • Therefore, using some algebra, we can determine each school board’s capital repair backlog and arrive at a total province-wide repair backlog in public schools of $14.7-billion.

What about TDSB schools that are OVER-capacity?

The TDSB and the Province agree that an optimum utilization rate for a school is around 85%.

The 130 TDSB schools operating below 65% utilization have been a hot topic of late. However, you may be surprised to learn that there are currently 146 TDSB schools that operate at 100% utilization or more. These overcapacity schools operate extremely efficiently, saving the Province heaps of money by spreading resources such as Administration salaries (an overcapacity school doesn’t get an additional Principal!) across more children. However, these highly “efficient” TDSB schools are not optimum learning environments.

Principals, Vice Principals and staff spend time and energy managing logistics rather than providing good leadership and teaching. In overcapacity schools, holding a school assembly or concert is like a military operation, lunchrooms and gymnasiums might be in use all day every day for a multitude of purposes, and if there is ever an issue in a classroom such as lack of heat or a broken water pipe, then that class of students might learn in a hallway for a few days while the repair is made since there are is no extra space in the school. A school operating over 100% has that much more dirt and litter for caretakers to clean and has that much more wear-and-tear to its facilities.

So while the “empty” schools are getting all the attention, students at 146 TDSB schools learn in an overcrowded environment. In addition to the unacceptable state of disrepair in TDSB schools, this overcrowding is yet another issue that must be addressed to ensure the safety and well being of children.

246,000 TDSB students don’t need a governance panel

The provincially led TDSB Governance Panel is simply a distraction from the more urgent issue of inadequate funding and will not address the issues that actually matter to parents such as:

  • the $3.3-billion TDSB repair backlog
  • potential school closures
  • cuts to special education
  • overcrowding at 146 TDSB schools (although you never hear about this in the media, there are actually more overutilzed TDSB schools (operating at 100%+) than “underutilized” TDSB schools.

What would address these issues is if Kathleen Wynne’s government were to take responsibility, as the sole funder of public education in this province, and start working with the TDSB to find funding solutions to these massive problems. Instead, this provincial panel seems to place all blame on the TDSB, which only serves to undermine public confidence in Canada’s largest school board and does nothing to help 246,000 TDSB students and their families.

Fix Our Schools sent a Letter to Premier Wynne and Minister Sandals urging their government to stop blaming the TDSB and start working with the TDSB (and the City!) to find funding solutions to resolve the issues that actually matter to people in Toronto.