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’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.
Krista Wylie – On Behalf of Fix Our Schools