One of our Fix Our Schools subscribers sent us the letter she wrote to Barbara Hall’s TDSB Governance Panel. Her letter raises excellent concerns and we’d like to share with you:
“Large” should not be confused with “challenging” or “problematic”. When an institution has good organizational structure, governance, and resources – the size of the institution is irrelevant. I would strongly urge the Ministry NOT to break up the TDSB into smaller boards. (Rumour in education circles suggests that the Ministry is seeking to divide the TDSB into four separate boards with an umbrella organization at the helm). There are several serious problems with this concept:
1. The Toronto City-School Boards Advisory committee is seeking to work with the TDSB in finding viable solutions to retain under-enrolled schools as community hubs, green space, or some form of public use. This is extremely important as city density intensifies. Breaking up the TDSB will only serve to make this collaboration complex, costly, and inefficient.
2. The TDSB renewal backlog of $3.3-billion and the total renewal backlog across all Ontario public schools of $14.7-billion indicates that current capital funding for public schools from the Province is insufficient. In order to address the backlog of repairs in public schools – it is inevitable that the provincial funding formula must change and other sources of funding must be found. There is no alternative but to access education development charges and also property taxes. Given the vast differences in new development and taxation opportunities across the city of Toronto, one school board ensures uniform access to these revenue sources.
3. The TDSB is making progress in implementing constructive improvements to its operating procedures. To dismantle the board at this time would be a massive setback on all levels. First – it would be a huge expenditure – at a time when the provincial government, the city, and the TDSB are struggling with serious deficits. The staff at TDSB (particularly Planning and Facilities) has spent enormous time and energy on research reports dealing with critical, time-sensitive issues including school closures and repair backlogs. Decentralizing this research and distributing it to new, inexperienced staff undermines the timeliness and ultimately, the relevance of this research.
The TDSB can work. It needs a solid governance model that Trustees can look to for guidance. It needs a sound organizational structure – so that staff can work efficiently with the ability to execute. And most importantly, it needs proper funding.
And finally, with respect to school closures: It is far more likely that trustees, parents, and communities will support school closures when there is an opportunity to transform “under enrolled” schools into important community spaces. The current dysfunctional system is a major contributor to bad decision-making, procrastination, and frustration for all stakeholders. There is an opportunity to create win-win options for communities under the mandate of the City-School Boards Advisory Committee – and Premier Wynne needs to support this initiative. It is in everyone’s best interest. Thank you.