Disappointing board response to democracy

 In Boardwatch, Media Releases, Save Our Schools

Toronto March 10th Parents and community members from Northwest Toronto are discouraged and disappointed at the treatment their proposal for the democratization of the Rexdale ARC received at the hands of school board trustees in the Board meeting of March 9th.  Their proposal, delivered to a trustee committee last week was incorporated into Mr. Daryl Sage’s Review of the ARC process in such a way that it certainly seems to have completely disappeared.  Parents ended up getting none of the things they asked for.  In the aftermath of yesterday’s board meeting they are a not just a little perplexed since their ideas were so well received at the Planning and Priorities Committee meeting the previous week.

The parents’ proposal wanted teachers on the Accommodation Review Committee (one from each of the five schools under review, elected by their peers) in addition to one education worker from each of these schools (chosen by their peers).  They also asked the board committee for two community reps and three parents from each of the five schools, elected by the parent council in each of the five schools.  They wanted all those committee members to be elected and  not appointed by the Board.  They suggested that the ARC members appointed by the Board would remain the school principals, the superintendant, school trustee and city council members. All these ideas were aimed at increased and meaningful community participation.  Parents believe they have been left with nothing but an ARC process heavily controlled by TDSB senior officials. While community members took the trouble to attend the board meeting hoping to hear some discussion of their proposals,  the board chair did not recognize the delegation nor seem to be aware of their presence.  Unfortunately, the rented bus had to leave at 9:00 pm and Rexdale parents had to leave with it.   In the past, board meeting agendas have been altered to deal with an issue while concerned delegations are in attendance.

After much concern with last year’s process for ARCs communities across the city were watching this closely.  The Rexdale proposal for a democratic ARC process is most likely not going to go away.

Below is a letter to proposal supporters from Dr. Gautem Dey, Albion Heights JMS Parent Council

“Hi everybody,
“Thank you very much for support for yesterday’s board meeting. I would like to personally thank Mr Hersi Ali, Iman Omar for bringing so many parents even though weather was terrible. Thanks goes to all parents who came and supported us for the cause.

“As I understand, the Board approved the motion proposal put forward by us in P&P meeting by cutting its branches and leaves.  There will be 5 community members from each school but without any teacher or TDSB staff member’s participation. Moreover, there will be a limitation clause on the community members which means if any school manage to have only one community member elected for that school, other schools will have to go for only one elecetd members to maintain the uniformity.

“So, in a nutshell, we have achieved nothing.  No democracy is achieved in bigger sense. “It is like five strawberries in a basket. TDSB put some cream and touch-up on it.

“Now, they are saying that if one strawberry is rotten, we have no other choice but to dispose of rest four
strawberries in the garbage. So, eat dinner without any dessert.”
“For example, if Humberwood school council could not elect any community members for the PARC, then other school cannot have any community members on the committee. So, we didnot achieve anything.
It seems to me that “TDSB is in FOR SALE, if not now, but in future for sure. Is there any taker????”

Dr. Gautam Dey, Albion Heights JMS Parent Council

Background:  8.03.2011 – On Wednesday,  March 9th parents of school age students will be watching closely from the board’s public gallery as Trustees of the Toronto District School Board make a key ruling on how schools are assessed prior to possible consolidation and closure.

The school board’s decision could strongly impact the future of neighbourhood schools in this city for the coming decades.

Just last week Rexdale parents urged school board Trustees to launch a significantly more inclusive decision-making process in the upcoming review of their community’s school capacity. The parent proposal would increase direct parent involvement and allow for students, school-based staff and community members to elect representatives from their constituencies.

“This is about democratic participation” said Dr Gautem Dey of Albion Heights JMS Parent Council.

Dr Dey stressed that, “every one of our children must be given the right to attend their local school.  More of us with neighbourhood interests need to be at that [Pupil Accommodation Review Committee] table.  It’s the only way!”

In making their case for expanding local participation the Rexdale parents last week reminded Trustees of the 50 Somali-Canadian parents and children which, 18 months ago, converged on the school board demanding that their children no longer be barred from attending their neighbourhood school.

That school was Humberwood Downs JMA, and while parents claim that they were assured by senior board staff at the time that their concerns would be addressed a year and a half later 91 children on Etobicoke’s Queen’s Plate Drive are still forced to cross several high traffic thoroughfares to attend school.

TDSB Trustees have two sets of school reviews currently in the works.  One, in Toronto Centre, involves nine schools in the city’s poorest communities.

The second, in Etobicoke North, is mandated to determine capacities and needs of five Rexdale elementary schools: Humberwood Downs JMA, Elmbank JMA, Melody Village JS, Albion Heights JMS, and Greenholme JMS.

Time:   7pm Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Location:, Toronto District School Board, 5050 Yonge Street

Press contact: Nigel Bariffe, Education Action Toronto, (416) 427-1192  nigelbarriffe [@] yahoo.ca


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