The ugly state of affairs at the York Region District School Board

No one envies the task facing Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter after the publication of the damning Report on the ugly state of affairs at the York Region District School Board.

This latest review has nothing positive to say about the operations of the York School Board.

And all of the negative things it includes in its review are already well known.

Among the latter, there have been years of allegations of racism, with little evidence of counter-measures being applied. As a result, numerous students have been feeling insecure. The lack of response to their parents’ pleas for action and reassurance was simply appalling.

If the racist slur uttered by one trustee towards a Black parent was not reprehensible enough in itself, the Board’s shameless dilly-dallying on the issue rubbed salt in the wound.

Again, the Board’s prolonged inaction and silence after a school principal’s anti-Muslim postings on her social media platform have strengthened the perception of foot-dragging.

It is important to recognize in passing that racism is also rearing its loathsome head outside of the school system. In Canada we have arrived at a stage when it is becoming more and more evident that racism is and has always been systemic.  It was the backbone of the North American economy long before Canada and the USA became sovereign countries.

In current times, the brazen “success” of a malevolent, publicly racist and blatantly Islamophobic bully south of Canada’s border has embolden closet racists in our midst.

Coming out of putrid recesses to seek the support of the most intolerant segments of the federal Conservative Party, two leadership candidates have openly adopted an anti-immigrant platform, the racist tone of which is intended to enhance their chances of victory.

Returning to the Report on the various aspects of misconduct at the York Region District School Board, some trustees’ abuse of the travel allowances and the employment for life contract given to the Board’s Director of Education have been consistently mentioned in the media as sources of disgust and exasperation among Ontarians.

When all that dirty linen has been washed in the full glare of the public, one wonders what is to be done about the trustees’ failure to do their job. They were elected to ensure that the schools under the Board’s jurisdiction function efficiently.

Given the recurrence of similar systemic failures in several other School Boards in Ontario in recent decades, it is evident that some systemic change is required.

it should no longer be acceptable that trustees accede to their positions by a system of political elections that has scandalously low levels of voter participation. The posts should be advertised and a professional recruitment process that is independent of political engagement should follow.

Minister Hunter and the review team that produced this Report have made a valuable contribution to the students of Ontario and to the future of our Province.

The first big step forward has just been taken: the embattled Director of Education has been fired and a recruitment process is about to begin.

Further action needs to be taken with respect to the role, functions and accountability of the Board’s trustees.

Action also needs to be taken with respect to the inherently deficient and defective system of elected board trustees.

It is now a question of dealing with both the unhealthy baby and the lethally infected bath water.