Thursday, May 31, 2007

The $100K Breakfast Club

Gerard Kennedy’s legacy: lawless schools, see-no-evil administrators

From Wednesday's Toronto Star story about the “lawless” C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, where Jordan Manners was shot last week:

“My experience is that the safe schools policy was followed,” said board superintendent Verna Lister*.

*According to the 2006 Public Sector Salary disclosure, Lister was paid $136,616.54 in salary and $5,316.26 in benefits last year. In 2006, the Toronto District School Board had 504 employees who were paid in excess of $100,000, totalling $54,696,949.63 in salary and $582,065.16 in benefits.

Donna Quan*, safe schools superintendent for Toronto, said Jefferys was an outstanding school and urged concerned teachers to discuss their problems with administration and the school board.

“We’ll be glad to meet,” Quan said. “It’s important to have courageous conversations.”

*$136,616.54 in salary and $5,366.66 in benefits in 2006.

Suspension rates across Toronto were down 29 per cent in 2005-06 from the year prior. Various school administrators now prefer alternatives, such as in-school suspensions.

The drop occurred the same year the Toronto District School Board settled a complaint from the Ontario Human Rights Commission for suspending a disproportionately high number of black students, in November 2005. [Local school trustee Stephnie] Payne supported a lawsuit in December 2005 against Louie Papathanasakis, then-principal of Emery Collegiate Institute, who called police on students who were accused of assaulting another student. One was later convicted.

[Former Jefferys teacher Sandra] Fusco said the settlement, combined with discouragement from administration, denied teachers leeway to suspend disruptive or violent students.

“We were told that there’s an initiative in the board to use alternatives to suspensions,” said Fusco, referring to a staff meeting at the school when Anne Kojima* was principal.

*$105,763.53 in salary and $100.80 in benefits in 2006.

The main source for the article, Jefferys teacher Dave Plaskett, tells the Star he is speaking out after teaching at the school for 25 years because: “I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Plaskett, who plans to retire this year. [Clearly this man has never seen a cop movie.]” There has got to be some changes.”

One of the principles of the Harris government’s 2001 Safe Schools Act was that specific transgressions would bring specific punishments, for example, swearing at a teacher would automatically result in a one-day suspension.

These clear rules, however, were not welcomed by school boards or teacher unions. I remember one teacher union boss saying that teachers did not want the ability to suspend students. As per usual, nary a peep of dissent was heard from individual teachers, about the combative dismissiveness of their leaders.

Already insulated from daily brushes with menacing teenagers, the union bosses and boards believed they had bigger fish to fry, namely the Harris government’s plans to cut administrative costs, implement per-pupil funding, lower average class sizes through having teachers teach an additional half-class, implement a new curriculum, standardized testing, teacher recertification, etc.

Admittedly, the government’s promised “strict discipline” schooling for expelled students was not (to my knowledge) up and running by the time the government changed hands in 2003.

The McGuinty Fiberals conducted a quickie consultation/review on the act, the upshot of which was the act was too prescriptive and lacked flexibility. So they stripped the legislation of its clarity, and dressed up their announcement with the gainesburger that “cyber-bullying” would be included in the new legislation (but of course, whether cyber-bullies actually get punished depends on the attitude of the principal at the school involved -- just like at Jefferys).

4 comments:

tori said...

Donna Quan*, safe schools superintendent for Toronto, said Jefferys was an outstanding school and urged concerned teachers to discuss their problems with administration and the school board.

“We’ll be glad to meet,” Quan said. “It’s important to have courageous conversations.”

In other words, STFU and don't leak our dirty laundry out for public consumption

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Wow. What an insightful perspective. Thanks so much for this.

nomdeblog said...

“In 2006, the Toronto District School Board had 504 employees who were paid in excess of $100,000, totaling $54,696,949.63 in salary and $582,065.16 in benefits.”

Wow! Just think about how many ways that money could be used on the front lines in schools instead of these bureaucratic School Board jobs.

We need to bring some business practices to our education system and while we have not heard much from John Tory yet, I’m hoping he will be the kinder gentler Mike Harris that goes at this problem in Education again. But we’re bucking entrenched powerful forces; so the voters need to pay attention and vote for change and give Tory a mandate.

Every business faces this same dilemma of Head Office crowding out the budgets of the front lines that serve the customers. Either a takeover or outright failure tends to fix things in the business world. Unfortunately the taxpayers subsidize bad practices in public institutions like Education until the crises point. I think we’ve reached it.

Fortunately my riding in Don Valley West has John Tory running in it with CEO retail experience at Rogers Communications, a highly successful organization. Federally we have John Carmichael who is a seasoned business guy with retail automotive experience. We need politicians that understand and show leadership in retail businesses instead of what has historically been a bunch of failed lawyers running our cities and Provinces and Ottawa. (Not all lawyers are bad, but we need more balance, some diversity in our political class). These problems can be solved with the right leadership.

EBD said...

When it comes to incidents of violence (Jefferys Collegiate) or extortion (Caledonia), the easy response -- backing away -- is now considered to be a demonstration of enlightenment and sensitivity to issues.

This cultural default-setting only encourages more and more menacing behaviour. On the plus side, though, this will provide more future opportunities for sensitive, aware "brokers" to pat themselves on the back as they concede ground -- on our behalf, on our ancestor's behalf -- to those who disregard the rule of law.

I think a big shout-out to LPC "good Canadian" values is in order.