A botched Coup attempt at York Catholic District School Board: what an embarrassment

TORONTO – From my perspective, York Region reflects a contemporary Canada: solid values imbedded in the Constitution to guide new people in a new land as they move upward. The Corriere Canadese has a special interest in its affairs: 31% of its citizens profess adherence to Catholicism; 145,000 residents self-identify as of Italian origin (the vast majority of them send their children to Catholic schools); ethnic Italians – for better or for worse – are at the “cutting edge” of the leadership required to bring diverse peoples together “for the sake of the whole”. Sometimes they lead; sometimes they follow. 

For these reasons and others, on the Corriere’s behalf, I have attended York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) meetings in person this academic year, timetable permitting – it is a long way from our office. From my perspective, one, incidentally shared by our editorial team, Frank Alexander, still Chair of the Board, is one whose leadership is worth following, even if he is not Italian. He is a competent man and decent individual – exactly what the YCDSB needs in this moment; and, by the way (if it matters), he is Black.

Last night, a motley crew comprising Senior Staff, Ruffians from the local Ontario English Catholic Teachers bargaining unit (OECTA) and some bitter, misguided trustees (Cotton, Crowe, Wigston)made it their personal goal to oust Chair Alexander. Shamefully, they included an “Italian”, Angela Grella, and Theresa McNicol, whom an independent investigator found “guilty” of discriminatory conduct against “Italians” on the Board. The other four “Italians” (Barbieri, Di Meo, Iafrate, Saggese) stayed loyal to Mr. Alexander, who apparently “lost”.

How, I wondered openly, could people be so stupid? Or were we so deceived when our survey of Trustees prior to the vote suggested a tie?

As I was about to pull out of my parking spot, the Communications Director, Mark Brosens, rushed to my car, to give me “an update” on the election that had just taken place. “It appears that an error was discovered in the tabulation of the vote”, he said, visibly uncomfortable in having to convey the news, “so the process will be redone on Wednesday, in a special Board meeting, at Five O’clock”.

How many ways can one say: OUCH and WOW!

Gillian Tuck Kutarna, a lawyer, had been entrusted with the receiving and counting of the ballotsten in total. The votes were all sent to her electronically, via text messages; meaning there could be no tampering. She merely had to check off that she had received them; show the Director that this was done and announce the result. The Director hastily declared Elizabeth Crowe the victor; called for a destruction of the ballots almost immediately, and, moved on to the (re)election of the Vice-Chair, Maria Iafrate, who was acclaimed. Iafrate, to this observer, had a look of disbelief at the outcomes.

I shared her reaction. There was a stench of misfeasance in the air. Now the process must be redone. Good. There is only one move that will clear the air and “restore confidence” in the system. It starts with Elizabeth Crowe demonstrating dignity and class by withdrawing her candidacy and encouraging her rag-a- muffin supporters to join her in backing Frank Alexander.

From the left: Frank Alexander, Elizabeth Crowe, Maria Iafrate, Angela Grella and Theresa McNicol (from YCDSB website)