Local Education Bureaucrats Are Out of Control

TORONTO – We may soon lose the models for establishing education priorities in this province that are relevant to the people whom they are designed to serve. No, we are not talking about national goals and standards. In the framework of our Constitutional compromise, even if collectively we recognize national and transnational educational skills shared commonly, authority over education is purely within what we call provincial jurisdiction, Section 93 of the Constitution Act. 

That authority is exercised through local units (Boards of Education) whose duly elected trustees [in Law] are responsible directly to the public that elects them. And to no one else. That bears repetition, even if the funding formulae, the “carrot and stick” adopted by the province, may vary from time to time.

In Ontario, since even before Confederation, there have been two (now subdivided into four) classes of School Boards: [non-sectarian] Public (English and French) and Catholic (English and French). Only the Magisterium (the Papacy in cathedra) can designate a school as Catholic. Such schools and boards so designated enjoy what are commonly referred to as “denominational rights”.

That is the law. Citizens cannot be, nor are they, compelled to attend a Catholic school. One can hold different values and believe in different tenets, but then that person is not Catholic – no moral judgements involved.

Given the “playoff season” in hockey, basketball or soccer, the following analogy might shed light. All fans can go to a game; however, if you decide to wear a sweater that is different from the home team’s colours you may be delivering a provocative message: you are a “dissenter”.

School boards establish policies and processes to safeguard and promote the integrity of their educational goals. Trustees alone make all of those decisions. In the case of Catholic schools, they are obliged to consult with, and abide by, the decision of the Magisterium (diocese, locally) on issues affecting the Catholicity of the matters and with the Ministry of Education on “secular” skills commonly referred to as the “Three Rs” (aRithmetic, Reading and wRiting). They hire a director to ensure the latter objectives are met.

Unfortunately, some Directors, Domenic Scuglia in York Catholic District School Board for one, are arrogating to themselves functions and policies which are not theirs to exercise – to their personal embarrassment and the voters’ disadvantage.

On April 18, at an Executive Committee meeting to determine the Agenda for the April 25 general Board meeting (today), Scuglia prompted a rebuke from Chair Alexander for insistence, verging on insubordination, on placing several individuals with well documented and “provocative Catholic hating” views posted on social media, and elsewhere, on the list of delegators.

Scuglia persisted, saying that the issue of raising the flag was in his Report so he would be speaking to it anyway. To which defiance Alexander said something to the effect that the Board has a procedure for policy changes that he demands be respected. The video is no longer online.

When Board finally posted the Agenda online, as required by their bylaws… surprise, surprise, the list of “approved delegators” reflected Scuglia’s demands and NOT Alexander’s instructions about respecting existing policy until and unless the public and its trustees express their interests appropriately through appropriate means. The Director’s Report, as of yesterday, was modified from the original text but kept the delegators except one who had presented in February.

In any event, the Board’s procedures for policy changes do not allow for the manipulation of “back door” tactics to effect such changes. That has not stopped Scuglia from actively or surreptitiously supporting interests inimical to his own Board’s electors. Some view this as a gross example of insubordination on his part.

A former trustee from another board in an off the record interview said, “I always worried that the Separate (Catholic) Schools System might not survive outside stresses. I just never thought that the YCDSB would be the one that might cause it to implode. Both the Church and parents need to wake up.”

Email requests for comments to the YCDSB have gone unanswered as at time of printing.