My name is Leslie Wolfe. I am Vice President of OSSTF Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit, but today I am here on behalf of OSSTF District 12 and the some 8000 TDSB teachers, occasional teachers and education workers we represent.
I would like to begin my remarks by saying something Margaret Wilson did not: Thank you.
Thank you for taking on the role of trustee in the largest, most complex school board in Canada, where every community is a microcosm of the world, bringing to you issues that reflect that reality, in an organizational framework that is far from ideal – and here I am not speaking of governance issues within the TDSB, but rather the structure within which governance of the TDSB resides – the one established by the Harris Tories and perpetuated by the current government wherein democratically elected local representatives are hobbled by a flawed construct that deprioritizes local needs by providing no clear process for responding to them.
In refusing to recognize and correct the structural flaws of centralized funding & decision making as they impact on the duty of trustees, OSSTF believes the provincial government is actually complicit in the creation of the negative culture that afflicts the TDSB.
In addition to being harmful to an already faltering local democracy, OSSTF further finds the Ministry directives disingenuous, with directives that clearly exceed the stated desire of fixing the relationship between senior staff and trustees.
Moreover, it is hard to imagine how the oft-cited ‘culture of fear’ will be any less a part of our members’ working lives when we have an Education Minister who, using bullying tactics, tars each of you with the same large brush despite the fact that fully half of you weren’t even in office when the issues leading to Ms. Wilson’s investigation occurred.
Certainly nothing is lost in directing that committee structures are clear and roles better defined, but there is nothing to be gained by anyone from the petulantly punitive directive that removes Trustees from board offices and refuses you constituency assistants. In fact, it is parents, students, and front-line workers who often must turn to their Trustee as the only person on the management side of the TDSB who will listen and help broker a resolution to their concerns, who stand to lose most with this direction.
But the Ministry directive that provides greatest clarity as to the real agenda of Minister Sandals and her government is the order to review school capacity using parameters that appear to commit you in advance to the closure of upwards of 100 schools – Schools that could serve as community hubs and provide links to services constituents tell you they want and need. To think this edict will somehow make things in the TDSB, or the city itself, better, is patently absurd. It is not about making the system better, it is about forcing you to do the bidding of the provincial government.
But this is not what you are elected to do. You are elected to oversee the TDSB from a distinct vantage point – one that represents local community priorities in relation to the TDSB specifically.
So yes, by all means, please, find a way to work together, but OSSTF implores you to do so not from the provincial government’s apparent vision of your role as their lackeys whose only purpose is to implement their agenda, but rather to do so with confidence in the understanding that each of you individually – and all of you collectively – are uniquely positioned to ensure that the issues particular to education in the Toronto board are attended to.