Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Political Responses From The Toronto District School Board

While the goings-on at the TDSB may seem only a matter of regional concern, in my view the implications extend well beyond any geographic boundaries, evidence as they are not only of system-wide cronyism but also the inevitable corruption and lassitude that bedevils organizations or institutions of any size or purpose over time.

In the Star's latest installment on the board's relationship with Jimmy Hazel and his Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council, we learn that the board will will set up an electronic system to flag high costs charged by its maintenance and construction workers.

We also learn the following:

- the TDSB has asked the education ministry for a “deep operational review” to be conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers;

- an end to charging individual principal’s school accounts for construction and maintenance work;

- a high-level meeting set for trustees to question staff about the problem.

While on the surface, these measures look like swift and decisive reactions to what the Star's investigations uncovered, based on my own experience as a teacher who dealt with many administrators/politicians, I interpret them as mere political expedients, crisis responses to embarrassing revelations that, of course, the board already knew about since there have been so many complaints over time about these practices, complaints that the board, from the Director on down to the trustees, in their 'wisdom, chose to ignore or, as they say, 'sweep under the rug'.

If you doubt my assertions, reread the series carefully for all the clues of a cover up, probably sparked by both organization inertia and the conventional wisdom that it is impolitic to 'make waves' lest the wake disrupt one's upward career trajectory. As I have expressed elsewhere, institutions are notorious for this kind of willful blindness.

And if you have any doubts that the board's putative new openness is anything other than a charade, consider this:

The Star, which is continuing to investigate, has been trying to obtain a copy of the school board’s database listing work orders and costs.

Thursday, we received a letter from the TDSB’s lawyer, Giselle Basanta, announcing that the Star’s request was received and “we will respond to your request according to the provisions of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.” No other details, and no timeline for response, were provided.

Hardly a beacon of light in this whole murky affair. At least Jimmy Hazel and his people have been more direct and honest about how they feel:

At the trades council, Hazel and officials have released a letter condemning the reporting in the Star.

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