As the number of school closures increases, concern is growing among parents, students and teachers alike. Each school closure has an immediate impact on the surrounding community. But the concern of schools closing is also growing among city councilors and school trustees. They are demanding more involvement in the discussion and decision-making.
While keeping all the schools open isn’t the most economical option, shutting them down permanently may not be either. In areas where the population is expected to increase or there aren’t enough parks, school closures can have a damaging effect on the community.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board had a meeting on Feb. 19 to discuss a range of topics and issues. But surprisingly, school closures in the Catholic school board did not appear to be as high on the agenda as it was for the TDSB.
There was very little discussion as to whether Catholic schools would be closing in Toronto. But while the concern of school closures does not seem to pose an immediate threat, there are other concerns requiring attention.
Instead, the agenda consisted of issues mostly associated with funding, the proposed name-change of the Catholic School Advisory Councils, and merging the CSACs’ funding into the schools’ general account.
The idea of changing the name from Catholic School Advisory Council to Catholic School Council might seem minor, but the slight change has serious consequences.
Representatives from parent councils came to speak at the meeting to address their concerns over the name change, and had a lot to say. Kelly Ann Belton, former chair and community representative for Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts, spoke on behalf of parents.
“Our parents adamantly insist that the word ‘parent’ be in it,” Belton said.
Belton mentioned that during her time as chair and community representative she often put “parent council” in brackets next to the CSAC heading so that students, teachers and parents understood who the notice was coming from. The ambiguity of CSAC confused people.
“I think the confusion comes from what I call things, what you call things and what other people call things,” East York’s Ward 11 Trustee Angela Kennedy said.
The discussion of newcomers and non-English speaking parents was heavily discussed as just one of the reasons to maintain the name, or to at least include the word “parent” in it.
The second issue of merging bank accounts was also heavily discussed at the meeting.
“One of the problems that the parents have is that by putting the funds in complete control of the principal, parents can’t expect to have some voice and some control in how the funds are utilized,” Belton said.
Kennedy also expressed her opposition to this idea, claiming that it really wouldn’t make too much of a difference in the end. She attested to the fact that CSAC bank accounts were secure, strictly monitored and every penny is accounted for.
“It doesn’t matter if the bank accounts are consolidated or not,” Kennedy argued. “We could have the CSAC bank account with two signatures and we could have the school account with two signatures and we would still have insurance.”
“We do not recommend that you pursue this,” Belton said. “Parents have absolutely no confidence in putting the funds in the management of the board.”