Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hey look, trustees followed a committee recommendation!

To all the naysayers who point to how the accommodation review committee process is flawed, fixed, etc., well... here's a committee that recommended all schools under review remain open, followed by a senior administrative response that agreed and trustees who agreed as well.
The Globe and Mail's Kate Hammer is the only coverage I saw of this the day after it happened.
The Jane and Finch ARC was the most contentious. The first community meetings involved shouting, tears and insults, with some members of the community accusing the TDSB of targeting their community because they’re poor.
Trustee Stephnie Payne, whose ward includes the affected schools, cautioned her colleagues against ignoring the community’s wishes.
“You are going to have a war on your hands if you do anything other than what the committee recommended,” she said.
At a community meeting in January, Daryl Sage, the TDSB’s strategy and planning director, told residents that the staff would recommend that no schools be closed because of a future development near York University, where a subway line will soon reach. He said this meant the area’s five elementary schools could be needed to accommodate growth.
Trustee Irene Atkinson, however, said she had received complaints from residents about the recommendation that no schools close, in light of the fact that all but one of the schools is operating well below capacity.
“We are bereft of space and desperately need money,” she said.
This is not unexpected. At least one writer predicted this outcome after the Oct. 25, 2010 elections, given the feeling of the new trustees towards school closures.
To those of us who report / read outside Toronto, this won't help the notion that only small, old rural schools are being targeted, but of course the Toronto District School Board trustees don't give a patootie about that. Nor should they.
The article also mentions the sale of a closed secondary school to the local French-language board, with a provision to continue leasing out space for continuing education programs. That sale revenue can't be used to sustain these four schools kept open this week, either operationally or for capital improvements (if memory serves on the latter). It must go into the board's "proceeds from disposition" account and be used for land or new construction (again, if memory serves on the latter).
So the subway line is being built (projected completion?) and the higher-density development adjacent may come but the TDSB needs to continue to operate these four and plenty of other under capacity / small schools until that student growth occurs. The writing's on the wall that the province is expecting the board to use operational savings from consolidated facilities to underpin provincial priorities such as full-day kindergarten. While I don't expect flat-line grant allocations across the province later this year, some boards already flat-lined last year when you subtracted one-time capital allocations from their total revenues. There's no reason to believe the province won't fund its commitments in wages and benefits and other increases, along with its priorities. Everything else that boards do will have to be adjusted to real student numbers to compensate.
When trustees thumb their noses to closing any schools in a review area, it should make all of this so much more difficult in the medium- to long-term.
Let's see if it does.