In the past few months, I have received e-mails and phone calls from concerned Catholics regarding the TCDSB’s Catholic Equity and Inclusive Education (EIE) policy. Given some of what has been stated regarding what has transpired over the last several months, I have decided to write to you directly in advance of tomorrow night’s Board meeting, to provide you with my perspective on events, and let you know how I intend to vote on the amendments at tomorrow night’s Board meeting.
As highlighted in a memo from Archbishop Thomas Collins in April, “One reason why Catholic schools have for many years been a source of strength for our local communities, our province, and our country, is that they are animated by a spirit of inclusivity and equity rooted in the Gospel. We believe that every person, young or old, is to be treated with reverence; we are called to see the face of Christ in each person we meet, and to act accordingly.”
It is a spirit reflected in the Board’s approved Catholic Equity and Inclusive Education’ policy (http://www.tcdsb.org/policyregister/HM24.html) which our Archbishop believes meets the intended goal of supporting an engaging Catholic learning environment where all are respected and valued, while defending our denominational rights as a Catholic education system.
Amendments – Round One
The TCDSB developed its own Catholic EIE draft policy using a template approved by the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. It was this revised draft policy with trustee amendments which was presented for public consultation.
Amendments – Round Two
As a result of several months of public consultations earlier this year, initial amendments were collectively made by staff and trustees (including myself) and submitted for consideration as part of the draft policy put forward for consideration at the May Board meeting.
Amendments – Round Three
Amendments were provided by two trustees (John Del Grande and Angela Kennedy) during the May board meeting, at which the draft policy was being voted. Given the stated need to consider the legal implications of the amendments provided, trustees voted to refer the amendments to staff for feedback which was to be provided in time for a vote by trustees at the June Board meeting.
Amendments – Round Four
At the 16 June Board meeting, upon the policy amendments being put on the table for discussion, Trustee Del Grande submitted new options for consideration. The vote on the amendments was the second item on the agenda following review and approval of our annual Board Budget, and little time was left in our 4-hour Board meeting. Trustees voted unanimously in favour of four of the staff recommended amendments, referred discussion on the remaining amendments to the August Board meeting, and agreed to hold a Special Board meeting on 23 June to deal with outstanding time-sensitive staff reports (e.g. lease renewals, school property purchases, and licensing agreements).
The amendments were not on the 23 June agenda as they were not ‘urgent’ (as defined by our by-laws) – unfortunately, that was not universal reported, which resulted in members of the public appearing at the 23 June Special Meeting expecting to see a vote on the new amendments (which were not on the agenda).
The Outstanding Amendments
I voted in favour- as did all trustees – of four amendments in June, so my actions demonstrate my view of those amendments.
Regarding the outstanding June amendments, I have responded frankly to everyone who has e-mailed (me expressly), phoned or questioned me in person, of my clear concerns regarding some of the amendments presented in June. I believe, however, that the recommendations by staff for the outstanding amendments:
- are more clearly linked with our already defined Catholic vision of education (e.g. referencing of our Catholic graduate expectations etc.,)
- importantly cite (where applicable) existing policies related to the regulations
- and refrain from language which I was very concerned would result in unintended consequences for our students (e.g. excluding individuals from coming to our schools and speaking to students because they are of another faith; implying that we as a Board may or may not respect human rights).
How I Intend to Vote at 31 August Board meeting
I thank staff for their hard work! Having reviewed the staff recommendations provided in our August Board package, I will be voting in favour of all of the outstanding amendments, as recommended by staff, at tomorrow’s evening.
Motions I Will be Bring Forward at the 31 August Board meeting
I will be bringing forward a motion to move the last sentence of recommended Regulation 10 to Regulation 9 where there is a more logical link, and for removal of the words ‘based on religion’ from the latter as recommended by Dr. Dixon in a submission to trustees at the June Board meeting.
In order to be an effective Board which provides students with what they need to ‘live life to the full’, we must have a system in place for monitoring, evaluating and reporting on the effectiveness of all of our policies. As a member of our Governance Framework Committee, I am very pleased to report that as indicated in our public agenda for last night’s meeting, we are reviewing our existing Meta Policy (which provides the framework for policy development), and making recommendations to ensure that such a system is put in place, and further, that reports recommending policies for consideration by the Board include a clear statement on how the proposed policy supports the TCDSB’s vision and multi-year plan.
As a revised Meta Policy is not yet in place, I will be putting forward a motion tomorrow evening that staff report back to trustees on how the effectiveness of this policy will be measured in our schools, and when it will be publicly reported on to the Board.
A Final Word – Love
Our faith is based on it – a witnessing of our love of God, and love of each other. It is my hope this visible sign of our Catholic faith is felt by all students placed in the care of the TCDSB, and demonstrated by all staff and leaders upon whom our students rely every day.
The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist. (Pope St. Gregory the Great)