None of the candidates applying to replace an ousted Toronto Catholic school trustee showed "concern" for student achievement or a basic understanding of the job, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne's staff lamented in e-mails obtained by the Sun.
Those frustrations were penned in the same e-mail where the staffer for the cabinet minister quipped to then-provincial supervisor Norbert Hartmann about how long it would take the embattled trustees to find a "denominational issue" with his process for selecting their new colleague.
The e-mails obtained by the Sun show Steise Caswell, Wynne's director of operations, reviewed all the applications of potential candidates vying to replace ousted trustee Oliver Carroll, warned the board's independent supervisor about two candidates' close ties with Carroll and then discussed how to spin another newspaper questioning the decision.
The two exchanges between Hartmann and Caswell occurred before and after trustees met to appoint Carroll's replacement following his judicial removal for violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
"I am reviewing the applications and it's quite striking that they all show an absence of concern around student achievement," Caswell writes to Hartmann in the first exchange on March 31. "They also reflect a real lack of understanding about what a trustee is and does although this varies in all boards across the province."
Hartmann states he agrees with Caswell's observations.
She replies that at least two are "extremely closely affiliated with the former occupant."
The exchange ends with Hartmann asking, "which two?"
A media spokesman for the ministry could not be reached for comment.
On April 7, the day after trustees elected Mary Ann Robillard to replace Carroll, Caswell e-mailed the board's communications department informing them the Toronto Star would be calling to speak to Hartmann.
Caswell warned that a group of parents were planning to write to protest the selection of Robillard, Carroll's former staffer.
Later she added "we'll be sticking to our key messages," which included stating the process was meant to encourage "good trustee candidates."
The exchange ends with Hartmann writing back to report on his interview with the Star. Hartmann states he told the reporter "in our system" we don't judge people by "who they know, who they may be connected to or who their employer may have been."
Hartmann stated he dismissed questions about parents' concerns that he selected the trustee even though he has relatives working for the TCDSB.
Written by Michael Baillargeon on December 2, 2009 – 2:33 am
They should both understand they no longer have the moral authority or the public’s confidence to lead………………
December 02, 2009 (Catholic education, Catholic schools)
By Michael Baillargeon
With both being faced with serious allegations of having contravened the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA), Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) Trustees, Angela Kennedy and Barbara Poplawski need to take immediate steps and do what is right, for themselves, and for the future of the Board. While yet to be proven in court the allegations spelled out against them, in the recent Application filed in the Superior Court of Justice by TCDSB elector Arnaldo Amaral, are serious and substantive.
Short of an outright resignation they should both invoke what is clearly a long standing political and civil tradition and step down from their positions of authority until such time as their case is adjudicated. Trustee Kennedy is Chair of the Board, Vice-Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) and both she and Trustee Poplawski serve as the Boards representatives and Directors of the Ontario Catholic Trustees Association (OCSTA). In addition, as a matter of conscience and integrity, both should withdraw from participation and voting in December’s upcoming election of a new Chair and Vice-Chair.
Under the present circumstance the public has the right to question whether either one of them has the moral authority, or for that matter, the public confidence to continue in their present roles. This is all about trust. Trustees Kennedy and Poplawski need to put aside their personal and political ambitions and remember that as trustees they have the responsibility and obligation to prevent the TCDSB and Catholic education from being brought into any further disrepute from these proceedings. More importantly they do not have the right to further jeopardize the health of the Board or to put Catholic electors in the position of ever having to endure these indignities. The fact is there remain far too many questions about their actions throughout the evening of May 14, 2008. The integrity of the TCDSB, its reputation, and its ability to represent 450,000 Toronto Catholics, is far more important than either Kennedy or Poplawski.
It is clearly the responsible thing to do and a necessary step if the Catholic Board is to ever move out from under supervision. The problem is that Trustees Kennedy and Poplawski seem incapable of either understanding or accepting the severity of the allegations against them. What has become painfully obvious and at the same time disappointing, is that neither trustee can be relied on to exhibit the intestinal fortitude or political courage necessary to do the right thing, thus enabling all parties, including each of them, to move on. The fact is they had months to do so on their terms and choose not to. Both seem determined, despite the evidence, to drag this on infinitum willfully blind to the enormous cost to TCDSB, to Catholic education and yes to their own person and families. You have to go no further than Angela Kennedy to find proof of this. Trustee Kennedy, in her overwhelming desire to be Chair, knowingly accepted the Minister of Educations appointment, despite being fully cognizant that an Application was going to be filed against her for contravening the MCIA.
Which leads to the biggest question in all this, why, knowing the Application was coming, did the Minister of Education appoint Kennedy Chair in the first place? Better yet why did Kennedy also knowing the filing of an Application was imminent accept the appointment? One has to wonder if both weren’t intent on embarrassing the TCDSB and each other. What a welcoming gift for the new Supervisor.
And finally short of needlessly going to Court only Trustees Kennedy and Poplawski can end this, and that they must. Their fiduciary responsibility to the TCDSB must come first. They have only one thing left to offer this Board and that’s their resignations. They need to think about maintaining some semblance of dignity, get past their own self interests and take the moral high ground. Considering the reality of the situation, its significance to Catholic education, the optics and the obvious costs, emotionally and financially, it is difficult to understand where these two are coming from. They are on the wrong side of history here and need to step up and do the right thing. Most importantly, and for all concerned, they need to do it now.