Wednesday, 28 March 2012

KPR is Above the Law

This week the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board finally dropped the pretense of being a “public” institution.

This past Monday, Superintendent Peter Mangold (2011 salary: $142,725.49) appeared to shed any traces of KPR respect for Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and for the parents and grandparents whose taxes pay his own salary, when he told PCVS students that they’re no longer permitted to discuss any resistance to the authority of the school board while in the school, as reported in this Examiner article.

Mangold implied that any disagreement with KPR’s decisions constitutes negative behaviour and cannot be tolerated. “We want to promote positive messages,” said Mangold, lamely attempting to defend his indefensible edict.

First the teachers were silenced. Then concerned parents and community members were prohibited from meeting on “school board property.” Then taxpayers were told they no longer have the right to address Trustees on the subject of PCVS in the boardroom. Now KPR’s authoritarianism has reached its necessary end: free speech is no longer permitted in public schools.

On Wednesday, March 28th, PCVS students ready to meet found the school auditorium locked up. Students instead staged a sit-in, lining the walls of the main school hallway. Journalists attempting to cover the controversy were told to get off the property. Instead they gathered at the cenotaph, under the Canadian flag, in plain sight of City Hall, wondering what has become of our democratic freedoms.

PCVS civic engagement no longer welcome at KPR

Nothing now distinguishes KPR from a private corporation except one thing: the $377 million dollars of public money in their annual budget.

Last Friday, the Ontario government released its “sunshine list” of public servants earning six-figure salaries. A total of 134 KPR employees, most of them principals and vice-principals, take home more than $100,000 of our money every year. 17 of these people work at the KPR office at Fisher Drive and seldom set foot in a classroom.

If KPR really were a full-fledged private enterprise, it would be accountable to its customers. If it tried to close a popular program, install unwanted WiFi systems, or control students’ communication with one another, parents would have the option of simply taking their tuition dollars elsewhere.

If KPR were truly a public institution, it would be accountable to taxpayers through its public representatives. But in Ontario, as documented in the past few posts, public supervision of its education dollars has been reduced to almost nothing. Bill 177, the “Student Achievement and School Board Governance Act” passed in 2009, instead of addressing the democratic deficit, made it worse by prohibiting Trustees from publicly criticizing school board decisions, as you can read here.

The near-complete absence of accountability on either free-enterprise or public-institution models means that KPR administrators have carte blanche to subject your children to WiFi radiation, shut down schools they don’t like, prohibit free speech on public property, and ignore public legislation with impunity, all while you foot the bill.

A third-party Operational Review of KPR conducted last year at this time found two significant problems with the board’s governance, even according to the province’s own meager requirements: they found that the roles of Director of Education and Chair of the Board of Trustees were not clearly delineated, and they found that Trustees were sitting on hiring committees for principals and vice-principals, contravening Bill 177. The review, which you can read here, recommends on pages 5 and 6 that action be taken to rectify these problems. No action has apparently been taken. What are the consequences for ignoring provincial legislation? None.

As documented in the “Making a Farce out of ARC” series on this blog in October, KPR administrators made little to no effort to update their Harris-era school closure policy over the past ten years, resulting in an illogical and contradictory document that did not meet provincial guidelines. They then abused this document to force a fully-enroled, centrally-located school to close on less than one year’s notice, contradicting the city’s official plan, the province’s Places to Grow Act, and the province’s own demographic projections calling for steady population growth in central Peterborough over the next twenty years. Facilitator Joan Green reviewed KPR’s abuses, but her report didn’t recommend that any action be taken to correct them. What are the consequences for ignoring public policy? None.

KPR spent more than $10 million on central administration last year. Here’s a list of the people at Fisher Drive to whom you’re paying six-figure salaries to play real-life “board games” with public dollars. As a group, they make more than $2 million a year.

William R. Hick, Director of Education: $206,258.55

John R. Lawrence, Superintendent of Education, Business and Corporate Services: $165,521.89

Scott A. Pollard, Superintendent of Education, Human Resource Services: $162,409.98

Jennifer Leclerc, Superintendent of Education, Teaching and Learning: $160,559.65

Catherine Foy, Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement: $151,313.40

Steven A. Girardi, Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement: $151,313.24

Martin J. Twiss, Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement: $151,222.32

Shelly G. Roy, Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement: $147,185.37

Peter A. Mangold, Superintendent of Education, Student Achievement: $142,725.49

Dean G. Macdonald, Senior Manager, Finance & Business Services: $122,519.19

Larry Piccinin, Senior Manager, Human Resources: $122,519.19

Ronald J. Plaizier, Chief Information Officer: $122,519.19

Mark A. Galonski, Controller of Facility Services: $122,519.11

Laura L. Doucette, Consultant: Literacy – Secondary: $101,553.11

Kellie A. Barron, Information and Communications Technology Director, Corporate Systems: $100,842.30

MPP Jeff Leal, to whom we’re also paying a comparable amount of money every year, has done nothing to address the democratic deficit at the school board level, nothing to head off the community disaster that closing PCVS will be, and has failed to respond to the legitimate concerns of his constituents, Peterborough city council, the Downtown Business Improvement Association, teachers, students, and taxpayers.

A demonstration at Leal’s downtown office is planned for this Friday, March 30th, at 1:30 pm.

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