Open letter to the York Region District School Board

Dear YRDSB,

Thank you for recognizing that the system is broken. Thank you for at least putting forward the illusion that you are interested in fixing it. I’m not convinced that you will because when the person you put in place still answers to the existing system of power, they are destined to fail.

How will you make sure that they don’t? Or will it simply be their fault? Will they be just a check mark, to say you responded to the directives and then wait for the dust to settle and for everybody to go back to the status quo?

As a parent, community member and tax payer, I’d really like to know how you plan on protecting this individual and giving them the room to function, without fear of reprisal.

Based on what they are being tasked to do, a large part of their immediate success plan will be to dismantle the corruption and the veil of secrecy that exists and protects the various silos in our school board… all the way down to the various school Principals. There are some very good Principals out there, but that isn’t the case in every school and the current system is built to protect them.

(photo credit: Bernard Weil, Toronto Star)

Things are broken. Very broken. It’s not just the kids that are suffering. But, the kids are suffering.

There are widespread inequities in access to programming and quality education. What students get varies drastically not only from school to school but also from classroom to classroom.

Certain schools deliver specialty programs but students must prove themselves worthy. Why is it that kids in grade eight have to prove that they deserve access to education that should be available en mass? Is it because there simply aren’t enough teachers who are qualified to deliver that level of education to everybody?

Is that the dirty little secret? Or is that the answer? If more kids were educated the way they should be, then there would be more teachers who can teach en mass what everybody should be taught.

The problem is the silos. Why do we have arts programs and sports programs and IB programs? Why do kids have to travel for upwards of an hour to a specialty program? Studies and common sense tell us that teens need more sleep, not less. Practical knowledge tells us that anxiety and suicide rates are on the rise but, yes, let’s put more pressure on kids rather than do what is in their best interests.

Of course there are the regular stream secondary schools and the vocational schools but where is the equity? If the idea is that no child should require anything beyond a high school education to get into the career of their choice, then how do you justify the specialty schools? Where is the fairness?

The Trustees’ only role is to oversee the Director of Education. From what I’ve seen, this is a critical flaw in the chain. You are hiring a Director who will report to the people who are least interested in seeing the changes that are required. Unless you protect this person by instituting an Ombudsman’s office, removing silos and ensuring that popular opinion does not overshadow proven pedagogy, nothing will change.

From what I understand, YRDSB is held up as a golden standard in the education world. Given the current state of our education system, that’s really a very sad comment considering the absolute lack of transparency and equitable access to quality education. But you can change that, if you want to. Trouble is, I’m not sure you want to.

Please. Prove me wrong.

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