Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shedding Some Light on the Mentality of the Toronto District School Board

Today’s Globe and Mail has a story that illustrates the culture of secrecy of the Toronto District School Board and apparent consequences for breaching that secrecy. The bolded parts are sections I found of particular interest.

Demoted vice-principal sues school board
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
February 7, 2008 at 4:21 AM EST

A former vice-principal of a Toronto elementary school is going to court today seeking remedy for what he claims were failures by the school board and Ontario College of Teachers to act on alleged threats and aggressive behaviour by the school's former principal.

Gary Pieters, now vice-principal at Carleton Village Public School, also states in court documents that he was demoted and penalized for reporting his allegations.

The documents filed with the court detail alleged misconduct between June, 2005, and February, 2006, by Gordon Kingsmill, then principal of the Shoreham Public School in the Jane-Finch area.

Mr. Kingsmill's lawyer, Sarah Colman, told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Kingsmill denies all allegations and that he was already cleared by two investigations.
The accusations include uttering a death threat against a teacher, pushing a Grade 2 student into a chair, expressing a desire to kick another Grade 2 student and threatening to burn a complaint against a teacher prepared by a Grade 5 student.
Mr. Pieters, who had been Mr. Kingsmill's vice-principal at Shoreham, states in an affidavit that he exhausted all internal complaint processes at the Toronto District School Board.

He then appealed to the Ontario College of Teachers, requesting that they submit his complaints to the discipline committee. The College of Teachers rejected the request. Mr. Kingsmill is presently principal at Agincourt Junior Public School.

Ms. Colman said in an interview that "Mr. Kingsmill has been through two thorough investigations," and that both "have determined that Mr. Pieters' allegations are without merit."

Ms. Colman also said that Mr. Pieters "did not witness directly many of the incidents he alleges occurred." The factum filed with the court details Mr. Pieters's presence at only two incidents.

Spokespeople for the school board and College of Teachers both declined comment because the matter is before the courts.

Mr. Pieters alleges in the court documents that he "faced retaliatory actions for blowing the whistle and consequences up to and including a Letter of Record in his personnel file, home assignment without duties, and a partial demotion" from full vice-principal to part-time status combined with duties as an ESL teacher, for which he is not certified.

The request for a judicial review comes less than a month after publication of a report on school safety, chiefly written by lawyer Julian Falconer, claimed that a culture of silence in the city's public schools led staff to avoid reporting misconduct for fear of repercussions.

Mr. Pieters's submissions to the court also complain that the College of Teachers relied "on a materially flawed and procedurally unfair" report by a school board investigator, and that the college investigator failed to review evidence.
But Ms. Colman said the board investigator was "an independent third party," and the College of Teachers "spent months investigating the allegations and interviewing witnesses."

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