Revised update as of Monday, February 20, 2017 at 10:21 p.m.
Message from the Director of Education, Patricia Preston
Update on the Ongoing Investigations related to the Maple PAR
The Director of Education has completed all inquiries related to the Maple Pupil Accommodation Review (“PAR”).
The first inquiry concerned a September 2, 2016 email, sent by a Principal, which incorrectly implied that the Board had already made a decision on the Maple PAR. The Principal has acknowledged the error and has issued an apology for the miscommunication. The Maple PAR comes before the Board of Trustees for a decision on February 28, 2017.
The Director of Education has also completed her investigation into questions raised by Maple area residents as to whether Trustee Teresa Ciaravella had submitted a claim for reimbursement of expenses to which she was not entitled, and whether any children in her care were receiving special transportation to and from school.
The Director of Education has reviewed the expense claim and has determined that Trustee Ciaravella was properly reimbursed in accordance with the Board’s Trustee expense policy. The Director has also confirmed that no exemptions to the Board’s Transportation Policy have been requested or granted to the personal benefit of Trustee Ciaravella. Transportation of eligible students in the Sherwood Park Drive area has been in place since 1996, as per these guidelines.
The Director of Education has therefore concluded all investigations referred to in earlier media reports.
Alleged Conflict of Interest
With respect to any allegations regarding trustee conflict of interest, the Director of Education takes no position, and does not conduct investigations, into whether an individual Trustee has a conflict of interest.
Under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, it is the responsibility of each Trustee to determine whether he or she has a pecuniary interest in a matter being considered by the Board, and if the Trustee so determines, to take the steps prescribed by the Act.
Board staff has in no way acted inappropriately by notifying an individual who submitted a FOI request that it would be seeking reimbursement for the cost of researching and reproducing records under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
A school board has an obligation under the Act to disclose requested records, and to recover the cost of responding to a request, at a rate prescribed in the Act’s regulations.
The request submitted in relation to the Maple PAR was extremely broad in scope, and so the estimate of the cost was significant. However, Board staff has offered to assist the requester in more narrowly defining the request, in order to access the required records at a more reasonable cost. To date, the applicant has received their initially requested information and has paid $5.00.
February 17, 2017
Message from the Director of Education, Patricia Preston
This message is intended to clarify information reported in the media on February 16, 2017, regarding the Maple Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR).
During a newscast yesterday evening, an email from the Principal at Blessed Trinity CES, one of the schools involved in the Maple PAR, was disclosed. This email was sent by the Principal to school staff on September 2, 2016. It is unfortunate that information in the email was incorrect and thus it appeared to readers that a decision regarding the Maple PAR had already been made. A decision has not been made.
The Principal attended a verbal briefing by Board staff regarding the upcoming PAR process prior to her September 2nd email. This meeting addressed the upcoming PAR and the recommended option, which was going to be put forward in the Initial Staff Report for the Maple PAR. Unfortunately, the Principal communicated incorrect information to staff.
The Principal has acknowledged that the content of her email was in error, and in a written apology has stated: “I miscommunicated what I learned in the verbal briefing and I deeply regret this oversight and the unintended consequences of the inaccurate message that I sent to my staff.”
Together with the Board of Trustees, I am most disheartened that some members of the Maple community feel that a decision regarding the Maple PAR has already been made. A decision regarding the Maple PAR has not been made. In accordance with our PAR process, to which we continue to scrupulously adhere, the decision will be made at the Regular Meeting of the Board, on February 28, 2017.
We are committed to a fair and transparent PAR process and the Board of Trustees is carefully considering feedback received on the Maple PAR Delegation Evening, along with all other feedback provided throughout the process from parents/guardians and community members, in addition to Staff Reports. The Board of Trustees remain committed to making a well-informed decision.
Recent media coverage also reported an allegation that Trustee Ciaravella has a conflict of interest. Trustee Ciaravella, like all trustees of the YCDSB, is subject to the provisions of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, and has agreed to uphold the following statement in the Board’s Code of Ethics as outlined in Policy 118: Trustee Code of Conduct:
“I will accept my responsibility for understanding legislation pertaining to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. I will not use my position for personal advantage or to the advantage of any other party not representing the total interest of the YCDSB. I will resist outside pressure to make such use of my position.”
It is the responsibility of individual trustees to declare a conflict of interest in circumstances in which they may have a pecuniary interest when they are discussing and voting on a Board recommendation.