The province spent nearly $1-million to take over the scandal-plagued Toronto Catholic District School Board in order to recover $29,000, documents obtained by a trustee show.
Trustee John Del Grande obtained a breakdown of the costs, which can largely be attributed to the salary of the province-appointed supervisors, through access to information requests submitted to Ontario’s Ministry of Education.
A supervisor took control of the board in June of 2008, after it failed to balance its budget and an independent report found that trustees had used tax dollars to pay for ineligible expenses, including lingerie, alcohol and internet gambling.
The TCDSB has the dubious distinction of being under provincial supervision longer than any other school board in Ontario.
Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said the cost of supervision was justified because it was about more than recovering expenses, it was about operating deficits the board generated between 2006 and 2008 that combined totalled about $50-million.
“This is a board that couldn’t balance its budget year over year,” she said. “Someone needed to go in there and get this board back on track.”
The biggest single cost of the takeover was the salary of supervisor Richard Alway, who was paid $238,452.93 over 15 months. Another $229,880.61 was spent on auditors from Ernst & Young.
At the end of the audit process, $29,000 in unauthorized expenses were recovered from trustees.
“We spent a lot of money to get a little return,” said Mr. Del Grande.
Though trustees retain their salaries during supervision, they lose their decision-making power and their ability to advocate for parents. This became a bone of contention when Mr. Alway’s predecessor, Norbert Hartmann, decided to cut a program for children with learning disabilities, the Arrowsmith program, which had become hugely popular with families. The program was recently reinstated.
“At the end of the day, what we really got were pissed off parents and students and staff,” Mr. Del Grande said.
Control of the board’s nearly $1-billion dollar budget was handed over to two supervisors, Norbert Hartmann and Norm Forma, who resigned in August, 2009, and were replaced by Mr. Alway, president of the University of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and chairman of the C.D. Howe Memorial Foundation.
The trouble began when a former trustee, Christine Nunziata, was removed from the board in February, 2008, after she missed four consecutive board meetings and some unauthorized expenses came to light. That spring, a provincial review found that the trustees had used tax dollars to pay for personal expenses and voted themselves the richest package of benefits of any board in the province.
Mr. Del Grande said that “credit cards were taken away, the Nunziata affair was being dealt with, policies were on their way to being tightened,” when the province took over in 2008. He questioned the necessity of such a lengthy and costly supervision.
The ministry spent a little more than $1-million when it put the Toronto District School Board under supervision in 2002 for more than a year.
An itemized list of expenses and original docs are available at: http://www.johndelgrande.ca/download/FOI