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Donna Quan is shown inside the boardroom of the Toronto District School Board Jan. 16, 2013. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Donna Quan is shown inside the boardroom of the Toronto District School Board Jan. 16, 2013. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Province releases funds for school construction, acting board chair says Add to ...

The new acting director of the Toronto District School Board, replacing Chris Spence after he admitted to plagiarism, announced Friday that the province has released some funding so that the cash-strapped school board can go ahead with some of its capital projects.

Donna Quan, who will be interim director until a search committee finds a permanent replacement for Dr. Spence, said capital projects at Swansea Public School and Earl Haig Secondary School are expected to receive the funds.

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The province froze the board’s funding for major construction projects in the fall, after an independent report found serious cost-overruns and a lack of oversight in a deep retrofit of Nelson Mandela Park Public School.

“[It] shows the Ministry of Education is gaining confidence in the way we are managing our accommodations in our schools,” said Ms. Quan on Friday. “We will continue to work with our board of trustees and staff to strengthen that confidence.”

Ms. Quan, a mother of three, said her main priority at the moment will be to “ensure stability across the system” and regain faith in the school board among the public, adding, however, that it is too early to discuss any concrete plans that will address the capital budget freeze.

Her salary will be the same as her predecessor’s: $272,000, or $300,000 including benefits.

“The focus will be on teaching and learning in fine facilities in a fiscally responsible way,” she said. “We will have to work hard at restoring public confidence as one of the finest education systems in the world, and I intend to do it with the collective team.”

In the meantime, the school board intends to maintain the programs that currently exist at 39 alternative schools across the district that serve unique needs of students, said Ms. Quan.

In addition, she said she will proceed with the findings and recommendations of the K-12 program report, which encouraged conversations with staff, families, and community members about the school board’s direction.

Ms. Quan, who began her teaching career with the TDSB 28 years ago, said she is confident that she and her team will provide the “most optimal learning conditions possible.”

She added that her experience teaching on a native reserve in Manitoba shaped who she is as an educator, constantly reminding her that “every student – no matter where they come from – has an opportunity to succeed.”

Ms. Quan said that as she takes up her new job, her primary goal is simply to refocus her team’s energies.

TDSB Chair Chris Bolton said that Ms. Quan’s goal to regain stability across the system is “crucial.”

“We’re going to take a pause,” said Mr. Bolton. “[We want] to ensure that the stability and the leadership of the Toronto District School Board is put in place and then we’ll figure out what to do next.”

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