MPP brings forward Island concerns with Rainbow School Board

Michael Mantha

TORONTO—Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Michael Mantha has brought forward the concerns of all those who signed a petition at a town hall meeting last week in Mindemoya, and those parents who have voiced their concerns with measures taken by the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) in banning Trustee Larry Killens from all board meetings until November.

“There are obviously lots of frustrated parents who have many concerns that their voices are silent at the Rainbow District School Board level, and are voicing their support to their trustee (Larry Killens) who has been banned from attending any meetings until the end of November, and want him reinstated,” stated Mr. Mantha, on Friday of last week. “Many parents will be sending their questions and concerns to the board, as will various individuals who have had concerns and their own dealings with the school board over the years.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Mantha said in the Legislature, “I hope I can get back to raising one of the concerns I have, that I’ve approached the Minister of Education about with regard to a problem that I’m having, where parents are voicing their concerns with regard to having their voices silenced by having their trustee from their local school board removed or excused from his participation at the board level. He still continues to have the ability to perform the tasks as a trustee; however, he has been removed.”

“If you want to get involved in fixing certain things, this is one of them. I’ve approached the minister and the minister has basically said, ‘Listen, I’m not getting involved. It’s a board decision at this point in time,  but I have had hundreds of complaints from parents who have tried to bring their issue forward, where their voices are not being heard,” continued Mr. Mantha.

Mr. Mantha explained, “I’m going to be putting in a petition, and I’ll ask one of the pages to come up and grab the petition, please, and bring it down to the clerk’s table. I want the clerks to review this petition as to its proper format to make sure I can introduce it later on in the House. Their democratic right and the right of the elected trustee who has been silenced and has been told, “No, you can’t come to the board any more—the process that was followed is questionable.”

“Last week, many of the parents on Manitoulin Island gathered in one of the halls and questioned what exactly had happened,” said Mr. Mantha. “It is frightening and it is quite concerning for me, as the MPP, to find out a lot of the issues that were raised at that meeting by parents. We’re going to have to challenge those issues. Those are some of the things that are being done.”

“We still have schools in my area that have lead in their water,” continued Mr. Mantha. “We still have schools that are crumbling, that are being shut down. But in the meantime, parents are questioning how it is that the board approved a 32 percent wage increase to a director. How did that happen? How did an individual get $60,000 when we have schools that are crumbling and we have lead in our schools? How is it that this board had the ability to find a million dollars in order to further a project within the community of Sudbury, a bubble soccer dome, where the then Minister of Energy made an announcement in Sudbury that instead of a private company having the ability to build this dome and wanting some assistance, the then Liberal member actually gave a million dollars of taxpayer money to the school board to build a soccer dome? In the meantime, there is still deterioration going on in those schools.”

Mr. Mantha said, “the trustee is sitting at home and his voice has been silenced. The frustration of parents is escalating and people are asking questions. The response that I get from the minister is, ‘I’m not getting involved. At this point in time, it’s a board decision’.”

“There have been some decisions where the Ombudsman has been involved and the Ombudsman has directed the board to follow their own policies,” said Mr. Mantha. “That’s one issue.”

“I look forward to working with the minister and I hope she reconsiders looking into this matter, because there are a lot of upset parents on Manitoulin Island who believe that the dollars they’re paying towards this board need to be held accountable,” said Mr. Mantha. “It brings me to one of the points that is contained within this bill: ‘To restore accountability and trust in government,’ and I get a no. I bring you a question of restoring accountability and trust, and you’re telling me, “I’m not getting involved? That’s what I’m going back to my constituents with? That’s what they should expect from this minister?”

The petition Mr. Mantha brought forward in the house reads, “to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Whereas the Ministry of Education oversees all school boards in the province of Ontario and as such there is an immediate need for a ministerial investigation and oversight of the Rainbow District School Board for serious contraventions contrary to the Ontario Education Act, Ontario Clean Water Act 2006, Municipal Freedom of Information and Rights to Privacy Act, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code; and Whereas the Rainbow District School Board by failing to adhere to the Ontario Clean Water Act and by failing to permanently remedy the unsafe levels of lead contamination in school drinking water (33 schools) are placing our students and educators at serious risk of lead poisoning; and whereas as the malfeasance, systemic discrimination, abuse of power, abuse of process, excessive pay increases, incurring large legal fees to defend their malfeasance as well as unauthorized redundant spending by the Rainbow District School Board and School Administration have taken money out of the classrooms and thus have created significant negative impact on students, parents, families and the community. We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as follows: To commence an immediate detailed ministerial investigation and oversight of the Rainbow District School Board as well as a complete financial audit of school board spending since 2010, including exuberant pay increases to be conducted by the Office of the Provincial Auditor and detailed reports of findings to be submitted to the Ontario Legislature.”