16 August 2011
Hundreds of students protest outside of the Toronto District School Board’s head offices. They demand the relocation of the TOPS program to alleviate overcrowding at Marc Garneau CI and increase the sustainability of the program by allowing it to grow. “Save Garneau; let TOPS go!” they chant.
A short time later, Director of Education Chris Spence writes an open letter to the community of MGCI claiming that the relocation of the program is not feasible and that TOPS will remain at the school. He explains that a Working Group will be established at MGCI to address the overcrowding issue locally.
29 August 2011
A motion is brought forward by the leaders of the protest on 16 August to the TDSB, asking for a Program Area Review Team (PART) at MGCI to address the overcrowding in the school through either relocating the TOPS program or allowing it to accommodate a greater number of students while remaining at the school. Several delegates, including students, teachers, and parents present their views on the issue to a committee.
The motion is turned down by the committee, but Trustee Irene Atkinson announces that she will bring forward the motion to the Board of Trustees separately with Trustee Sheila Cary-Meagher at the next Board of Trustees meeting on 7 September.
7 September 2011
The TDSB Board of Trustees convenes at TDSB headquarters for a regular meeting; MGCI’s local Trustee Gerri Gershon is not present.
The motion for the PART at Marc Garneau is brought up, but is postponed for consideration to the following regular meeting on 5 October, based on a suggestion from Trustee Chadwick “out of respect for Gerri Gershon,” as well as to allow time for a report from the Working Group at Garneau.
5 October 2011
The TDSB Board of Trustees convenes for a regular meeting. When the motion regarding Marc Garneau CI is again brought to the Trustees, Trustee Gershon moves that “consideration of the matter be postponed until June 2012 to allow for a report from the Marc Garneau Working Group, which would include recommendations regarding the issue of over-population and the TOPS program, with a final report to the presented to the Board at that time.”
The motion is approved and the consideration of the PART is postponed until June 2012.
In the following months, the Overcrowding Working Group chaired by Superintendent Rauda Dickinson begins to separate itself from issues involving the accommodation of the TOPS program and focuses solely on overcrowding. Dickinson comments: “I have been charged by the Director, Dr. Chris Spence to deal with the overcrowding. TOPS is not an exclusive matter,” contradicting Trustee Gershon’s motion on 5 October. She also states that the Working Group is aiming towards an alternate schedule to maximize space in the school so that MGCI can be put into a province-wide list of schools awaiting a facilities enhancement.
27 June 2012
In the three regular board meetings taking place in June 2012 at the Toronto District School Board, the Board of Trustees does not discuss the motion for a PART at MGCI. The Trustees are, however, provided with a briefing note describing the outcome of the scheduling changes instituted in February 2012 at MGCI. The briefing note makes no mention of the TOPS program, and makes statements that Superintendent Dickinson agrees are not entirely factual – the note states that “Music, Art, Physical Education, Science, Auto and Family Studies classes were held in appropriate spaces,” whereas not all science classes have been held in science labs following the institution of the schedule.
The note states also that “the group will reconvene in the fall” to review additional data such as credit accumulation, but no Working Group meetings are held after spring of 2012.
Over the summer of 2012, the Ontario Ministry of Education announces a freeze on all capital spending for facilities enhancements in the TDSB, eliminating MGCI’s chances for an extension for the time being. Superintendent Dickinson chooses not to reconvene the Working Group and to leave the schedule as is. She states that “the timetable will continue at MGCI,” without consideration of data that the Group was meant to review in the fall, without a decision by the Group as a whole, and without consideration of the change in Ministry policy. Meanwhile, the motion for the accommodation of the TOPS program is forgotten.
Editor’s note: The overcrowding and TOPS accommodation issues are years old, and this piece is not meant to incite a resuscitation of old resentments. Rather, we published this article so that our readers could be informed of the bureaucratic processes that caused our school’s issues to be abandoned. For such important yet forgotten matters as these, we felt a comprehensive recount was long overdue.
–Mahan Nekoui, Editor in Chief