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Mario Iatonna, executive superintendent of corporate services and board treasurer

Windsor Catholic school board begins to downsize

  • June 18, 2014

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board will be downsizing over the next year despite projecting a $1.1-million surplus in the 2014-2015 budget.

This comes as a result of the board, which had been struggling financially for a number of years before going under provincial su-pervision last summer, attempting to chip away at a $14.1-million deficit accumulated during a time of declining enrolment.

“The Ministry set a plan to accumulate surpluses in order to offset the capital deficit,” said Mario Iatonna, executive superintendent of corporate services and board treasurer. “As for the layoff of teachers, we staff our system to the regulation and to our collective agreements as far as class sizes go. We are projecting a decline of 4.1 per cent in students, 900 less than this year and less students (means) less teachers, less support staff, less administration.”

Layoffs will affect 45 teachers for the upcoming school year “but more notices than that will go out for contractual reasons,” said Iatonna. Both high school and elementary level teachers will be affected.

His board, which has been seeing fewer students annually since 2002, received an enrolment projection report from Watson & Associates Economists this December as the provincial super-visor returned full control of the board to the trustees.

“Based on the projections our board will probably, if there is not significant growth in the future here, we will probably be a board of somewhere around 16,000 students (in 15 years),” he said.

Even in the growth scenario calculated in the report, he said there will still be fewer students in 15 years than the more than 21,000 the board educates this year — about 500 to 1,000 fewer.

Not only is the Windsor-Essex Catholic community losing a sig-nificant number of teachers and students, it will also be down three schools by the end of June 2015. The board will close St. Gregory Catholic Elementary School as well as St. Maria Catholic School at the end of June. St. Jules Catholic Elementary School will produce its final alumni next June as the school is slotted for closure then.

“Currently we have 4,300 empty spaces in our system — that’s about 18 per cent — and the Ministry of Education does not fund those empty spaces, so the sooner we get those down the better for the entire system,” he said. “If we don’t have students to fill our schools we have to address the capacity issue. Unfortunately that means school closures.”

Despite the downsizing Iatonna is confident the programming and quality of education the board provides will not diminish.

“Any time we’ve had to consoli-date schools the programming has always stayed at a high level and has increased as far as the results from EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) scores show.

“We are trying to manage the organization so that we don’t impact staff as much as we can,” said Iatonna. “Unfortunately the enrolment decline is still sig-nificant year after year. (But) our strategic vision is that we are going to be the best board that we can be, whether that is 20,000 students or 16,000 students.” 

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