Catholic Register Files

Education ministry investigating Windsor school board

By 
  • August 8, 2012

For the second time in a year the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) is under financial investigation.

“A financial investigator has now been appointed to our board,” acknowledged Barb Holland, board of trustees’ chair. “I don’t know where this is going to end up. I know we have said that we will co-operate fully with the people that are being sent in to do the investigation and we have been.”

Grahame Rivers, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, said a poor financial track record is what caused the investigation.

"Windsor Catholic has a long history of developing overly optimistic annual budgets. They've failed to balance five out of the past six years," said Rivers. "Given the serious ongoing financial issues at the Windsor board, the Minister has brought in an investigator to look at the Windsor board's finances."

It could end with the ministry appointing a supervisor to overtake control of the board from the trustees and thus removing Holland from the picture.  

Last year WECDSB invited an auditor from the ministry as a response to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association concerns regarding wages.

"OECTA was pointing out or suggesting that there were (financial) difficulties because the people at the top of our organization were overpaid,” said Holland. “We asked the ministry to come in, look at our books and they did so. It showed that what we’d been saying all along was correct, that we are under budget on all the items that we said we were.”

Despite filing a balanced budget for 2011-2012, which had a small surplus, said Holland, the board did overspend in certain areas — specifically on occasional teachers. This happened due to a higher number of teacher absences than were predicted when drawing up the budget in 2011. It's an issue Holland believes shouldn't constitute an audit because the board is already addressing it with an attendance management program.

Declining enrollment has been blamed for the WECDSB's financial struggles as ministry funding is provided on a per student basis.

Costs associated with maintaining under-utilized space also influenced the board's decision to close and consolidate several schools this June. Savings are estimated at $11 million.

But Holland said she thinks this second audit isn't about financial instability as much as it relates to the board filing for conciliation to resolve collective bargaining difficulties it is having with its teachers.

“I do feel that it is a retaliatory measure and it is retaliation because we spoke out on this issue,” said Holland. “If this goes to our board being put under supervision, what happens to our community of Windsor-Essex is that the ratepayers lose their voice.”

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.