After two rounds of ballots at Thursday’s board meeting, trustee Joseph Martino was selected chair of the Toronto Catholic District School Board in a 7-5 vote. He prevailed over trustee Markus de Domenico.
The incoming chair says there is much work to be done as he’s inheriting a divided board reeling from a battered public image.
“There are issues with our image and the rift between trustees,” Martino said. “I have to try and quell some of those issues.”
Embattled trustee Michael Del Grande did not stand. Del Grande, who was vice-chair heading into the meeting, was not nominated for that post.
Del Grande declined to provide any comments when approached by the Star’s reporter.
Del Grande had been at the centre of a major controversy. The board was updating its code, as required by the Ministry of Education and human rights law, to add protection from discrimination based on gender identity and expression, and family and marital status, when Del Grande brought forward a 12-page amendment listing acts such as bestiality, pedophilia, sadism, polygamy and vampirism that should be added to things deserving of protection against discrimination.
Del Grande argued he was demonstrating how trustees were on a “slippery slope” by including gender identity as deserving of protection aganst discrimination. His motion was ruled out of order.
The final result in Thursday’s vote for chair of the board, followed a tie in the first round of voting.
Angela Kennedy won the vote for vice-chair.
Outgoing chair Maria Rizzo, who voted for de Domenico, said although Martino is a capable leader, she doesn’t think he was the right fit to lead the board through its current dysfunction.
“There is still a big division on this board and I’m not sure he’s going to be able to bring us all together,” she said.
Officials with the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) confirmed, Thursday, Del Grande had stepped down from his position on its board.
“We confirm receipt of Mr. Del Grande’s letter of resignation,” said a statement from the OCSTA executive committee.
It went on to say Del Grande’s “contribution to the work of our association over the years is appreciated.”
The Catholic board voted to temporarily fill the vacancy left by Del Grande at the OCSTA until that agency does its vote in April.
Del Grande’s resignation from that agency comes on the heels of OCSTA taking the unusual step, earlier this week, of publicly rebuking Del Grande, saying “regrettably, the actions of one of our colleagues failed to meet the high standard of behaviour and good example expected of and provided by Catholic trustees throughout Ontario. The actions were unacceptable, hurtful and completely inappropriate. We without reservation repudiate them.”
Thursday’s note from board executives indicated “we have nothing further to say beyond our November 25th statement.”
Current Chair Maria Rizzo said she was “disgusted” by Del Grande’s motion and noted the board had received scores of complaints. An online petition calling for Del Grande to be removed collected more than 1,500 signatures.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce condemned his proposal.
“I find the comments made by the trustee to be quite unacceptable and quite disturbing, actually,” Lecce said Monday at Queen’s Park.
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Del Grande, however, in a text message to the Star, said “with all due respect to Minister Lecce, it is clear that he does not understand that Catholic school boards in Ontario have the constitutional right … to reject any government mandate which would require a Catholic school board to contradict the religious beliefs of the Catholic church.”
The former Toronto city councillor said “that’s what I was doing — protecting our religious schools from a secular ideology that is totally at odds with the Christian faith.”
—With files from Kristin Rushowy