Veteran city politician and educator, and now candidate, Frank O'Hagan says he's going to give a trustee position another shot, by announcing he'll be running for a seat with the Nipissing-Parry Sound Catholic District School Board.
O'Hagan is focusing on the Education Act concerning the governance, human resources practices, and financial accountability of the local board.
He's been an outspoken critic of the Board's hiring practices, in particular, calling them an "ongoing farce and mockery."
"As evidenced, the key issues have long been symptomatic of ineffective leadership and the critical need for change. The present leadership deficit manifests itself through a lack of clarity, lack of consistency, and a lack of public (staff ) confidence and resources impacting the most vulnerable ...our students.
"Significant shortcomings in the areas of communications, governance and human resources, and undemocratic secrecy from local elected and appointed members require investigations of blatant policies, procedures and by-laws further questioning meetings, minutes and unilateral decisions leaving serious doubt about their transparency, accountability and due diligence."
He wants the Province to investigate the Board's actions.
O'Hagan's efforts in that regard have provoked the ire of the Board, with its Mississauga lawyer, Margot Blight, sending him a cease and desist letter.
"I have written to you previously (June 2018) about defamatory statements made about my client, including allegations of nepotism in hiring," says Blight's letter, provided to BayToday by O'Hagan,
"More recently, on February 2, 2022, a letter you authored was published in Bay Today (“the recent letter”) in which you have made renewed allegations of nepotism and bias on the part of the Board. Further, you have accused the Board of abusing process and procedure, and of lacking transparency, accountability, due diligence and inclusiveness."
Blight also warns O'Hagan about commenting on a process undertaken by the Board to fill a trustee vacancy.
"Compliance with the Act is not optional. In particular, the timeline to fill the vacancy and the eligibility requirements for candidates to be considered are mandated by law. These requirements as well as the process undertaken by the Board to fill the vacancy were clarified by the Board’s Chair in a response to an earlier letter authored by you and published in Bay Today on January 13, 2022. The Board Chair’s response was published on January 27, 2022. The statement in the recent letter that your questions have been buried, ignored, or trivialized is demonstrably false."
That vacancy accusation has incensed Board Chair Leo De Jourdan, saying "It's simply not true" that the Board could delay filling the spot until the next election
"The Education Act says we have 60 days "
De Jourdan also refutes the allegation that the Board wasn't transparent in filling the vacancy, and already had somebody in mind which the Board simply appointed instead of going through the proper process.
"It's not true. We posted in BayToday and the Nugget and the Board's website. I'm assuming Frank would have applied if he saw the posting. Then he went on to say we disrespected an applicant by declaring that she wasn't qualified, and that's not true. The reason the applicant wasn't considered was that person had an employment relationship with the Board which excluded her candidacy."
De Jourdan also defended the Board's hiring practices. A list has been circulating purporting to name all the friends and relatives hired by the former Director of Education. He calls O'Hagan;s allegations "inaccurate at best and defamatory at worst."
"I'm confident there was no nepotism whatsoever. The Catholic education community is relatively small and so it's not unusual to see relatives working in the same system. In fact Frank himself has a family member employed as a teacher within our system., so it's not uncommon. Frank would like to suggest that it's nefarious and that's simply not true."
But O'Hagan remains unapologetic and unfazed by the threat of legal action by the Board.
"My purpose in both running again and seeking an investigation, besides restoring the truth, would be for the many staff school and board office staff threatened by board lawyers. They deserve to at least be heard when harassed."
He is also encouraging other like-minded candidates to run for the Board.
"As so much is needed, it is important that all of those directly affected need to be involved or run in the upcoming school board election and be more adamant about serving on committees so that the 'few' board authorities are truly more accountable so that truth and integrity always prevail.
"As a teacher, I am ashamed of our local separate school board and the damage done by what this board has become, and how elected, appointed and acclaimed trustees have added silence and secrecy."
He also takes a shot at MPP Vic Fedeli, whom O'Hagan says has "refused when I approached him on this political travesty to avoid anything negative, if political and harmful to his facade and his government's apparent collusion."
BayToday reached out to Fedei. Spokeswoman Vanessa De Matteis sent an emailed statement saying "The Ontario Government and Ministry of Education is not directly involved in Board hiring decisions and we encourage you to reach out to the school board on this matter."
De Jourdan finds O'Hagan's allegations troubling, but somewhat ironic.
"Now that we are entering into a campaign season I think it's important to know that Frank used to be a trustee with our board but resigned as a trustee in 2013 and that was because he couldn't get along with the other trustees or administration. The next term he leaves our system and as a ratepayer, and runs for the Near North Board and now he's back. During that time he was publically commenting that there should be an amalgamation of boards which means we wouldn't have a Catholic system of education anymore. Now here he is back, wanting to run as a trustee for the same board he wanted to destroy."