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Courtesy of @tdsb on Twitter. Posted on June 23, 2017.

Parents fear TDSB changes to schools’ gifted, special ed programs

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

Worried parents and advocates say many children will never fulfil their academic potential if the Toronto District School Board follows through on a proposal to dramatically restructure its gifted and special education programs.

The TDSB task force dedicated to making the board more accepting, inclusive and fair for low-income, racialized and otherwise marginalized students has drafted a report recommending, in part, that gifted students and students who need “special education” be integrated into regular classrooms.

“Resources and supports (would) be realigned so that all schools, at least every cluster of local schools, can offer a variety of specialty programs,” the report says.

Teachers would receive special ed and gifted training and kids would still get the specially tailored learning they need, the proposal says.

But parents of children currently in gifted classes say the proposed changes would destroy the program, not reform it.

“The idea of inclusion is wonderful (and we should) make sure all the kids in the city have the same opportunities,” said Gail Argensky, whose daughter is a Grade 10 student in Northern Secondary School’s gifted program. “I think access is important too. But when you start talking about dismantling things that are working, I just don’t get that.”

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said the board could not comment on the report because it’s still only in draft form and may be amended before it is tabled at Wednesday’s meeting of board trustees.

The trustees will recommend next steps based on the report, including changing the recommendations.

“There will absolutely be more opportunity for the community to have input before any decisions are made by the board,” the TDSB says on its website.

The TDSB’s gifted program is lacking in racial diversity, and needs a total overhaul, said Carl James, a York University professor who specializes in the education of minority students.

But simply placing gifted students in regular-stream classrooms throughout the city will not fix structural inequities that make it less likely for black students, in particularly, to be in gifted classes.

“The larger process of getting students identified as gifted will have to be looked at,” James said.

Some parents may not know the gifted program is an option for their kids, while other families actively pursue the gifted designation, even having their child tested privately.

“More importantly we have to look at the extent to which the gifted test might have inherent cultural biases, that might disadvantage some students,” James said.

“There is (also) the extent to which teachers identify some students and even suggest that they be tested for being gifted.”

But kids who have already tested as gifted would likely be better off in classes of other gifted kids, James added.

Agensky’s daughter, Amanda Gotlib, tested as gifted when she was in Grade 4, and entered gifted classes in Grade 7. Her time in the regular-stream classes was hard, Amanda said. She had trouble concentrating, and would take hours to finish even short assignments.

“I would have a lot of difficulty getting my work done,” Amanda said. “And I have some techniques I use when I’m trying to listen or focus and a lot of regular-stream teachers don’t really get that…. I often draw. I like to do art and doodling while the lesson is going on.”

The term “gifted” gives people the false impression that kids like Amanda are effortlessly brilliant, Argensky said. The reality is their brains work differently from other kids’ and they have different learning styles. They may not fit in socially with their peers, and often struggle with regular school work.

For kids with learning disabilities, behavioural issues and other special education needs, the task force proposal could be just the latest in a series of slashes to programming.

“We know that we are seeing cuts in the special ed realm all over Ontario,” said Katharine Buchan, educational material co-ordinator with Autism Ontario.

“With the right supports, every student typically could be integrated in to a regular classroom, but for high needs students or some students with autism that’s not always the answer,” Buchan added.

There are already long-standing concerns about the burden placed on teachers by placing kids with special ed needs in regular-stream classes, said Andy Lomnicki, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario’s Toronto chapter.

“There’s nothing wrong with applying the lens of equity, but it can distort what your’e looking at and how you’re trying to fix (equity problems),” Lomnicki said.

“An equitable lens could say that every student (should be) in the same classroom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is serving their needs, or their parents needs, or the other kids in the classroom’s needs, or the teacher’s needs.”

Bill Morneau insists federal government still has no plans for a Netflix tax

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

A person turns on Netflix. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Finance Minister Bill Morneau says the federal government still has no intention of imposing a Netflix tax because it would result in a financial hit for middle-class Canadians.

Morneau’s remarks about the online streaming giant come a couple of days after Heritage Minister Melanie Joly insisted she never agreed to exempt Netflix from any sales tax as part of a deal that has been a political nightmare in her home province of Quebec.

Pressed about the issue on Friday, Joly said anyone with concerns about the lack of federal taxes on online streaming services should talk to Morneau because he’s in charge of taxation.

Joly unveiled a cultural policy in September that secured a $500-million pledge by Netflix to set up a Canadian office and fund original homegrown content — but the plan did not include taxes on the company’s service.

The ensuing weeks have seen the provincial government in Quebec vow to tax foreign online businesses, including Netflix, if Ottawa didn’t do so.

The issue has sparked outrage from artists and producers in Quebec’s cultural industry who have described it as an unfair subsidy.

Morneau insisted Sunday that Ottawa has no intention of changing its promise not to tax Netflix.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself has repeatedly and categorically ruled out a Netflix tax.

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao said Sunday that he plans to raise the issue with Morneau when federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers meet for two days of talks in Ottawa.

Special weather statement for Toronto with snow on the way

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017


It’s beginning to look a little like Christmas as GTA residents woke up Monday morning to a dusting of snow, with more on the way.

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Toronto and parts of southern Ontario as an arctic cold front brought snow to the city on Sunday night.

The agency said an Alberta clipper low pressure area will sail across southern Ontario on Monday night into Tuesday. This will bring a general snowfall of five to 10 centimetres by Tuesday morning.

Eastern Ontario will be hit by about 12 centimetres of snow on Monday night.

Poor winter driving conditions are likely.

Meanwhile, the Barrie area was the subject of a weather warning early Sunday.

Environment Canada said snow squalls were affecting the region, reducing visibility to near-zero and coating the ground in 15 to 20 centimetres of snow in some areas.

-With files from The Canadian Press

Dec. 11 declared ‘Reds Day’ in Toronto to honour TFC’s MLS Cup win

CityNews | posted Monday, Dec 11th, 2017

Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) beats the drum as the Toronto FC celebrate with the crowd following their win over the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup Final in Toronto on Saturday, December 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

After a record-setting season and a triumphant win avenging last year’s crushing defeat, the TFC’s first MLS Cup victory is being officially marked for posterity by the City of Toronto.

Along with the victory parade to be held in their honour on Monday, Dec. 11 has been declared “Reds Day” in Toronto, Mayor John Tory said on Sunday.

Mayor Tory congratulated the team and also acknowledged it’s loyal and passionate fan base in his official proclamation. TFC supporters are “among the best fans in the world,” he said.

Torontonians are encouraged to wear red to show their “support, pride and appreciation” for the TFC on Reds Day.


Get merry at Christmas markets in GTA and beyond

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 8th, 2017

Toronto Christmas Market at the Distillery District. Photo via torontochristmasmarket.com.

European-style Christmas markets seem to be gaining popularity in Ontario, and while the Toronto Christmas Market is the most famous one of them all, there are others in the GTA and beyond.

Click on our interactive map below to find a list of the markets.


Franken announces resignation from Senate amid allegations

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 8th, 2017

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on July 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he will resign from Congress in coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and a collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star.

“I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber.

Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. Wednesday morning, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.

“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonour on this institution,” Franken declared Thursday.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” had originally sought to remain in the Senate and co-operate with an ethics investigation, saying he would work to regain the trust of Minnesotans.

“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” Franken said Thursday. “Others I remember quite differently.” Still, he said he could not both co-operate with an investigation and fully carry out his duties to his constituents.

Franken had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and has even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential campaign.

His resignation means Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January of 2021. Among the possibilities is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted ally.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Wednesday. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.”

A torrent of Democrats quickly followed Gillibrand.

“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behaviour,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”

Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behaviour, but he strongly denies the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”

The pressure on him to leave mounted this week after Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. Rep Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev., faces pressure to resign as well over allegations reported by Buzzfeed that he repeatedly propositioned a former campaign worker.

While Franken is departing, Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore could be arriving, if he prevails in a Dec. 12 special election. Multiple women have accused the 70-year-old Moore of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. If Moore is elected, it could create a political nightmare for Republicans, who have promised an ethics probe.

The allegations against Franken began in mid-November when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.

Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.

Calls continue for integrated fare between TTC and local transit agencies

CityNews | posted Friday, Dec 8th, 2017

TTC Subway

With the new Toronto-York Spadina subway extension to open on December 17, one advocacy group is concerned commuters won’t be changing their habits because they’ll be required to pay two fares – one to ride a York Regional transit bus, and a second fare to hop on the subway.

And that’s renewing calls for an integrated fare system between the TTC and local transit authorities.

“I’m not saying absolutely remove the wall. What I am saying is that there is a fair share that needs to be paid,” said Fred Winegust of the Congestion Relief Committee, South Central York Region.

“That fair share is not only for York region residents going to Toronto, but economic studies have shown that there are people from Toronto who are paying the double fare going into York region.”

TTC and GO Transit riders who use both services will enjoy discounted fares beginning in January. The chair of the TTC says extensive talks need to take place before the TTC could offer fare integration with other local transit agencies.

“We’re getting the PRESTO system in place. That will allow us technically to do fare integration,” said Coun. Josh Colle. “The negotiation will be between all these municipalities, the provincial government and the city to figure out what’s a fair fare integration model so that nobody is financially burdened in one way or another.”

The partnership between the TTC and GO Transit was made possible thanks to provincial funding. Metrolinx, which operates PRESTO and GO Transit, already has fare integration deals in place with several local transit systems — including Mississauga, Brampton, Durham and York region. The provincial transit agency is open to seeing the program expanded.

“If you ask me about integrated fares and when we should have reached a position on integrated fares across the region, I’d say we should have done this years and years and years ago,” said Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster.

“This is a very complicated topic though. It includes many decision-makers and we will continue to push this as quickly as possible.”

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