He has a history of sometimes characterizing the school in an unflattering light and his actions often put students and staff under a harsh glare.
So parents from Don Bosco Catholic Secondary — the Etobicoke school some parents says is too-often described as “Rob Ford’s” — met Tuesday night to discuss whether the costs outweigh the benefits of having the high-profile mayor as their football coach.
Coaching the team has been one of Ford’s passions and he has been criticized for taking time away from city hall to attend practices.
“We’re not saying we want to oust Mayor Ford, it’s just a discussion, because there is some anger but there’s good things too,” said Teresa Bridport, vice-chair of the school’s parent council.
In a prepared statement addressing parents at the meeting — which was closed to media because organizers felt attendees would feel freer to speak their minds — parent council chair Doreen Way said it was not council’s role to decide to terminate Ford’s relationship with the school.
“That is the (Toronto Catholic District School Board’s) decision. At this time, what we are deciding is what message we would like to give to the (board) in order to help them make the decision,” she wrote.
Following the discussion, the seven members of the school’s parent council will vote on what the message to the board will be, Way wrote.
The TCDSB launched an investigation earlier this month into statements Ford made about the school during an interview with Sun News — including that some students would have “no reason to go to school” if not for football.
“You can’t tell them to get an education. But I use the football as a carrot,” he said.
Following the broadcast, a “significant” number of teachers signed an anonymous letter sent to senior board officials — saying Ford’s comments were “disgusting” and depicted the school in a “demeaning way that was filled with untruths” — prompting the board’s investigation.
On Tuesday, board spokesman John Yan said the review is ongoing and “we won’t have any comment until we complete our review and investigation.”
The board’s parent council executive committee met with members of the school board Monday to discuss Ford’s relationship with the school. Other meetings of board higher-ups have taken place.
Bridport said the parent council wanted to ensure all parents at the school — particularly those with children on the football team, where Ford is adored by many — had an opportunity to share their thoughts on the mayor’s involvement with the school.
In an email to Torstar News Service Tuesday night, Bruce Rodrigues, the board’s director of education, said: “We are awaiting (parent council’s) official comments and input back to us sometime this week as part of this review process.”
Tuesday’s parent meeting was scheduled prior to the revelation Tuesday that Ford was asked to leave a gala event earlier this year due to concerns he was intoxicated, and that he has struggled with alcohol abuse.
While Bridport acknowledged that may be cause for concern at Tuesday’s meeting, the problems with Ford stem back to the previous football season, she said.
“Just the chaos it created in our school to have the mayor as our coach, how disruptive it was, for the administration, staff, for the teachers, for the students, just because he’s such a high profile person now — it certainly puts our school under a microscope.”
Way mentioned the harmful effect of Ford’s negative comments.
“The administration, teachers and parents have worked very hard to improve the image of the school with the ultimate goal of increasing enrolment at the school. His negative messaging has been detrimental to this goal,” she wrote in her prepared statement to the parents.
After the meeting, Way said the discussion about Ford was one of several others on the agenda and the council voted to send their message of Ford’s negative impact to the board.
Loxie Roberts, who has a daughter in Grade 9 at Don Bosco and attends parent council meetings regularly, said afterward that Ford is “putting down the school.”
“We believe he shouldn’t be associated with the football program,” said Roberts, adding there seemed to be a consensus in the room that Ford should step down. “We’re getting tired of the guy.”
Prior to coming to Don Bosco, Ford had been at North York’s Newtonbrook Secondary. But he was told he was no longer welcome to coach following a confrontation with a player that occurred in 2001.
Yan, as well as Don Bosco principal Ugo Rossi, refused to comment on whether news of Ford’s issues with alcohol would affect his future at the school, or what Rossi would do if called upon to remove Ford as coach.