An articulate Grade 8 student told a Town Hall in Toronto this past week she was completely distraught when she learned the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) decided to select student placements in specialized arts and other programs based on a lottery.

Lela, 14, broke into tears as described to 250 people in person at Earl Haig secondary school and online how she was not offered a cherished spot in that school’s dance program for next year.

The student, who is currently at Claude Watson School for the Arts,  said she’d started preparing to audition two years ago but lost hope over the past few months when she realized she was No. 17 on the waitlist.

“During my five years at Claude Watson, I tried so hard to improve my dance (abilities),” she said.  “My future has been reduced to a lottery.”

The criteria for admission to the board’s highly specialized programs in the arts, math, science and athletics programs were changed from auditions, entrance exams, report cards and other merit-based assessments to simple interest and a lottery.

The controversial changes to the board’s special interest programs and schools were voted on last May and are impacting current Grade 8 students seeking to apply to specialized schools in the fall.

Black activist education director Colleen Russell-Rawlins, who appears hellbent and determined to dumb down the curriculum as much as she can, said when the policy was passed that the objective of the changes was to provide students with a “fair chance of acceptance” into such programs no matter their identity, ability, postal code or family income.

Her idea was to “remove barriers” allegedly present for black and Indigenous students.

However, most of those who attended Tuesday night’s town hall, agreed that the new policy has been a massive fail.

Using the board’s own statistics (obtained through a Freedom of Information request) UofT professor Marcin Peski showed how the lottery system doesn’t accomplish the board’s goals.

More than anything, a system like that does not take into consideration the passion or talent required to flourish in accelerated arts, math and science programs.

That’s because the board has not been successful at “generating interest” among those groups at the middle school level.

The town hall was organized by new trustee Weidong Pei, who knocked off TDSB chairman Alexander Brown in last fall’s election, party because Pei was vehemently opposed to the specialized program changes.

Peski said accelerated programs require effort sustained by high passion and interest.

“We are not talking about tutoring programs… we’re talking about accelerated programs,” he said.

He added that despite Russell-Rawlins contentions, socioeconomic barriers were not considered in the application process.

Peski said a brief he obtained from the secondary school planning committee indicated the plan (under Russell-Rawlins) is to close all specialized programs within five years and create one homogenous system without any choice.

Ethan, a student at Ursula Franklin Academy, said the lottery system didn’t open up applications and in fact has been “complete failure.”

The well-spoken young man said the board rushed into the decision without a plan and schools had to scramble to accommodate the changes.

“The TDSB needs to rethink this decision or the system will inevitably fail,” he said.

The town hall also heard that the TDSB is “putting up all kinds of roadblocks” for those trying to get into a gifted program when they move from middle school to high school.

According to a variety of speakers, students are being told there is an 18-month gap to apply for the gifted program, even if they’re already in one in middle school.

Jennifer Waston, a retired teacher and daughter of Claude, said her father would be absolutely “appalled” at what the board is doing with this program.

Apparently the 200-plus parents who attend the Pei’s town hall were also appalled by the nonsensical and downright dangerous policy moves by Russell-Rawlins and her woke lieutenants in the TDSB senior management ranks.

One wonders how many times these radical activists masquerading as educators will be allowed to mess up the schools under their watch before the province says enough.

Russell-Rawlins’ policies have led to absolute anarchy and violence in some schools.

This particular policy will drive the more gifted students out of the system turning the board’s classrooms into ones where academics take a back seat to critical race theory and gender ideology.

It is already happening.

Russell-Rawlins is destroying the board’s schools one misguided policy at a time.


  • Sue-Ann Levy

    A two-time investigative reporting award winner and nine-time winner of the Toronto Sun’s Readers Choice award for news writer, Sue-Ann Levy made her name for advocating the poor, the homeless, the elderly in long-term care and others without a voice and for fighting against the striking rise in anti-Semitism and the BDS movement across Canada.