A controversial Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) trainer raked in more than $315,000 in fees during the pandemic for her sessions with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Peel District School Board (PDSB).
The invoices for Kike Ojo-Thompson from the KOJO Institute – obtained by True North through two separate freedom of information requests requests – covered primarily the years 2020 and 2021 for anti-racism sessions and advice.
The person signing off on the majority of them is current TDSB education director Colleen Russell-Rawlins, who hired Ojo-Thompson while she was still at the TDSB as associate director of equity, well Being, early years and school improvement, and then repeatedly while she was interim director at the PDSB for one year between August 2020 and August 2021.
One of the TDSB invoices from July of 2020 sent to Russell-Rawlins is for $45,765 for “comprehensive leadership training on equity” – training that was repeated many times in the invoices.
I cannot say how often Russell-Rawlins hired her once she returned to the TDSB in August of 2021, since I was forced to appeal my request to get even one year’s worth of invoices from that school board.
Ojo-Thompson came under intense fire in July after celebrated principal Richard Bilkzsto took his own life after being humiliated by the DEI trainer in two sessions in April and May of 2021 and being subsequently canceled from temporary assignments by woke TDSB senior executives.
This was despite a favourable WSIB ruling in June of 2021 that stated Ojo-Thompson’s conduct was “abusive, egregious and vexatious” and could be considered “workplace harassment and bullying.”
Bilkzsto filed a $750,000 lawsuit against the board just before he took his own life. His lawyer Lisa Bildy recently told me the lawsuit is on hold while estate and other issues are settled.
A review by the King International Group of what led to Bilkzsto’s suicide, announced by Russell-Rawlins in late July, has yet to be completed four months later. TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said it is “ongoing” and he has “no further information at this time.”
Ditto for an education ministry review launched at the same time by minister Stephen Lecce.
The FOI invoices consistently show how little accountability was required of Ojo-Thompson.
None of them contain the number of hours worked or any details on what services she provided.
She does insist, however, on being paid within 30 days, sometimes within 10 days.
It would appear that the sessions in which Ojo-Thompson is reported to have behaved abusively towards Bilkzsto were invoiced in April of 2021 at $22,882.50 for what she calls “Comprehensive Leadership Training on Equity.”
The invoices were billed to the interim education director Karen Falconer; however she did not sign off on them.
Let’s remember the sessions were all conducted on Zoom.
In addition, the Comprehensive Leadership Training on Equity template was being offered at the same time by Ojo-Thompson at the Peel school board.
Russell-Rawlins was named interim education director in Peel after allegations of anti-black racism resulted in a ministry takeover of the board.
While Russell-Rawlins was at the Peel board, Ojo-Thompson appeared to be involved with helping to facilitate the board’s We Rise Together action plan – one that was to identify, minimize and eliminate the marginalization of black students in the board’s schools.
In March of 2021, Ojo-Thompson issued a $11,149.71 invoice (with HST) to the Peel Secondary School Vice Principals’ Association for something called the We Rise Advisory Committee.
In that same timeframe, she charged $3,000 for a three-hour conference with the same association. Her invoice provides no details as to what she did.
She also charged the PDSB $20,340 for the first two installments of “Comprehensive Leadership Training on Equity with a focus on anti-racism and anti-black racism” in January and February of 2021.
She provided no details on hours or content or what group is being trained, except to say there were four modules. Russell-Rawlins signed off on the invoice.
A $6,780 invoice for the third installment was dated in early July of 2021 and signed off on by Russell-Rawlins the very date it was received.
Another invoice for $13,560 for the first installment of the same “Comprehensive Leadership Training on anti-racism and anti-black racism for principals, vice-principals and managers was dated Feb. 8, 2021 and signed off on, yet again, by Russell-Rawlins.
It is interesting to note that another invoice from Ojo-Thompson for work related to the We Rise Advisory Committee – Installments 1-3 – was dated August of 2021.
The $22,299.42 had no signature of approval. But even after Russell-Rawlins departed for Toronto, the KOJO Institute continued to benefit from the largesse of the Peel board.
These include $2,260 for a Joint meeting on We Rise billed in Nov. 2021. With whom she met she doesn’t say.
There was also more than $108,480 paid for cohort training at the end of 2021 and early 2022. She didn’t indicate what cohort or cohorts she was training.
By far the craziest invoice was for $10,000 for a June 11 event in 2022. She was hired by Romana Siddiqui of the Parent Involvement Committee, who ran as a labour-endorsed candidate for trustee (and lost) later that year.
At the TDSB Ojo-Thompson made $115,113 over 18 months from mid 2020 to end of 2021 for her equity training – the only period over which I was able to obtain invoices.
She did not respond to repeated efforts to obtain comment on what she provided during these sessions and how the Comprehensive Equity Training package differed between the two boards.
I suspect it was a boilerplate template.
Bird insisted the invoices cover all preparation including meetings with staff and the workshop presentations.