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York Catholic school board director of education leaves post shortly after starting job

Robert Hofstatter's lack of teaching experience upset many people within board: teacher
April 9, 2021

The newly appointed director of education for York Catholic District School Board has left his post after one month, leaving behind him continuing talk about his lack of experience as a teacher, and sour taste in mouths of others who felt they were more qualified than him.

On Feb. 1, YCDSB announced Robert Hofstatter, who was the program head of computer science and engineering robotics at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto, was going to be the board’s new director of education, effective March 1.

Before St. Michael’s, Hofstatter was vice-president, global information security operation systems at Scotiabank. YCDSB introduced him at the time as a person who has more than 20 years experience in leadership in "financial security services, software technology and advanced strategies for STREAM schools".

However, on April 7, educators and parents received a shocking message from YCDSB trustees, saying Hofstatter is no longer the director of education.

"Our strong and dedicated senior administrative team will continue to put student well-being and achievement at the forefront and support each of you in serving our students," the trustees said.

"An announcement regarding next steps and the appointment of an interim director will be shared with you later this week."

When reached out to YCDSB, the trustees’ comments were reiterated.

A teacher who spoke under condition of anonymity, however, gave an inside description of what’s was happening inside YCDSB soon after Hofstatter's appointment.

He noted the board hired someone with no teaching experience and who spent most of his career running a bank.

"This upset teachers and administrators at the board who all felt they were more qualified," the source said.

Hofstatter’s appointment also came after the passage of a new provincial law that ended the requirement for education directors to be teachers.

Appointing Hofstatter incensed so many that some decided to resign in show of protest.

"Senior admin at the Board started retiring/resigning as a result of this appointment, signalling they were not happy," the source added. “We lost five superintendents and a CFO during that time ... This meant the Board lost its experienced leaders and was looking at an uncertain future.”

His appointment agitated one former superintendent, who filed an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaint, alleging "constructive discrimination", claiming Education Minister Stephen Lecce approved Hofstatter as director of education.

The source, meanwhile, described how Lecce said removing the teaching experience requirement from the education director role was done to promote diversity.

"Then, the first hire under this new law is a white guy ... so this did not sit well with community groups who praised Lecce for that move, as they felt they were misled and let down."

Mike Totten, acting president for the York Region branch of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, said the board trustees must are responsible for the situation.

"As elected officials, they are accountable to all stakeholders for the decisions they make and must be prepared to answer to the concerns of those stakeholders," Totten added. "The trustees of our Board are in charge of hiring decisions."

Totten hopes that in the future, new hires are set to advance the "goals of equity and inclusion are dealt with more intentionally.

"This situation could provide an opportunity for the board to help address systemic racism and increase diversity within the leadership of our organization."

Hofstatter leaving the job also happened after YCDSB apologized April 1 for confusion caused by a letter it sent to parents the day before, suggesting schools will switch to online learning starting April 6, following an expected ministerial announcement of a four-week shutdown for all Ontario schools.

"Was the Min of Ed disappointed in the newly appointed director for the misstep and asked the trustees to remove him?" the teacher asked. "We don't know, but we can speculate that it might have had something to do with it."