Back in April, we wondered whether the third-party audit undertaken at Early Learning Centres in St. Thomas and Aylmer was routine due diligence on the part of city staff or complaint driven.
The matter came to the attention of this corner when a former staffer at an Early Learning Centre in St. Thomas called to alert us about a frustrating situation at the centres.
As this individual explained, at stake is the departure of former executive director Patricia Riddell-Laemers, the disbursement of top-up pay ear-marked for staff and allegations some individuals may have been wrongfully dismissed.
Matters apparently sank so low, some staffers hired a lawyer to delve into Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education violations at the Early Learning Centres.Well, this week a former staffer contacted us to advise, “We are receiving cheques next week for being underpaid in 2016 and 2017.”
We’re withholding the caller’s identity lest the Early Learning Centre administrators point their legal beagles her way.
The wage enhancement – amounting to about two dollars per hour – is a method of equalizing the wages paid to staff at school-based centres and what the private centres pay. The money flows from the province to the city’s social services department and then to the childcare operators.
Elizabeth Sebestyen, director at the St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Department, stressed at the time the audit was simply routine due diligence.
Sebestyen was away from the office this week, however a call to Irma Pedersen, supervisor of children’s services at the St. Thomas-Elgin Social Services Department, confirmed the audit has been completed.
“They are working diligently to make sure all of the regulations around the wage enhancement grant are applied and adhered to.
“It was a comprehensive review and I think what they needed to do is being addressed. It did go really well and I think people will be happy with the outcomes. And the new management is working very diligently on meeting all of the criteria and all of the regulations. And they are putting new systems in place . . . because they had a change there.”
It would now appear the individuals were justified in drawing attention to the manner in which Riddell-Laemers handled distribution of the top-up wages.”
But there’s another evolving chapter to this story.
It appears Riddell-Laemers is now involved in opening a new facility in St. Thomas, the Deeply Rooted Montessori Academy on Sunset Drive.
More to follow.
MUNICIPAL CANDIDATE PROFILE: MALICHI MALE
He likes to be known as the St. Thomas Proud guy, however following the fall municipal vote, Malichi Male would love to be welcomed as the mayor of St.Thomas.
While recognized by many through his popular YouTube video extolling the virtues of St. Thomas, Male has also made a name for himself through his work with small businesses, young people and those dealing with mental health issues.
And this week, he wants to up his game by entering the mayoral race in the Oct. 22 municipal election.
In a lengthy conversation this week, the Christian rap performer noted he has loved politics his whole life but chose to follow a musical path first.
His priorities began to evolve when he moved to St. Thomas several years ago.
“I realized there were major issues . . . such as dealing with youth programs, promoting the city and local businesses,” advised Male.
“People encouraged me to run for mayor,” he added. “I hadn’t considered that until I sat down and thought about it. I love what I’m doing right now . . . but maybe I can backtrack everything I’m doing for several years . . . I made up my mind about a month ago.”
Born in Uganda, Male’s father worked for the military.
“Living in Uganda, everything is about politics,” Male observed wryly. “Life and death is about politics. My whole life was associated with politics.”
So why not test the political waters by serving as one of eight councillors?
“My mentality is go for it all,” stressed Male. “St. Thomas needs change now. St. Thomas needs to market itself to major corporations. Running for mayor would allow me a bigger platform to put St. Thomas on the map.”
For Male, helping small businesses flourish in the city is a key plank in his platform.
“I want to help them promote through social media to take them to the next level.”
Thus creating jobs and the need for affordable housing and transportation.
“The transit service is outsourced. There are limited hours. What about workers on shift work? With no late night service, people are offered jobs but can’t get to work.”
He continues, “The weakness in St. Thomas is job opportunities. The old way was to try to entice another Ford, or another Sterling or another major corporation to come into the city and save us. That’s out the window. All the major companies have gone overseas. You can’t compete with cheap labour. So, you have to concentrate on small businesses and build them up. And once they grow, they can employ more people. We have to create our own jobs and opportunities. And we have to market small businesses.”
And, we can’t forget young people, asserts Male.
“We have to promote their talents and show them how to monetize them.”
Male plans on a different approach to market himself to the electorate in advance of a trip to the polls. Don’t expect a sea of lawn signs dotted across the city.
“I will promote the same way I would promote a record. Whether I win or not, people will have heard of St. Thomas. I’m going to rely on social media because that’s what’s happening right now. I’m not going to pay $20,000 to pay for lawn signs when I can put that into social media.”
And monetary donations? Forget about it.
“I am not asking one single person for a dollar for my campaign. I’m running on a zero budget. I’m chipping in my own budget.”
His marketing savvy and business smarts are strengths he will bring to the council chamber, Male informs.
“What I bring to the table is everything that I am doing right now. I am doing it on a smaller scale. The template is already there. I can take the city’s bigger budget and take it to the next level.”
There’s no lack of confidence in the St. Thomas Proud guy.
MUNICIPAL ELECTION UPDATE
Another member of the current team at city hall this week announced her intention to seek relection this fall. Joan Rymal joins councillors Gary Clarke and Mark Tinlin in seeking voter support for a return to the council chamber for another four-year term. To date, eight individuals have entered the race to vie for one of eight councillor positions. The deadline to file nomination papers for the Oct. 22 municipal vote is July 27.
FOR THE CALENDAR
Repairs to the courts at Pinafore Park will take place July 3 and 4. All league play is cancelled for those days and the courts will be closed. Weather permitting, the courts will open July 5.
Elgin county will undertake a pavement rehabilitation project on its portion of Highbury Avenue between Ron McNeil Line and Webber Bourne/Thomson Line. The work began this past week and will continue until late August. Highbury will be open during the undertaking, but expect periodic delays during construction hours. Or better yet, take an alternate route.
Questions and comments may be emailed to: City Scope
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