Trade school closure: Who’s right? Who’s to blame?
By Beatrice S. Paez
TORONTO–A family-run trade school was forced to close its doors and halt admission to its educational programs, leaving segments of its student body in limbo.
In 2011, the Dimaapi family took control of the Canadian International Career College, an educational centre that provides certification to personal support workers, early childhood educators and nurses, along with other types of training programs.
In mid July, the Dimaapi family received notice from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, that due to a lapse in its registration, the school would no longer be able to continue its vocational operations.
According to Ben Dimaapi, the son and co-owner of CICC, about 40 students in the PSW and ECE programs were hit hardest, because they were in the middle of their training. These students are still able to pursue their training, through their individual placements, but the remaining portion of their studies at CICC remains uncertain.
Several others have opted to enroll at competing schools to continue their studies. He added that other schools were somehow able to get a hold of a confidential list containing the students’ numbers, and they have been approached about transferring.
The whole ordeal, he lamented, has hurt the school’s reputation and put a stress on its finances.
Along with the CICC, the family also runs a separate institution, Nurses Education, designed for nurses seeking to upgrade their skills or to take refresher courses. Though this has helped relieve the pressure on their finances, it’s only enough to keep them liquid and in business, said Dimaapi.
While both the Ministry and Dimaapi are in agreement that the registration application submitted was incomplete and that an extension was approved, each maintained that the other party failed to honour its legal obligations.
The Dimaapis are appealing the Ministry’s decision, claiming that it failed to afford them due process before issuing their order. The family’s attorney, Harris Rosen of Fogler, Rubinoff LLP, argued that the Superintendent has two options, to either re-register the school or notify them about their proposal to refuse registration.
Under the Private Colleges Act, if a registration expires while the renewal is pending, and before a decision is made about the application, a school’s registration remains in effect “until a renewal is granted” or “if the Superintendent proposes to refuse the renewal.” The latter stipulation can lead to a hearing before Tribunal.
Private career colleges are required to renew its registration every year.
The Ministry informed The Philippine Reporter that four written reminders were sent to the CICC, and two extensions were granted, to accommodate their request for more time to gather and submit all the necessary documentation.
According to the Ministry, “the Superintendent had no involvement in the [CICC’s] decision to allow its registration to expire,” and that its incomplete package was at the root of its closure.
Mr. Dimaapi admitted that three items were missing from the renewal application, namely, proof of its agreement with a third party vendor to store its student transcripts, proof that the transcripts were updated and a certified cheque in the amount of $1,416.
The family was asked to pay a fee for extending the deadline, which bought them two months, from April 29 to June 29. Dimaapi explained that while they had begun preparations in November 2012, they hadn’t anticipated the numerous complications that would arise.
The reasons for the delay in sending the application on time, Mr. Dimaapi explained, were due to factors beyond his control. He said he was waiting on others to release and send the information he needed, and believed that the fee he owed the Ministry was separate from the official application for renewal.
Also at issue for the family is that it was under the impression that it would be given the opportunity to re-submit a completed application, upon receipt of the incomplete package from the Ministry.
The Ministry insisted that no such arrangement was in effect, and that the school “had previously renewed its registration annually and was familiar with the process.”
Dimaapi, however, argued that this was only their first time undergoing the renewal process, for the 2012-2013 season. Their first registration was when they assumed responsibility for the school in 2011.
In the days leading up to its closure, Mr. Dimaapi said that an inspector had dropped by to look into its course offerings, as part of a routine. “No one brought up the issue that the school would be closed unless you send us the documentation,” he said. “Had I known the school was going to be closed because of those three things, I would have done everything possible to get them in.”
Along the way, he said, it appears that wires were crossed. A person claiming to be a representative of the school, asked the Ministry to hold the application, which he said added to the confusion.
Harris, lawyer of the school owners, tried to contest the school’s closure and appealed to the Ministry’s counsel, to hold off on redistributing the students to rival schools. But the Ministry maintained its position and has instructed the CICC to submit a complete registration package.
Submitting a completed application, Harris contended, is no longer their first option, because he believes the process would take between 6-9 months to issue an approval.
The Ministry responded that it normally takes between 6-8 months to process new registrations, and noted that if the school is re-registering and offering the same courses at the same location, it is “much shorter.” However, it failed to specify by how much.
If the Ministry had made it clear that it would be processed sooner than that, said Harris, he would have advised his client to complete the renewal process.
Instead the family has opted to submit an application for a judicial review, and is hoping the presiding judge will overturn the Ministry’s decision to close the school.
Best-case scenario, Harris said the school would be allowed to open its doors once again.
The family is set to appeal their case on August 29.