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It might be time to hold a province-wide discussion about the role of trustee. Why are they important? What is their role? Do school trustees play similar roles in boards across Ontario? Across Canada?

Here's a link to the Ontario Public School Board Association site that explores the role of trustees and good governance:

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Reply by Jacqui Strachan

The Toronto Star has been running a series of articles about school boards, including this one that compares different school board models around the world. What do you think? 


Yes, we really need them.


Would you like to elaborate why? :)  It is a topic/question that seems to go back and forth and changes over time... but can we reach clarity on it? 

Most probably, we cannot reach clarity on it, and even less a consensus – since we see things differently. For instance, many people think Catholic school system should be publicly funded (or whichever other school system, parallel to the Public School System) – and I do not. Then Rennie Marshall focuses on the issue of compatibility or incompatibility of corporate governance and elected school boards, offering a solution: “Of course they can [be compatible] if the roles are clearly understood and defined.  The elected board are ( or should be) the equivalent of corporate directors…” My opinion is just opposite: they neither are compatible, nor should be, nor anything corporate has or should have to do anything with our Public School System.

Back to the original question, I surely think that School Boards, consisting of publicly elected Trustees, should continue to exist so that those Trustees carry out mandates, given to them by the people. In addition, they should be revocable at any moment – as any other public representative in any parliament, assembly or council should be as well, via a procedure, analogous to their election. As for the delineation of competences, it is clearly set out in the legal, or, if you want, statutory framework of school boards and their members – trustees: their area are policies and oversight, nor school management.


Thank you for your further thoughts, Srecko.  It is important to discuss, especially at this time.  Thanks for responding to me and the prompt from the online community updates that went out by email.


My pleasure, Sheila!

 Reply by Karen Mahon on January 13, 2015 at 2:55pm

Government is government.  Trustees are to be the voice of the parents within in the trustees jurisdiction.  They are supposed to be there for the parents of children enrolled in the schools within the trustees district.

As I have said before they are the third party that protects the parent and his or her child/children that have an issue.

To explain, rural (townships), villages, towns and cities within a municipality should all have representatives because all need different governance and it is the only way each has a voice.  The way things are done today with amalgamation of townships into urban town wards the rural people have lost their governance and their voice.

We need trustees, as well as parent council and PIC representatives to protect the interests of individuals within school districts.

In a Municipality, the County is supposed to be to the municipality what the Dominion (Federal Government) is to the province.  The Dominion and County share the responsibility of the general public like major roads when it is the county and the military when it is the Federal Government.  It is imperative that the voice of private property owners (land owners), separate and different individuals be heard.

Every school district is different and every school has different needs.

The laws of yesterday are well founded.  People are making a mess of things today.

In Canada we are losing our rights.  As parents we are losing our rights and as individuals we our losing our land rights.  You might even say we are losing what our soldiers fought for and paid the supreme sacrifice for - Democracy.

How many of you know what a Crown Letters Patent is?  You should do a search and find out. 

How many of you have read the Education Act?  You should.  You may find out that when it comes to some of the issues here at People for Education our Boards are over stepping.

Don't expect others and so called experts to know what is right.  Do your homework.  Your child's future depends on it.

 Reply by Sheila Stewart on Wednesday

Interesting points in that article made by Charles Pascal regarding school councils as the "go to" for parents.  But if the councils are not working well and not democratic, and no one is ensuring that all they are.... then do we still continue to need trustees? 


Now that the Office of the Ombudsman can investigate the MUSH (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) sector why not clean up governance?  Get our democracy back.

I am surprised by the strength of my instinctive response to Margaret Wilson's attack on trustees. Yes, there may have been some very bad leadership and equally bad "followship" at the Board in recent years, but trustees are an essential link between the parents/public and the school system. Indeed, I think they are essential to democratic governance. So many of them have given superb leadership over the years  and it upsets me to see them slandered this way. By kicking them out of their offices and depriving them of constituency assistants, the government has opened a gulf between parents and the schools which can't easily be bridged. Are we to have absolutely no say in school policy? Even getting simple information from harried school staff can be impossibly difficult. If it weren't for our local trustee, we would have been up the creek in signing up our four year old for JK and the needed after-care.

Two Toronto parents were interviewed on Metro Morning this morning about the role of trustees and the impact of the Ministry report on the Toronto board. What do you think?

This makes me sure that we should have a big conversation about this at our conference in November. Maybe it all has to do with boundaries: What are they? Who decides on them? How can we ensure that we don't just create boundaries because democracy is so damn inefficient?

There are also funding issues. Over the last couple of decades, we have been happy to cut funding for administration. In fact, many have come to feel that administration=waste. But when there are not enough co-coordinators, or when superintendents are in charge of many more schools, does that too have an impact on the role of the trustee?

Lots and lots of questions.

I am a Catholic school trustee. Minister Sandals spoke to our group (OCSTA)  last Thursday and then left to receive Margaret's Wilson's report.

I was able to ask a few questions and one comment I made to the minister was please I beg her to stop painting all of us with the same brush. Bill 177 was a result of one or two boards not performing well; not "understanding their role" or choosing to ignore the then legislation. The eleven of us operate as a team. Of course we disagree but once a decision is made we go forth in solidarity for the good of the students and rate payers. Separate offices? Assistants? Really? We have one small meeting room, with a few computers, cubbies for mail and a coffee pot! We have one assistant for the 11 of us who also works for the Director. We all work from home and are in our schools visiting councils, attending Mass, concerts and classes when invited and we are invited often. I am a member of several committee which directly effect the lives of students. We have a very clear five year Strategic Plan.  Understanding governance is no easy task. We have wonderful staff who advise us and keep us on track. We speak at the board table about issues brought to us from our ratepayers. We are a conduit between parents and ratepayers and staff. We sit on important committees for communities  but always with staff support. I love being a trustee. I feel I am contributing to Dufferin-Peel's excellence.  I feel I make a difference. Thank you!

I am a big supporter of having school board trustees, and believe that they serve a very important purpose; that is to keep all of the checks and balances in a non partisan way. To maintain and govern the integrity of the school district and its budgetary requirements, all while keeping our children's education at the forefront.

Having said that, I also believe that there has been an erosion of the relationship between the Administrators and the Trustees, resulting in a lack of effective communication and co-operation between the two. It has resluted in Administration informing the Board, after the fact, of initiatives and issues that will result in the spending of valuable dollars and resources.

the roles of Trustees and Administrators needs to be re-established and reviewed to ensure that each member of their respective group is adhering to not only the spirit of the arrangement, but to the integrity of it as well.

that's just my 2 cents


Being an involved parent for the last ten years has really opened my eyes to the strengths and weaknesses of the TDSB.  Although I think the problems are huge, there have been many times when I’ve been incredibly moved by the wonderful things that happen in our schools.   But having read Wilson’s report, and being heavily involved in school council and ward activities I think that it’s time to really look at what is and isn’t working. I’m worried that the discussion (which was really initiated not by Wilson’s report but by recent scandals at the board) is already moving into either/or positions where any call for change is seen as an erosion of democratic control.  The way I see it, we need to fix the way the board operates in order for us to have a more democratic, equitable education system in this city.  I want a board that really tackles the big issues of fairness and resource allocation and I don’t see the board being able to accomplish that without some change in how it operates.  And as for the role of the Trustees as local problem solvers … that’s certainly been my experience but I don’t think it’s a good situation.  Michelle, for instance, mentioned that she needed the trustee’s help getting her grandson registered.  I’m glad that the trustee was available, but if the local school staff was so overwhelmed that the trustee was needed than that’s a huge problem which the superintendent needs to know about.  Going to the trustee might work for a few families, but many parents wouldn’t know how to contact the trustee or feel comfortable doing so.  So it gets back to overall policies which ensure access and equity.  I’m not sure what the answers are, but I’m glad the questions are finally being asked.

Good contributions and questions added here.  The conversations and questions may have started because of the TDSB report, but I would think that it has resulted in all school boards reflecting on their own situation and practices.  So I guess that is good. 

I often wonder if the general public is not always clear what a "board" does.  Is there confusion about who does what, and who has done what when there are references to "the school board..." and "the board of trustees...", or "senior administration", etc.?  It took me awhile to know the difference of what role/entity was called what, and what each was responsible for. 

Here is a reflective post from a trustee (not on the TDSB)... some good questions and considerations about communication and more:

Sheila has posted a new blog looking at elected vs. appointed school boards, and what is happening in Chicago right now. It is an interesting read, and asks some challenging questions. Read the blog here.

Thanks for posting and sharing here and there, Jacqui!  I will try to check back on Chicago's "switch" ahead.

I haven't tried to check up on things in Chicago yet, but now a little closer to home, this:

"Quebec introduces bill to axe school board elections"

Quebec's proposal for a new structure and membership for governance is described as well. The committee make-up sounds similar to Ontario's PICs (parent, community and staff members).

See where/how it goes...

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