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HomeMy WebLinkAboutSchool trustees have lost public trust — and outlived their role - Toronto Star - 04/17/2017 - Toronto Star - 04/17/20174/18/2017 School trustees have lost public trust— and outlived their role: Cohn I Toronto Star personalThis copy is for your please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com School trustees have lost public trust • / outlived For the sake of our future graduates, it's time to learn the lessons of history — by abolishing the anachronism of school trustee. Education greets Patrick Case and Sue Herbert,authors of ., report into the York Region District School Board concerning racism and management spending.travel By MARTIN REGG COHN Ontario Politics Columnist Mon., April 17, 2017 https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/04/17/school-trustees-have-lost-publ i c-trust-and-outl ived-their-rd e-cohn.htm 1 1/3 4/18/2017 School trustees have lost public trust— and outlived their role: Cohn I Toronto Star Schools teach children life skills: how to think critically, behave respectfully, act ethically, assume responsibility. Choose your own checklist. No matter the variations on the above themes, a recurring question arises: by can't school trustees, entrusted with educating our children, aspire to similar standards? Yet another special report, ordered by the Ministry of Education on a delinquent school board, arrived this month. Another devastating post-mortem on the life skills and work habits of elected trustees. This time it's the York Region board of trustees guilty of gross incompetence in managing money — and themselves. Measured against the above checklist, they failed on every count. I& MODY*] UINKII 11111AWO) 11111W.111lIsrulle HOD C allfaClSt APJF tntrtsvylyp F11 KOL�Co. I lajk�� W OuF i1 * playing politics, playing trustees off against one another. Patronizing parents. Abdicating ethical responsibilities and leadership roles. As first reported by Toronto Star colleagues Noor Javed and Kristin Rushowy, York's board long ago descended into dysfunction. Controversy erupted last year over then -trustee Nancy Elgie using the n -word to describe a vigilant parent, then denying, stonewalling, recanting and resigning. The latest ministry report catalogues a culture of impunity and unaccountability. A racist epithet is uttered, and not a single trustee responds. A principal posts homophobic comments online, and trustees remain silent. Rather than reassuring parents on the home front — by declaring zero tolerance for intolerance — the board indulged its appetite for foreign travel by trustees and top staff. Their all -expense -paid trips — ranging as far afield as New Zealand, Hawaii, Finland, the Netherlands and Britain (with several return trips) — serve as an indictment of their sheer shamelessness. Education Minister Mitzie Hunter included a travel moratorium among 22 demands focused on training trustees in fundamental governance and equity issues. But it's hard to imagine such discredited trustees regaining public trust, or the minister's confidence. Queen's Park should send in an outside ministry supervisor now to rebuild governance from the ground up. Staying out of trouble shouldn't overtax trustees, who long ago lost their taxing authority. It is, after all, an entry-level position for ambitious politicians — which may be the root of the problem. The latest report noted that four of the 12 trustees are positioning themselves to run for higher elected office — likely driving their "personal agendas and fostering divisiveness." Treating the office of trustee as a political stepping stone is a perennial problem — attracting untested candidates, causing high turnover, and bleeding institutional memory. hftps://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/04/17/school- trustees- have- I ost- publ i c -trust- and- outl ived-their-role-cohn.html 2/3 4/18/2017 School trustees have lost public trust— and outlived their role: Cohn I Toronto Star The Toronto District School Board was similarly paralyzed by infighting and dysfunction documented in a 2015 ministry- ordered review. Toronto's Catholic board was taken over by the y,rovince from 2oo8 to 2oll amid financial im-,Qro-,Qrietias were school boards in the Hamilto Ottawa and Dufferin-Peel areas. I We have seen this movie before, with the same ending — ministry supervision and then reversi to the status quo ante — when what we need is a new beginning. Yet the ministry keeps trying t instruct incoming trustees with special booklets and YouTube videos so they can learn on the jol The lack of professionalism among school board trustees stands in sharp contrast to the relative competence found on the unelected, merit -based boards of hospitals and universities, which are also publicly funded institutions. Why cling to outdated notions that local electability equates to accountability? School trustees remain unknown to most voters at the ballot box, and tAvically win office with abysmal electoral turnouts. Trustees are a holdover from two centuries ago, when they were the first democratically elected politicians in Ontario. Today, their role has been overtaken by responsible government at the provincial level, which collects the taxes, distributes the funding, drafts the curriculum — and keeps sending in outside investigators to take over the most glaringly incompetent boards. TF Aral= =1 Inachronism of school trustee. A board should be a bastion of good governance, not a training Martin Regg Cohn's political column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. mcohn@thestar.ca, Twitter: @reggcohn Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. 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