School Board Governance In Ontario

May 7, 2009

School board leadership plays an important role in student learning. It needs ongoing development to improve the ability of board leaders to act together within in their district to implement core priorities and provide the supporting conditions required for student success.

In 2008, the McGuinty government assembled a Governance Review Committee to examine how well the current governance structure is serving Ontario's education system. The committee worked in partnership with the education sector to explore ways to strengthen and modernize school board governance in Ontario. The committee provided an interim report in February 2009, and the committee presented its final report to the government this April, which included 25 recommendations.

Ten years after substantial changes to school board governance, we are clarifying and modernizing the role of trustees to ensure that they have the supports they need to make sound decisions essential to student success.

Report Of The Committee

In general, the committee found many strengths in the current system, but it also identified some areas for improvement in its report. Overall, the report recommends that the government clarify the mandate and duties of school boards. That mandate includes promoting student achievement and well–being, delivering effective and appropriate programs, and ensuring that the board's resources are well managed.

Changes To The Education Act

To address many of the recommendations made by the Governance Review Committee, the McGuinty government is introducing amendments to the Education Act. These are designed to demonstrate the government's high level of respect for trustees while strengthening school board governance and improving student achievement.

If passed, the legislation would:

  • Clarify the mandate and duties of school boards to emphasize their responsibility for student achievement: the current Act does not state that boards are responsible for improving student achievement. A high level statement in the Act would set student achievement and well-being as the context for terms in the Act, and clarify boards' responsibility and strengthen their accountability to the public.
  • Clarify the roles of individual trustees, board chairs and directors of education: setting out duties in legislation would help eliminate confusion and help boards remain focused on their primary goal of student achievement and well-being. Trustees would have clarity about their roles and responsibilities, and accountability to the board and their constituents. Directors would have clarity about their responsibilities to the board and to carrying out government policies.
  • Build on good governance practices, including establishing audit committees and adopting a provincial Code of Conduct for trustees: currently, not all boards have audit committees, which perform an important oversight function. A requirement for audit committees would be consistent with the government's goal of increasing public accountability and confidence in the publicly funded education system. A Code of Conduct for trustees would set a standard of best practices and provide boards with the tools they need to address any inappropriate behaviour.

Other aspects of the report require further consideration and planning, including recommendations regarding professional development and other supports for the effective governance of boards.

Support For School Board Governance Legislation

May 7, 2009

The McGuinty government is proposing amendments to the Education Act that would make increasing student achievement the number one priority for local school boards. Here is some reaction from the education sector:

“The report that this legislation is based on has been well received by a range of stakeholders. I believe both school board trustees and administrators will find the recommendations are not only workable and helpful, but contribute to a more positive educational environment. Ultimately, the students will be the beneficiaries.”
– Harold Brathwaite, member, Governance Review Committee, executive director, Retired Teachers of Ontario and former director of education, Peel District School Board

“I believe that the enhanced clarity in role descriptions and expectations will allow trustees and directors of education to more effectively work together for the benefit of learners."
– Denis Chartrand, member, Governance Review Committee, professor, University of Ottawa, former director of education, Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario and former chair, Council of Directors of Education

“I am very pleased that the Government of Ontario is proposing legislative amendments after receiving the Governance Review Committee's report and recommendations. I am confident that the proposed amendments to the Education Act will enhance the understanding of the roles and duties of all school boards and their ability to focus on student achievement and success, as well as provide them with better tools to achieve their goals. This can now be done while still respecting the culture and specificities of governance by individual school boards.”
– Madeleine Chevalier, chair, Governance Review Committee, trustee and former chair, Conseil des écoles catholiques de langue française du Centre–Est de l'Ontario and former president, Fédération nationale des conseils scolaires francophones.

“I am pleased to see that this legislation clarifies the role of school boards in terms of holding directors of education accountable for strategic plans. This will help build understanding and accountability for the direction a school board is taking. This is an important step forward and one that makes it clear to boards that they have responsibility over and above financial decision–making, including student achievement and well-being.”
– Dave Cooke, former Ontario Minister of Education and former co-chair, Education Improvement Commission

“The clarification of roles and responsibilities of the trustee, the chair and the director, and the enshrinement of the expectations of these roles in legislation are useful tools in establishing and monitoring the approaches and commitments that create effective working relationships and construct the way forward for school systems. As well, the requirement for a common understanding of appropriate and collaborative conduct in board governance will enhance the quality of policy development and implementation in Ontario's schools.”
– Joan M. Green, founding chief executive officer, Education Quality and Accountability Officer, former director of education and chief executive officer, Toronto Board of Education and co-author, Cain-Green Report

“As an association, we take our responsibility very seriously. We look forward to partnering with trustees to clarify roles and responsibilities and maximize the work needed from each of our perspectives to ensure quality learning for all students in Ontario."
– Lise Haman, president, Ontario Public Supervisory Officials' Association

“It's great to see the province move quickly on the recommendations from the report on school board governance. This legislation will allow the province and school boards to proceed with plans to clarify the roles of directors, school board chairs and trustees. These improvements will help school boards be more effective and it will improve public confidence in education.”
– Annie Kidder, executive director, People For Education

“Developing more effective, elected governance of education is a topic of consideration across the country. I have no doubt that the legislation will assist many school boards and their associations across the country in clarifying issues and considering new directions to strengthen democratic participation in this most essential public service, public education.”
– Penny Milton, chief executive officer, Canadian Education Association and member, Governance Review Committee

“This legislation helps focus a school board's attention on what matters most, the students they serve. The mandating of audit committees at the board level will help to improve transparency and accountability. The code of conduct is an important step as it will help set a standard for all trustees.”
– Dennis Nolan, past-president, Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies and former director of education

“Effective school board governance practices are key to building our publicly funded education system. This legislation will more clearly define the role of trustees and school boards which will ultimately strengthen the governance structure for school boards in Ontario.”
– Carole Olsen, chair, Canadian Education Association and superintendent, Halifax Regional School Board

“The Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association is pleased to see that this new legislation affirms the importance of the role of publicly elected trustees. It places new emphasis on student achievement and acknowledges the role that all partners play in enhancing student achievement outcomes.”
– Paula Peroni, president, Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association and member, Governance Review Committee

“Greater clarity of roles for everyone in public education will be very helpful. I look forward to further analyzing the legislation and working with trustees and colleagues to strengthen the governance of public education. Our students will be the beneficiaries.”
– Chris Spence, director of education, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

“I welcome this legislation as it will make school boards more accountable to their communities and create transparency for student achievement expectations and reporting on students. The legislation also clearly delineates the differences between the roles of the director and staff to that of the trustees. I congratulate the minister for proposing such significant changes to the education act. These changes will create a new and very important role for school boards and their elected members.”
– Ann Vanstone, former co-chair, Education Improvement Commission and former chair, Metropolitan Toronto School Board

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