Backgrounder - School Board Governance In Ontario

    TORONTO, May 7 /CNW/ - 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.


    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.


    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

    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

    -   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.

                                                      Disponible en français



    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

    "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

    "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'

    "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
    - 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

    "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

                                                      Disponible en français

For further information:

For further information: Michelle Despault, Minister's Office, (416)
212-3747; Patricia MacNeil, Communications Branch, (416) 325-2676; Public
Inquiries, (416) 325-2929 or 1-800-387-5514, TTY 1-800-263-2892

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Ontario Ministry of Education

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