WHAT TRUSTEES DO

Information from 2018 Ontario Municipal & School Board Elections website http://elections.ontarioschooltrustees.org/

The Ontario Education Services Corporation developed this website in collaboration with the following school board associations and is supported by the Ontario Ministry of Education:

The purpose of the site is to highlight the province’s 72 school boards and to provide a profile of the vital role of school board trustee in Ontario communities and their impact on education. It is the local trustee who makes sure that the community has a direct way to express its diverse views on vital education decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. School board trustees hold the only democratically elected office that is solely responsible for education.

This website aims to encourage dynamic, creative, informed and dedicated individuals to serve their communities by running as candidates for the office of school board trustee. In addition to information about running for office, the site offers a comprehensive overview of candidates who have filed nominations for election and, following the Municipal Elections on October 22, 2018, will publish election results.

Every voter has a role to play to make their local school board as effective as possible. The first step is to become informed through this website about who is running to represent you at the local school board. The next step is to vote for the candidate of your choice on October 22, 2018.

 School Board Trustees – Who are they? Why are they important?

School board trustees are the members of a school board. They are locally-elected representatives of the public, and they are the community’s advocate for public education. They are required to carry out their responsibilities in a manner that assists the board in fulfilling its duties under the Education Act.

A trustee’s role is to maintain a focus on student achievement, well-being and equity and to participate in making decisions that benefit the board’s entire jurisdiction while representing the interests of their constituents. Trustees must also communicate the views and decisions of the board back to their constituents.

This is not as simple as it sounds. Because Ontario is large and diverse, the job of school board trustee varies widely. A trustee is responsible for identifying the needs and priorities of their community and for ensuring these are considered in the decisions that result in practical educational opportunities for students. In doing so, trustees must consider conflicting interests and values. A trustee must do this in collaboration with the other members of the school board by developing policies that work for all students, and ensuring they are implemented effectively. It is the local trustee who makes sure that the community has a direct way to express its views on vital education decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. School trustees play an indispensable role in preserving our democratic heritage.

The school trustee is a member of a team

Only the team (the board of trustees), not an individual trustee, has the authority to make decisions or take action on behalf of a school board. A school board must place all students first when making any decision. Trustees are required to uphold the implementation of any board resolution after it is passed by the board.

Trustees are responsible for establishing policy direction

Policies set out the expectations about what should happen or how services are to be provided within the school board. A well-written policy describes to parents, the public and the board’s staff what they can expect. The board of trustees ensures that the Director of Education carries out responsibilities for implementing the board’s policies. They entrust the day-to-day management of the board to its staff through the board’s Director of Education.

Trustees, as members of the board, are accountable to the province

The board of trustees is accountable to the Province of Ontario for the proper conduct of their duties and powers, including the implementation of provincial policy and the use of provincially allocated funds.

Trustees are accountable to their electorate

As elected officials, trustees must balance the demands of the community with the duties required by the Ministry of Education. By law, they are required to consult with parents, students and supporters of the board on the board’s multi-year plan and bring the concerns of these groups to the attention of the board. This can be challenging and takes dedicated leadership coupled with a willingness to seek innovative ideas and the courage to implement them.

School board trustees are community leaders

School board trustees have a responsibility to all the families in their community – not just their neighbours, and not just families with school-aged children. Trustees build and maintain relationships with the entire community. They work with their school board colleagues and with other community partners to ensure that all the students within the board’s jurisdiction have equal opportunities to reach their full potential.

Trustees demonstrate their leadership in the following key areas:

  • Establishing the board’s multi-year strategic plan, which includes the vision to ensure a strong public education system
  • Setting goals for student achievement, well-being and equity
  • Monitoring progress against the board’s strategic goals and priority areas
  • Promoting accountability throughout the school board
  • Allocating resources in ways that ensure equity of outcomes and demonstrate accountability
  • Establishing a respectful, caring, professional climate throughout the school board
  • Creating collaborative relationships inside the board and across the community
  • Promoting continuous improvement
  • Promoting community involvement and establishing communications
  • Holding the director of education accountable as they lead, execute and monitor activities on behalf of the board of trustees
  • Ensuring effective stewardship of the board’s resources which includes passing the budget

Trustees champion equity in education

Trustees work to ensure equity across their school boards so that every student has the opportunity to succeed regardless of background, identity or personal circumstances. The role of school board trustee involves bringing the voice of everyone, including marginalized communities (e.g., Indigenous students, newcomers/immigrants, people coming from low socio-economic backgrounds, etc.) to the board table.

Trustees hold themselves accountable for their conduct

In exercising their role, trustees are required to comply with the board’s Code of Ethics or Conduct which sets out standards that govern the ethical behaviour of trustees. This includes the expectation to act with integrity, adhere to high ethical standards and to conduct themselves in a manner that enhances public confidence in Ontario’s publicly funded education system. Boards of trustees hold themselves accountable to their codes.

About school boards

A school board is a body that operates the province’s publicly funded schools. The school board is governed by its publicly elected board members (the board of trustees). Collectively, boards of trustees set the vision for the school board, develop policies, allocate resources and set the goals that lay the foundation and drive programs and operations in the school board.

Trustees can be elected to one of four different school board systems: English public, English Catholic, French public and French Catholic.

A fundamental pillar of a democratic society is free education for its citizens. Ontario’s publicly funded school boards provide high standards in programming and ensure that there are supports and resources to help all students to reach those standards.

The responsibilities of school boards are set out in Ontario’s Education Act which states that every school board shall:

  • promote student achievement and well-being;
  • promote a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting of all pupils including pupils of any race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability;
  • promote the prevention of bullying;
  • ensure effective stewardship of the board’s resources;
  • deliver effective and appropriate education programs to its pupils;
  • develop and maintain policies and organizational structures that,
    • promote the board’s goals and,
    • encourage pupils to pursue their educational goals;
  • monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of policies developed by the board in achieving the board’s goals and the efficiency of the implementation of those policies;
  • develop a multi-year plan aimed at achieving the board’s goals;
  • annually review the multi-year plan with the board’s Director of Education or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s Director of Education; and
  • monitor and evaluate the performance of the board’s Director of Education, or the supervisory officer acting as the board’s Director of Education, in meeting,
    • his or her duties under this Act or any policy, guideline or regulation made under this Act, (including duties under the multi-year plan), and
    • any other duties assigned by the board.

Beyond these broad areas of accountability, the Education Act also spells out duties for school boards that include such obligations as overseeing the effective operation of schools, setting the board’s budget, overseeing implementation of the Ministry’s curriculum policies, and ensuring that appropriate staff are hired as required by schools.

Boards will also make determinations about such matters as pupil transportation, school libraries, continuing education, and childcare facilities on school sites. More details can be found in section 170 of the Education Act.

A school board is not:

  • a parliament with party divisions. A school board is a single body made up of members, i.e., trustees. A school board should speak with one voice on the decisions it has collectively made.
  • interested only in the opinions of families with children. A school board must recognize that all of society has a stake in public education.
  • a sub-committee of the municipality. In fact, school boards govern budgets substantially greater than those of most municipalities.
  • a closed or private body. All school boards are public institutions and their meetings are open to the public subject to certain exceptions (see section 207 of the Education Act).