School Board Governance In Ontario
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.