School Board Governance In Ontario December 2009
School board leaders - particularly trustees, board chairs and directors of education - need to be able to act together within 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 were made to school board governance, Ontario is clarifying and modernizing the role of trustees, chairs and directors 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 committee recommended 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 passed amendments to the Education Act. These are designed to demonstrate the government's high level of respect for trustees and other board leaders while strengthening school board governance and improving student achievement.
During the bill's public hearings, presentations were heard from 38 individuals and organizations, including schools boards, trustee associations, individual trustees, parent organizations, unions and education advocacy organizations. As a result of this input from stakeholders, several changes were made to strengthen the legislation.
- Clarifies 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 clear statement in the act establishes student achievement and well-being as one of the principle responsibilities of all partners in the education sector, clarifies boards' responsibility and strengthens their accountability to the public. The definition of student achievement will be determined through discussions with trustees, board administrators, teachers and parents.
- Clarifies the roles of individual trustees, board chairs and directors of education. The act sets out duties that will help eliminate confusion and help boards remain focused on their primary goal of student achievement and well-being. Trustees will have clarity about their roles and responsibilities, and accountability to the board and their constituents. Directors will have clarity about their responsibilities to the board, and to carrying out government policies.
- Builds on good governance practices, including establishing audit committees and providing for an enforceable code of conduct for trustees. Currently, not all boards have audit committees, which perform an important oversight function. A requirement for audit committees is consistent with the government's goal of increasing public accountability and confidence in the publicly funded education system. A code of conduct for trustees sets a standard of best practices and provides boards with the tools they need to address any inappropriate behaviour.