In 2008, Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board (KPR) Trustee Gordon Gilchrist wrote a letter to the editor that many deemed to be racist. The Board of Trustees censured Trustee Gilchrist and removed him from a board committee, but they allowed him to continue to be involved in the hiring panel for dozens of superintendents and directors.
In 2016, Trustee Gilchrist made disparaging remarks again, this time about First Nation students. The Board of Trustees censured him and removed him from a board committee again, but they continued to allow Trustee Gilchrist to be involved in the hiring of superintendents, even though they were about to hire a superintendent to oversee the Ontario First Nation, Métis, and Inuit Education Policy Framework. Director W. R. (Rusty) Hick did not informally “veto” the trustees or even caution them about their decision.
The Ministry of Education’s Operational Review Guide for Ontario District School Boards 2010 states that trustees are not to be involved in the hiring of superintendents, because it’s contrary to Bill 177.
The Operational Review Guide for Ontario District School Boards 2010 states that processes need to be in place to identify and remove discriminatory biases and systemic barriers in staff recruitment, selection, hiring, mentoring, promotion and selection planning processes.
Page 6 of the Operational Review Report for KPR 2011 states that the practice of trustees participating in hiring panels for superintendents, principals and vice-principals is contradictory to Bill 177, and trustees are to be removed from hiring panels with the exception of the Director of Education.
Page 5 of the Follow-Up Report to the Operational Review July 2012 states that the recommendation to remove trustees from the hiring panels for superintendents was in-progress, but the trustees agreed to only remove themselves from the hiring panels of principals, vice-principals and other staff. The trustees refused to remove themselves from the hiring panel for superintendents.
The entire board meeting showing the board’s mismanagement of the Trustee Gilchrist situation was available for the public to watch, but now the video has been taken down. Director W. R. (Rusty) Hick – who is now the Executive Director of the Ontario Public School Board Association (OPSBA) and Trustee Cathy Abraham who is now the President of OPSBA – did not respond when asked why the video was taken down. Director Leclerc and Board Chair Diane Lloyd did not respond when asked why the video was taken down, either.
Was the video taken down because it shows which trustees defended Trustee Gilchrist, and this portrays the school board in a very bad light?
Was the video taken down because Director Hick and Trustee Abraham are now in provincial leadership positions where they are routinely called on by the provincial government for input and advice on legislation and the impact of government policy directions, and they don’t wish to be seen as having mismanaged a critical situation?
The board’s website states that KPR “values equity, diversity, inclusiveness and the dignity and humanity of each individual in its policies, practices, programs and interactions.” It also states the board is “committed to championing Indigenous education, achievement and awareness.” When Jennifer Leclerc was hired to be the new director of education, she posted a video to the board’s website stating that she would consider equity in everything she did.
OPSBA sends out a regular memo to all Trustees, Directors of Education, Senior HR and Finance Officials and Communications Officers across the province, which includes links to media reports that pertain to education. The November 14, 2018 Media Report includes a link to the Peterborough Examiner story “Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board conducting student census starting in February” as well as a link to the Global News story “Peterborough public school board conducting first-ever student census.” This appears to be a good news story: KPR is gathering information on well-being, family structure, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, race, languages, nationality, disability and socioeconomics of the families in the board, in order to “better understand the needs of its students and school communities.”
But the November 13, 2018 Media Report and the November 14, 2018 Media Report do not include a link to the Peterborough Letter: “Education crisis in Ontario: Trustees stay on boards even after issues arise,” published on November 7, 2018 in the Peterborough Examiner, even though several requests were made to include the Peterborough Letter in the OPSBA Media Report.
Did KPR approve the census story for inclusion in the Media Report because it appears to be a good news story?
Did KPR not allow the Peterborough Letter to be included in the Media Report because it shows the school board mismanaging the situation?
Are these educational leaders doing a second job no one is paying them for? Spending “time and energy covering up their weaknesses, managing other people’s impressions of them, showing themselves to their best advantage, playing politics, hiding their inadequacies, hiding their uncertainties, hiding their limitations? Hiding?”
Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, professors at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, say this happens all the time in government agencies, schools, and hospitals, in for-profits and nonprofits, in countries all over the world.
This begs the following questions: Do the leaders of KPR really value equity, diversity, inclusiveness, and accountability? Should a school board that has mismanaged an equity situation, and then hides the truth, be entrusted with sensitive equity information?
As KPR prepares to launch its first-ever student census, parents of junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students will be asked to complete an online survey, and students in Grades 7-12 will be asked to complete the survey in class. The school board has invited parents and community members to attend an information session.
It’s critical parents and community members attend, and ask the following questions:
How will the information collected be used?
Who will have access to the information?
Why should a school board that has grossly mismanaged an equity situation in the past, and then hidden the deepest truths, be entrusted with sensitive equity information?
Debbie L. Kasman, international educational consultant and former principal, acting interim superintendent, and student achievement officer in Ontario.
To read other educational posts/opinions written by Debbie, see below:
Education Crisis in Ontario: Trustees stay on boards even after issues arrive, click here.
Ontario experiences provides ample rationale for axing school boards in Nova Scotia, click here.
Open Letter to Kathleen Wynne and Mitzie Hunter (2017), click here.
Eight Powerful Reasons Why You Should Wear a Pink Hat (and Do Other Things to Confront Gender and Racial Discrimination, click here
Three Hidden Ways Education Contributes to Discrimination, click here.
To read Debbie’s published articles, click here.