To: Laurie French, President, Canadian School Boards Association
September 6, 2019
Revised September 7, 2019 to include recent events: “local school boards are incapable of making even the smallest collective bargaining decisions and cannot be trusted to determine even the most minute budgetary allocations.” Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation President Harvey Bischof in referring to the Ontario Public School Boards Association’s comments to the Ontario Labour Relations Board
Dear Ms. French,
As you are aware, your Association - the Canadian School Boards Association - recently commissioned Valerie Overgaard, a retired Associate Superintendent from the Vancouver School District, to conduct a literature review to examine the relationship between high-quality public education systems and governing school boards.
As you are also aware, your Association - the Canadian School Boards Association - released Overgaard’s report, which is called “Elected School Boards and High-Quality Public Education: A literature review examining the relationship between high-quality public education systems and governing school boards,” in August 2019.
Overgaard and your Association - the Canadian School Boards Association - have concluded that two decades of research provide a strong basis for supporting school boards in Canada. As a result, you are now telling the public that when engaged in good governance practices, locally elected school boards allow for participation in strategic planning, ensure direct accountability to the public, give access to those responsible for decisions, provide transparency, and improve student achievement.
You are also telling the public that elected school boards make a positive difference in student achievement, and that communities can hold members – school board trustees – directly accountable for both student achievement and equity.
What Ms. Overgaard failed to mention, and what your Association is also ignoring, is that locally elected school boards across the country are not engaged in good governance or equitable practices, which means locally elected school boards are not ensuring direct accountability to the public or giving access to those responsible for decisions, and therefore are not improving student achievement.
Avis Glaze, the former Director of Education of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board in Ontario and a veteran educator who specializes in change theory, conducted a review of the education system in Nova Scotia in January 2018, and she noted that over the past two decades, school boards in Canada have undergone several dramatic changes. First, provincial governments have significantly decreased the number of school districts, which has resulted in a large reduction in the number of school board trustees. Board members are now responsible for much larger geographic areas, with many more schools, students, and parents, and this makes it more difficult to stay in touch with local community issues. Second, there has been a decline in school board autonomy as educational policy and decision-making has become more centralized.
These changes have led to role confusion. Where should a trustee’s loyalty lie? Should a trustee be loyal to the Minister of Education or to the students and parents she serves?
The vast majority of trustees in Canada today choose to serve their provincial government rather than serve the students and parents who elected them. This is not democratic or equitable, and puts the education system on a crash course with disaster.
Considering that the Ontario Public School Boards Association recently told the Ontario Labour Relations Board that “local school boards are incapable of making even the smallest collective bargaining decisions and cannot be trusted to determine even the most minute budgetary allocations,” (OSSTF President Harvey Bischof’s description of OPSBA’s position), the Canadian School Boards Association’s position is not only false, it’s hypocritical and unethical, and is contributing enormously to the demise of our world-class education system.
Debbie L. Kasman
Debbie is a former principal, acting interim superintendent, and student achievement officer at the Ministry of Education in Ontario.
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To read other educational posts written by Debbie, see below:
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board announces first-ever student census while ignoring equity issues, November 15, 2018, click here.
Education crisis in Ontario: Trustees stay on boards even after issues arise - The Peterborough Examiner, November 7, 2018, click here.
Counterpoint: Ontario experience provides ample rationale for axing school boards in Nova Scotia, - The Chronicle Herald, February, 2018, click here.
Open Letter to Kathleen Wynne and Mitzie Hunter (2017), click here.
To read Debbie’s published articles, click here.