Ontario to introduce school trustee code of conduct

  • May 19, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - An upcoming provincial code of conduct for school trustees will include sanctions for those who don’t abide by the new rules, says Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne.

“Having a code of conduct in place makes sure that everyone’s clear about what their roles and responsibilities are and should help if there were future situations of that kind,” Wynne told The Register after a May 9 speech at the annual general meeting of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

Wynne referred to the trustee spending scandal that became public last year at the Toronto Catholic District School Board, though she added the province-wide code of conduct wasn’t just because of the troubles at the Toronto board. The Ontario government had already been planning for an overall school board review, she said.

Wynne hasn’t unveiled yet what this new code will include, but said sanctions can range from withholding trustees’ honoraria, barring trustees from certain meetings or not allowing access to certain board documents.

In its April 22 report, “School Board Governance: A Focus on Achievement,” the review committee  recommended some elements which could form the province-wide code of conduct such as requiring trustees to “act with integrity and with the obligation to maintain the dignity of the office,” avoid personal advantage and conflict of interest and respect people who have differing opinions.

The new code is part of proposed changes to the Education Act and is in response to recommendations by the province’s Governance Review Committee. The ministry’s proposed changes include: spelling out the mandate and duties of the school boards to emphasize their responsibility for student achievement, clarifying the roles of trustees, board chairs and directors of education, and establishing audit committees.

Paula Peroni, president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said in a statement the association is pleased to see this new legislation “affirms the importance of the role of publicly elected trustees.”

“It places new emphasis on student achievement and acknowledges the role that all partners play in enhancing student achievement outcomes,” she said.

As for the Toronto trustees’ collective public apology issued May 1, Wynne said it is “neither here nor there in terms of getting control of the board back.”

“What will lead to that board having control over its finances again and being in charge will be a balanced budget and demonstration that they are able to work together to keep that budget in balance, to put the programming in place that kids need, and that they can take control of the board,” Wynne said. 

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