Code of conduct not necessary, say Ontario trustees

By 
  • April 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - The conduct of school trustees is an issue that has dogged Ontario’s largest Catholic school board for the past year.

But as a provincial governance review committee considers a mandatory code of ethics and conduct, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association says these types of codes should be voluntary.

OCSTA president Paula Peroni said the association supports the idea of a code of conduct, but  boards need to have the freedom to adopt local issues and circumstances into this code.

“Latitude and flexibility are key,” Peroni said, adding trustees have had years of experience in running school boards.

“Whatever changes take place, the distinctiveness of the Catholic education system and Catholic trustees needs to be respected as well.”

In a February document, the OCSTA said school boards should have the option of accepting a code of conduct developed by the education ministry, by the provincial or national trustee association or a code which is developed “based on first principles that reflect local traditions and culture.”

“The concept of ‘enforcement’ should be de-emphasized,” the OCSTA said in a report responding to a governance review committee paper. Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne launched a Governance Review Committee on Nov. 4.

Over the past year, the Toronto Catholic District School Board has been making headlines after news broke about inappropriate trustee spending. A police investigation did not lead to any criminal charges, although a November forensic audit found $30,000 in ineligible and potentially ineligible expenses.

At a January meeting of the OCSTA, Wynne said having a governance review was crucial to address the public perception of  school boards and their role.

The committee has been charged with recommending ways to modernize and clarify the duties, powers and accountabilities of school boards, chairs, individual trustees and directors of education.

According to the ministry’s web site, the committee will also identify codes of conduct for trustees which would be “enforceable at the provincial or board level.”

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