Ann Andrachuk, second-term chair of the TCDSB

TCDSB looks to future with multi-year plan

  • April 28, 2012

Looking to restore public confidence in school trustees, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) board has passed a multi-year plan that emphasizes trustee governance, mentoring and transparency.

“We are reducing the areas of ambiguity and providing more clarity,” said Ann Andrachuk, second-term chair of the board. “That will restore and improve public confience, not only for us but for Catholic education around the province. We’ve always been looked at as being leaders in Catholic education in the province and we’re heading in that direction again.”

Public perception of Toronto trustees suffered a series of setbacks in recent years due to reports of  inappropriate spending, conflicts of interest and the board’s failure to balance its budget. The board was placed under provincial supervision for two years ending in January 2011.

The multi-year plan, the first in TCDSB’s history, devotes one of its six sections to “Achieving Excellence in Governance.” Andrachuk said this means “having a set of rules and regulations by which you function.” To that end, a mentoring program for new trustees is to be established. While the details are still being worked out, Andrachuk said the program will ask experienced trustees to help rookies understand policies, effective means of communication and general expectations.

“There’s a recognition that it’s something that needs to happen,” said Andrachuk, who already provides first-time elected trustees with words of advice gathered from nine years of experience.  “When new people come in there is a learning curve.”

New trustees will also receive professional learning classes structured along the lines of those already offered by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association.

“We encourage all the trustees to participate in those because they are very educational, very specific to Catholic education and governance,” said Andrachuk.

Under the plan, there will be an annual governance review for each trustee to assess if they are meeting the new, best-practice standards. Although the details for the review are still being developed, Andrachuk expressed confidence in its value.

“We have to start checking ourselves. Self-assessment is a really good thing,” she said. “It’s good to go back and reflect a little bit.”

This section of the multi-year plan sits well with former chair Catherine LeBlanc-Miller. During her term as chair she called in the ministry to investigate trustee spending and ended up repaying $775 she expensed for what were deemed inappropriate taxi charges. She lost her seat on the board in the 2010 election. 

“All of the points raised are consistent with good governance which protects the interests of parents and students in our system,” said LeBlanc-Miller. “That’s actually what the role of the trustee is about.”

The overall focus of the multi-year plan is on improving student achievement and upholding Catholic values. It establishes objectives through 2015 but will be evaluated annually.

In addition to trustee governance, the plan stresses the importance of applying Catholic social teaching in daily school activities and fostering environments that encourage student achievement and well-being. The plan affirms the central mission of teaching a curriculum that is rooted in Gospel values and commits staff and trustees to participate in ongoing faith development through liturgical celebrations and the opportunities for spiritual retreats.

It also talks about the importance of strengthening public confidence in education through better communication, community partnerships and public transparency in ways that can positively reflect the mission, vision and values of the board. This includes responding in a timely way to questions and concerns and creating an environment for meaningful dialogue.

An emphasis is also being placed on fiscal responsibility at all levels of the board. That means avoiding the deficit spending of the past and maintaining balanced budgets that support the objectives of the multi-year plan.

The detailed multi-year plan is available at:

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