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Monday, February 9, 2015

Inept Toronto District School Board Trustees forced to vote to curb their own powers under threat of provincial takeover

...In a surprisingly civil, even cordial scene, the 22 trustees grudgingly agreed in vote after recorded vote, to trim their own powers, vacate their offices, slash their expense accounts and fire their beloved constituency assistants, all on orders from Queen’s Park designed to dial back their clout to that of other school boards.

It was a historic, if controversial surrender of power, done with the clock ticking and under threat of provincial takeover. Whether it was the fresh dynamics of 11 new trustees or the incentive of a political pressure cooker, the school board long seen as dysfunctional seemed to function.

Director of Education Donna Quan was upbeat. “I love the tone I’m feeling and seeing in this room; I appreciate the collaboration and the questions you trustees are raising because you care,” she said.

Quan’s own strained relations with some trustees, as recently as December, and her refusal to make public her contract, were part of the turmoil that prompted Education Minister Liz Sandals to send in troubleshooter Margaret Wilson.

When Trustee Robin Pilkey proposed the board add a “conflict resolution mechanism” to the director’s contract to deal with potential future tensions with trustees, Quan heartily agreed. Noted Pamela Gough: “If we’d had this mechanism last year, we might not be in this situation today. It’s very forward-thinking.”

Since Wilson issued her scathing report card Jan. 16 and Sandals slapped the board with 13 marching orders, senior staff members have scrambled after hours to rewrite the rules as Sandals wants.

“It’s been a 29-day challenge, but I’ve never been more proud of staff and how they’ve risen to it,” said Quan. “We’ve reached a tipping point and a turning point, and that will be positive.”

Yet Gough said it’s no mystery why trustees are following provincial orders to curb their powers.

“We’re doing all this so we won’t be put under provincial supervision, because that is the alternative,” she warned...

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