“Caution” Trustees!, advises Minister

"It's a cautionary tale." – Hon Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Minister of Education, June 9, 2008
"This is no time for fruitless recrimination, or divisive bickering.  Only selfless pursuit of the common good of the children can restore the trust that has been lost"   -Thomas Collins,  Archbishop of Toronto,   May 27, 2008

Toronto June 2008 – campaignforpubliceducation.ca  editorial
In an interesting move, our Minister of Education has called for a review of trustee expenses at seven anglophone school boards.  And this just a week after she dispatched a $1200/day government Supervisor to take complete control of Toronto's 2nd largest publically-funded board in Toronto.  Despite TCDSB trustees balancing the coming year's budget by cutting yet another $14 million from essential programs.  What might she be up to?

Like a well-oiled chess game, the players are being positioned.  But for what?

We have all read about the inappropriate spending of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) trustees.  During May little else graced the pages of the local newspapers or lead stories on the evening news.

As a Toronto parent activist noted recently, "What we haven't heard was the amount of money from those expense accounts that was spent on jumping castles that helped to make a school fun fair successful. Or seats at a gala event for a high school – seats that were filled by CSAC [community parent] chairs who couldn't normally afford the $100 price.  Or the pizza lunch to celebrate a victorious track team and the list goes on".

We have heard from Supervisor Hartmann that these are not valid expenses.  Perhaps he is right, but how are trustees, who earn approximately $18,000 a year, supposed to support the 15 (or so) schools in their wards? How are they to participate in all the wonderful events that their students invite them too?  For that matter, without a car allowance, how far with that $18,000 go when the ward that they represent spans at least 3 City councillor wards?

Yes, it was wrong to use expense accounts for personal benefit and those who are guilty of this should be accountable.  Like all professions, there are those who abuse the system – it is shameful.  This said,  how many of us could afford to work for $18,000 a year?  How many of us would be willing to put in the hours necessary to be a school trustee for this salary?

The real problem here is not only the misappropriate use of expense accounts – it the unfair pay to people who are responsible for the quality of education our children receive!  The real problem is the lack of controls to prevent this from happening – both at this Board and at the Ministry.  The real problem is that, the majority of the trustees perhaps were too caring and supportive of the students they serve.

We should all stop for a few minutes and honestly think about the support that our trustees have given to our schools – their selfless pursuit of the common good of the children.