Don’t tar all trustees with same brush

Toronto Star - - WORLD -

Re Blis­ter­ing re­port puts York board on no­tice, April 12 I want to com­mend the Star and its 905-area re­porters for their ex­cel­lent work on the very se­ri­ous prob­lems with the York Re­gion District School Board. Par­ents and mem­bers of the pub­lic have known for years that there were prob­lems but the Star’s cov­er­age has fo­cused the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and will lead to pos­i­tive change.

How­ever, I want to point out that the school trustee for Area 1, which in­cludes Markham Ward One and Vaughan Ward 5, is not part of the prob­lem. Su­san Geller is a role model for what a trustee should be. We do not want her painted with the same brush as those who hide from trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity, who are deaf to the needs of mi­nor­ity stu­dents and their par­ents, or who spend thou­sands of tax­payer dol­lars on trips abroad that have no ap­par­ent ben­e­fit to our schools. Mar­i­lyn Gins­burg, Thorn­hill

I side with any and all who want to make the en­vi­ron­ment in York Re­gion schools more eq­ui­table and in­clu­sive . . . that is only right and must hap­pen. But to con­tinue to pil­lory one in­di­vid­ual for an in­dis­cre­tion com­mit­ted one time, but re­peated in the pa­per umpteen times, is bla­tantly un­fair. She said her apolo­gies all round, re­signed and that should be the end of that episode. Let’s move on and look at the big­ger is­sue. John Ec­cle­stone, Keswick

The se­ri­ous prob­lems in the York board are not new or unique. They are re­flec­tive of a per­va­sive, sys­temic prob­lem with the frame­work of the or­ga­ni­za­tion cul­ture that con­tin­ues to be struc­tured on top­down, bu­reau­cratic and au­thor­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples and lead­er­ship ap­proaches con­structed in the 1950s. This cul­ture was rein­vig­o­rated in the 1990s, as a wave of busi­ness-driven man­age­ri­al­ism and ac­count­abil­ity swept through ed­u­ca­tion.

De­spite the re­cent rhetoric of col­lab­o­ra­tion, con­sen­sus and re­la­tion­ships, the vast ma­jor­ity of school boards con­tinue to be benev­o­lent oli­garchies.

Re­cent re­ports doc­u­ment­ing the prob­lems at the Toronto school board, the CBC and Toronto Po­lice re­vealed sim­i­lar dif­fi­cul­ties, such as an abuse of power and author­ity by se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors, a cul­ture of fear among staff and po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing by trustees and board mem­bers.

Solv­ing the prob­lems re­quires re­struc­tur­ing the en­tire or­ga­ni­za­tional and lead­er­ship cul­ture and phi­los­o­phy in ed­u­ca­tion, plac­ing a strong em­pha­sis on pro­fes­sional au­ton­omy, re­spect, in­tegrity and equal and shared power. Robert Bahlieda, New­mar­ket


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