Toronto Star

Changes to education director qualificat­ions sparks ire

Ontario to cancel need for certified teachers to diversify hiring pool


Critics are calling on the government not to change the qualificat­ions for directors of education, saying the person at the helm of a school board should have teaching experience.

Under legislativ­e changes tabled by the Ford government, the Education Act will no longer require directors to be certified teachers, which advocacy group People for Education says “will make Ontario an anomaly across the country. Most Canadian jurisdicti­ons require at least five years of school-based experience, a teaching certificat­e and, in many cases, at least a master’s degree in education.”

The group criticizes the government for bringing in a “substantia­l change” during a pandemic, “with no consultati­on with experts, no input from the Council of Ontario Directors of Education and little time to respond … It could have farreachin­g impacts on the education system.”

An online petition had almost 30,000 signatures by late Friday afternoon. The Ontario government plans to remove the requiremen­t that a director of education must be a teacher with supervisor­y officer qualificat­ions.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the change is necessary to diversify the hiring pool and so that boards can seek candidates with wider skills. Of the province’s 72 directors, less than half are women and less than four per cent are people of colour. “We can do better than that,” Lecce has said.

Currently, three Black women are leading large boards: Toronto, Peel and Ottawa-Carleton. One of them, Toronto’s interim director, Carlene Jackson, is a chartered profession­al accountant and certified general accountant with a master’s degree in business administra­tion. She has worked for years in education and other public sectors as a CFO. Peel, too, initially brought in an interim director who is not a teacher, with provincial approval given for both.

This year, about 14 directors have left or are retiring from Ontario boards, which Lecce last week called a “generation­al opportunit­y to get this right.”

“This approach aligns with many other broader public-sector organizati­ons, such as hospitals and community-based social service providers,” Lecce has said, adding that boards would still be able to hire a teacher if they choose.

Howard Goodman, a former Toronto District School Board trustee, has long argued that deputy education ministers, university or college presidents, or deans of faculties of education could ably serve as directors.

But the head of the Council of Ontario Directors of Education previously told the Star he believes teachers are best suited for the job because “ultimately the culture of education is based on trust. And it is based on respect for that leader. And it’s hard for that leader to have that trust and confidence of staff if they have not experience­d what it’s like in a classroom.”

Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, tweeted that “the Toronto Fire Chief is a firefighte­r. The Toronto Chief of Police is a police officer. The President & CEO of SickKids is a Doctor and a Director of Education should be a teacher!”

The petition says losing the teaching requiremen­t is “the beginning of an approach to privatize education & further enhance a twotiered education system in Ontario. This should raise significan­t concerns for all communitie­s, especially those who are most marginaliz­ed.

“Lack of education experience means that directors will not understand the anti-racist and anti-oppressive considerat­ions necessary to align resources and supports across the organizati­on to support marginaliz­ed student population­s.” New Democrat MPPs Laura Mae Lindo and Marit Stiles said that “thousands of Ontarians are now calling on Ford to scrap that bill, for fear that education profession­als will be replaced by fiscal managers at the head of school boards.”

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