Editorial: A trustee’s role is…

According to the Ontario Public School Board Association’s website, the role of a school board trustee is defined  as being the locally-elected representatives of the public.

“They are the community’s advocate for public education.”

If the definition is correct, why does it appear that some trustees ignore that role and whose fault is it?

Upper Canada District School Board trustee John McAllister (Ward 4) placed a motion before the October 12th school board meeting to rescind the proposed school closures by the board.

McAllister is a former teacher from Seaway and former reeve of Iroquois, who represents Ward 4, west of Brockville to Gananoque. He did his job as a trustee, questioning the proposal. In his statement to the board presented reasons for his motion, McAllister cited the lack of consultation with the communities, the lack of consideration for community impact, and the lack of consultation meetings during the ARC process. The trustee had concerns about the proposal, and wanted administration to go back to the drawing board and consider all factors. This is not to say the trustee is against the ARC process, but rather opposes this plan and how it was thought out.

The motion to rescind did fail, ending a little glimmer of hope for communities facing the possible closure of their high schools,  including Seaway District High School. For the record, the trustee for Dundas did not support McAllister’s motion, despite calls by parents in South Dundas to do so. This trustee also supported entering the ARC process again despite parents’ calls against it.

To be fair to the Dundas trustee, he represents two municipal areas in Ward 7. That is little comfort to parents here who have not been happy with his advocacy for South Dundas thus far.

For years, the election of school board trustees has been an afterthought of the municipal election process. Which is more at the forefront of municipal politics; who’s running for mayor and council, or for school board trustee? Both have impact on our lives, we pay more attention to mayor and council races.

This trustee for Dundas County was acclaimed in 2014. His predecessor was first elected in 2003, and acclaimed in 2006 and 2010. For three school board elections, the residents of South and North Dundas did not participate in the process by running, or taking the opportunity to vote for who represents them.

With the proposed plan to reduce South Dundas down to a single elementary school for a community of over 10,000 people, how many will get involved in the next trustee election in 2018? By then it may be too late.

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