BROCKVILLE – Trustee Larry Berry has resigned from the Upper Canada District School Board due to health issues. That resignation was accepted at the May 10 UCDSB trustee meeting.
The process will begin soon to select a new school board trustee for Ward 7 (Dundas County) following Berry’s resignation.
In an interview by email with The Leader, Berry expressed his appreciation to voters in South Dundas and North Dundas for their support, saying his approximately five years as trustee has been rewarding.
He explained it has been especially rewarding because it is something meaningful in his life that has nothing to do with his ALS diagnosis. Berry was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, early in his first term as trustee. ALS is a rare neurological disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
Berry said he never hid his condition, which has affected his voice first.
“Now my voice is almost unintelligible,” he explained. “This and several other worsening disabilities made it obvious that it would be better to let someone else have the opportunity of being the trustee for Dundas, hence the resignation.”
Berry was first elected in the October 2018 municipal election, beating incumbent Jeremy Armer by a four-to-one vote margin. Four years later, Berry was acclaimed for a second four-year term.
During his time as trustee, Berry has been involved with many committees and also the student senate.
He said the role of a trustee is a bit ambiguous because trustees do not hold individual authority like some other elected government positions. Instead, the trustee board speaks with one voice through its chair. Now retired, Berry said he is pleased to be able to have interacted with the Director of Education, senior administration and other staff. One decision he is proud to have been involved with is the hiring of Ron Ferguson as Director of Education when then-director Stephen Sliwa retired.
“Ron is an energetic leader, good listener and his leadership style is ‘straight-forward’ and even sometimes bold,” Berry said.
Berry quipped that often trustees received inquiries or complaints from residents, “I got very few.” He added that he always tried to direct them to the right people at the board, and then get a result or a reason for a situation happening.
Among the accomplishments he is happy to have been part of during his time in office is the completion of the Early Years wing at Winchester Public School. Berry said UCDSB staff were happy it was complete too, “because now I wasn’t haunting the office with the same questions: How’s it going? And when is it going to be finished?”
Berry said that following the politics of education in Ontario, he could not help but notice the conflicts discussed at some boards.
“The conflicts are bitter, counter-productive and reflect a board that is not working on the programs/activities that would better the education of their students,” Berry said. He credited the leadership around the trustee table with keeping the UCDSB focused on student education.
“I hope my replacement enjoys the same co-operation and support from the citizens of Dundas, his or her fellow board members, board personnel and the press,” Berry said.
UCDSB chair John McAllister commented that he encouraged Berry twice to run for trustee.
“I did encourage him to run twice in his Ward (South and North Dundas) which was the bailiwick for his professional career and family life,” McAllister said. “He cared for students and wanted the best for the schools in his Ward. As a friend, colleague and Chair, his service is appreciated, and I will miss him.”
The UCDSB now has a 90-day window to fill the vacancy left by Berry’s resignation. While the option exists to hold a by-election to fill that vacancy, the direction of the board is to fill by appointment. More details of that process will be released soon by the board.