Editorial: Help Wanted, new school board trustee

The unfortunate resignation of Ward 7 (Dundas County) Trustee Larry Berry early into his second term has now left residents in South Dundas and North Dundas with a vacancy at the Upper Canada District School Board. Unlike municipal vacancies, which can warrant a by-election where voters are able to select their replacement, the process for replacing Berry is much more controlled, leaving residents out of the decision.

The UCDSB issued a notice on May 25 of the vacancy, and indicated that the Board of Trustees will accept applications for the position. Those applications, which should include a resumé, a letter of intent, and references, will be screened by the board, and short-listed by the board. The short-listed candidates will be interviewed by the Board of Trustees, and voted on by the Trustees. This process is not unlike that used in the last term of municipal councils when replacement councillors in South Glengarry, North Dundas, and the City of Brockville were sought to complete the term. However, this method is usually reserved for after the half-way point of a four-year term, not seven months into a four-year term.

The importance of a local trustee with local knowledge of South Dundas and North Dundas cannot be over-stated. In recent years, both communities were subject to school closure processes. While the current chair of the UCDSB states the heavy lifting of school closures has already been done in this board, provincial policy changes could overrule that. Having a strong local voice that reflects the community can help advocate for our local English-Public schools.

There is a triple risk involved with the process the UCDSB is using. First, the only residency restriction to running for trustee is the candidate must live within the area the board serves. Last fall, a resident from Jasper, north of Brockville, ran in Stormont and Glengarry Counties for a position. It is all-too-easy for a candidate from Perth, or Gananoque, or Cornwall to end up representing Dundas County at the board. Will that candidate reflect our interests?

Second, candidates will be screened by the board and a short-list is prepared by the board. Those candidate applications will only be available on request from the public. The Leader has already requested, in advance, copies of all applications received. In preparing the short-list, its elected body will get to short-list candidates for consideration, not the residents who the trustee is to represent.

Last, the other trustees will be the only ones voting who succeeds Berry, who was duly elected by the residents in 2022. Imagine if your MP or MPP was selected by this replacement method – how much of an affront to democracy would that be? At what cost democracy?

The method to select Larry Berry’s replacement is allowed under law, but should it be? In the absence of a better, more democratic process, it is hoped that complete transparency from all involved, and of all involved, is maintained. Should you live in South Dundas or North Dundas and want to give your time to represent this area’s interests at the UCDSB, please apply. Applications close June 6 at 4 p.m.

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