School boards are now hamstrung in terms of finding the best possible trustees.
That’s how a local board chair sums up the situation in light of recent regulatory changes by the provincial government that have been described as anti-democratic.
“It is somewhat of a stumbling block for people that want to run for school divisions because they have to wait two years to do that,” said George Bolduc, chair of the P.A. Catholic School Division. “It should be up to the electorate to make that decision, not government or school boards.”
In the summer the Ministry of Education implemented the two-year cooling off period for anyone previously employed by a school division wanting to run for trustee.
Bolduc said he and many school division chairs are concerned about the attack on the democratic process that has resulted from a few recent changes to the Education Act and regulations. But it’s the cooling off regulation that really “cuts to the bone,” Bolduc said.
“If you want to run as a councillor or the mayor there’s no cooling off period there,” he said. "Why is the education sector earmarked for a cooling off period? We just don’t understand that.”
Bolduc notes the Ministry of Education made the change “to stay away from special interest groups” but said that will mean fewer opportunities to get the best possible people on the board.
He said his board has three former educators on it and they bring a wealth of knowledge and special insight. Similarly he said people who’ve worked in caretaking for example also bring an important perspective. He argues it should be up to the public alone to determine who is elected.
Another recent change to the Act allows the Ministry to issue a directive to school divisions but Bolduc says while that change was initially announced in the spring they’re still waiting to find out exactly what that means.
“We know best of how to manage our school systems,” he said. “We’re at ground level here with our boards and we know the issues and it was up to us how to make decisions. But now there’s the power at the ministry to make a directive to a board.”
Bolduc said a recent public survey found that the vast majority of tens of thousands of responses supported the autonomy of school divisions.
Board chairs from across the province will meet next month to discuss the issue and will meet with government officials to seek clarification on the directive.
“We’re still digging to find out what they mean,” Bolduc said. “We will meet government to try to look at this so it’s more inclusionary and so we have a process where democracy rules and the school divisions have the right to make decisions.”
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