Education minister appoints 2 reviewers to investigate York Region school board
Published Thursday, January 26, 2017 2:53PM EST Last Updated Thursday, January 26, 2017 7:03PM EST
To address “significant” and “growing concerns” about issues surrounding equality and governance at the York Region District School Board, Ontario’s education minister has appointed two outside reviewers to investigate the beleaguered board.
In a news release issued Thursday, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said she felt an “urgent review” was needed to tackle the issues, which Hunter said include allegations of systemic racism as well as concerns about inclusive education policies, accountability for spending on trustees’ international travel, and deteriorating relationships between the trustees, the director of education and the board’s senior staff.
In November, Hunter met with Anna DeBartolo, the former board chair, and J. Philip Parappally, the director of education, to discuss how they planned to deal with situation.
"During that meeting, I was not provided with the reassurance that the board had an adequate plan in place to deal with these issues, so I asked the board to submit a report outlining their plan of action by January 13. Unfortunately, their proposal also fails to address these issues,” Hunter said in a statement released Thursday.
Hunter has appointed two reviewers-- Patrick Case, a lawyer and chair of the board of Ontario's Human Rights Legal Support Centre, and Suzette Herbert, a long-time retired public servant who worked as a deputy minister in the Ontario government from 1997 to 2008.
“The reviewers will recommend improvements, particularly regarding equity, accountability and transparency, to regain public confidence in the school board,” Hunter wrote.
“In addition, they will recommend ways to improve the working relationships at the board, including amongst trustees, between the board and the director of education, between the director of education and senior staff, and with the community.”
The pair will also be tasked with reviewing if board members and the director of education are “fulfilling their legislated duties.”
The review comes after the board’s head of equity Cecil Roach said he had been sidelined and met with hostility when investigating inclusivity complaints, specifically in the case of a Markham principal who linked to Islamophobic messages on her Facebook account.
“My colleagues and I want all students, parents, staff and community members to have confidence in our publicly funded education system, and to ensure transparent and accountable school board governance that nurtures and respects inclusive and equitable education,” Hunter said.
“I am committed to supporting strong governance at the York Region District School Board—it is essential to the success and well-being of students in Ontario’s schools.”
A final report with recommendations is expected to be submitted to Hunter by April 7.