Public Education and the Role of Trustees

Did you know....?

  • School board trustees are members of a district school board. They are locally-elected representatives of the public, and they are the community’s advocates for public education.
  • School board trustees are the oldest form of elected representation in Ontario. Since 1807, generations of community-minded citizens have made decisions on behalf of local, publicly funded schools, building the foundation of the system we have today.
  • The election of school board trustees is governed by the Education Act and the Municipal Elections Act, 1996. Both are the laws or rules that trustees follow.
  • There are different kinds of trustees:
    • Trustees elected every four years during municipal and school board elections, including more than 320 publicly elected trustees representing 31 public English school boards and three school authorities across Ontario.
    • Indigenous Trustees appointed to the board by their First Nation. More than half of Ontario’s English public English school boards have Indigenous Trustees.
    • Student Trustees elected by the student body of the board. The Ontario Student Trustees' Association (OSTA-AECO) represents more than two million students.
    • Hospital board/school authority trustees are appointed by the Minister of Education for a term of four years, on the same term cycle as publicly elected trustees.
  • The Kindergarten-Grade 12 education sector is the second-largest recipient of provincial funding, after healthcare. The provincial government invests more than $25.5 billion each year in education.
  • Public school trustees oversee budgets ranging from approximately $43 million to approximately $3.4 billion.
  • Many MPs, MPPs, Mayors and Municipal Councillors began their political careers as school board trustees.
  • Current Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP) who were public school trustees include:
Progressive Conservative: Billy Pang
New Democratic Party: Catherine Fife, Chris Glover, Marit Stiles, Lisa Gretzky, and Peggy Sattler
Liberal: Former Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau.

About Ontario’s Public Education System

  • Preparing students to become productive and contributing citizens is the foundation of a civil society.
  • Ontario’s English public district school boards provide universally accessible education for all students, regardless of their ethnic, racial, or cultural backgrounds; social or economic status; gender; individual exceptionality; or religious preference.
  • The English public system is founded on the principle of equity of educational opportunity: every student deserves an opportunity to achieve to their fullest potential.
  • Public school boards provide high standards in their programs and ensure that there are supports and resources to help all students reach those standards.
  • Public school boards also focus on character education to ensure that students develop as caring and responsible members of their community and of Canadian society as a whole.
  • Character education embraces values such as Citizenship, Cooperation, Courage, Empathy, Fairness, Honesty, Humility, Inclusiveness, Initiative, Integrity, Kindness, Optimism, Perseverance, Resilience, Respect, and Responsibility.
  • English public district school boards, in partnership with parents and caregivers, prepare students for success in whatever field they choose.

What are the “rules” for school?

  • In Ontario, children and youth between the ages of six and 18 must be enrolled in a formal education program. The province’s Education Act and the regulations made under it establish the framework for the delivery of education programs.
  • An Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) requires students to complete 30 credits (18 compulsory, 12 optional), pass the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test and fulfill 40 hours of community involvement activities. (20 hours for current graduates, due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Students who leave school before earning the OSSD may be granted the Ontario Secondary School Certificate.

What is a School Board Trustee?

School board trustees are the oldest form of elected representation in Ontario. The office has been in existence since 1807 and represents citizens in the education decision-making process.
The election of school board trustees is governed by the Education Act and the Municipal Elections Act, 1996. Both are the laws or rules that trustees follow.

Trustee Role and Responsibilities:

  • Attend and participate in meetings of the board, including meetings of board committees
  • Consult with parents, students and supporters of the board on the board’s multi-year plan
  • Bring concerns of parents, students and supporters of the board to the attention of the board;
  • Uphold the implementation of any board resolution after it is passed by the board;
  • Entrust the day–to-day management of the board to its staff through the board’s director of education;
  • Maintain focus on student achievement and well-being; and
  • Comply with the board’s code of conduct.

What are the Responsibilities of a School Board?

School boards – the elected board of trustees – are responsible for student achievement and well-being, for ensuring effective stewardship of the board’s resources and for delivering effective and appropriate education programs for their students.
The Education Act and its regulations set out the services that district school boards and school authorities must offer. The responsibilities of a school board include a key governance role with respect to:
  • operating schools according to provincial legislation;
  • having a vision statement that reflects the board’s philosophy and local needs and priorities;
  • setting the board’s budget within the provincial grants and accompanying regulations;
  • implementing curriculum according to ministry curriculum policy;
  • developing and delivering other programs that reflect provincial policies and local priorities;
  • providing for the hiring of teachers and other staff required in their schools;
  • maintaining school buildings and property with regard to student safety and in accordance with provincial legislation; and
  • monitoring the policies of the schools and the achievement of students and, through the director of education, holding the entire system accountable for meeting provincial and board standards.

People in a School Board

  • Trustees play a key leadership role in ensuring that schools operate within the standards established by the province, and that the programs and services remain responsive to the communities they serve.
  • The Director of Education is the chief executive officer and chief education officer of the school board. The director is the sole employee who reports directly to the board and acts as secretary of the board.
  • Supervisory Officers, often called superintendents, are accountable to the director of education for the implementation, operation, and supervision of educational programs in their schools.
  • Principals are the educational leaders within their school communities and ensure that the programs that are in place are effective and align with board and ministry policies.
  • Teachers are the front-line representatives of the education system. Their many activities go beyond instruction and include encouraging students to pursue learning, maintaining classroom discipline, and evaluating students’ learning and progress.
  • Education Workers include a whole range of people that support students and keep a safe and healthy school environment. Educational Assistants, Early Childhood Educators, Caretakers, School Secretaries, Social Workers, and Speech and Language Pathologists are just some of these.
  • Parents/Caregivers are critical in the support they provide in the overall education of our students.
  • Students are the most important stakeholders in our system.

Important and Current Issues in Education:

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Student Achievement
  • Student Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Equity and Diversity
  • Class Size and E-learning
  • Indigenous Education
  • Special Education
  • Student Transportation
  • French as a Second Language
  • Capital and Local Priority Funding
  • Facilities (Repair and Backlog)
  • Child Care / Before-and-After School Programming
  • EQAO review
  • Student nutrition
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder