Department for Education set to take over London area school board, says local mayor

Days after issuing a scathing rebuke to elected officials and senior staff of the Thames Valley District School Board, a local mayor is asking the province to take charge of the board until what he calls concerns over its ability to operate effectively are resolved.

But a former director of education and a former chairman of the board both say it is impossible for the latest tensions to meet the criteria for the education ministry to circumvent the powers of elected officials and civil servants and to employ a supervisor to lead the board. .

“No, not at all. It doesn’t meet the threshold,” former education director Bill Tucker said.

Matt Reid, the former chairman of the board, added that students receive an education and it is done within a budget approved by the provincial government.

“There is no rationale that would require someone to come from Toronto, taking any local authority away from the trustees and essentially having Queen’s Park or Toronto run schools for the Thames Valley School Board. It is a circumstance very extreme, it certainly doesn’t hit the threshold,” Reid said.

Zorra Township Mayor Marcus Ryan asked to speak at Tuesday’s school board meeting but was cut off because administrators said his tone was sarcastic and disrespectful. He eventually ran out of his five-minute speaking time, said the directors had fragile egos and were unwilling to take criticism, and left.

He said he was frustrated that the school board disbanded a rural education task force before it had completed its work, and because administrators voted to require masks at school but that senior administrators declined to convey this message to parents, citing a directive from the Ministry of Education. .

“My preference is always to have democratically elected officials decide how our tax dollars are spent on the services we use, but that clearly doesn’t happen at the school board, so someone has to take charge,” Ryan said.

Who has supreme authority?

When it comes to the Mask Mandate and who had the authority to require masks to be worn in schools, Director of Education Mark Fisher is “between a rock and a hard place,” trying to determine whether he needs to listen to administrators or the Minister of Education, Tucker said.

“The director basically has two masters, two bosses to whom he must answer. Directors have the power to hire and fire directors,” he added. “They have discretion on budget items, but they have to be aligned with the ministry. there shouldn’t be a mask mandate in Classes.”

It is perhaps unsurprising that Reid, the former director and chairman, has a different opinion.

“I think the manager is an employee of the board, and the manager has to follow his instructions from the board, and that doesn’t seem to be happening here. It seems to me that the manager is caught between a minister of the ‘Education that doesn’t want mask mandates and a board that says ‘we don’t feel safe without a mask,’ he said.

“At the end of the day, the manager has to listen to the board. He is an employee of the board and he cannot make decisions in isolation on his own.”

The mayor was “antagonist”

But no matter what he thinks of the rural education task force or the mask mandate decision, during his presentation to the school board on Tuesday, Ryan swayed out, saying he didn’t know. who was responsible and whether he had to wear a mask or not.

“It’s important that anyone watching what happened on Tuesday admits and recognizes that Marcus was antagonistic, so I don’t think it was out of place for the president to try to keep order so that his presentation is not further devolved,” Réid said.

“I think people should be respectful and professional and try to work together instead of throwing insults and rushing,” Reid said.

Watch: Marcus Ryan addresses the Thames Valley District School Board:

There have always been clashes between rural leaders and communities and the urban council, Tucker added.

“I understand the frustration. The frustration of rural councils is long-standing,” he said.

“I remember very distinctly trying to open doors of communication because of the disconnect that existed in terms of planning and mutual understanding.”

Ryan said he will release a letter he will write to the Department of Education requesting that a supervisor be appointed to oversee the Thames Valley District School Board on social media.

He also wants rural municipalities to take over the management of rural schools.

“I think the ideal scenario would be to hand governance of schools over to local councils in Oxford, Elgin, Middlesex and London, respectively,” he told CBC News.

“I think the residents of Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex would be better served, and frankly I think the residents of London would be better served, with separate councils able to meet the unique needs of those different communities. “

In a statement, the Department of Education said it expects school boards to support all students, regardless of where they live.

“We expect the board to work collaboratively with local partners to ensure all voices are heard.”

CBC News contacted all of the directors for their comments, but did not hear back. A council spokesperson said it was not an issue the director of education could speak to and chair Lori-Ann Pizzolato was unavailable.