Governance provides a framework and a process for informed and effective decision-making by trustees. Through our decisions and policies we demonstrate to our communities effective stewardship of the board’s resources in the interests of our students and the community as whole. In education, the demonstration of a board’s governance structure is its effectiveness in promoting and sustaining its achievement standards, accomplishing goals designed to bring positive results for our students and communities, and demonstrating accountability.
‘Excellence in Governance’ is 1 of 6 major goals for our 2012 – 2015 Multi-Year Plan, and to that end, the Board’s Governance & Policy Committee (created in 2011) provides a focus for driving forward on governance-related initiatives.
The Governance & Policy Committee (Trustee Davis, Past Chair) has accomplished a great deal since its creation. Below is a list of some highlights:
- Community Engagement Policy: An ad hoc committee of Governance developed a draft Community Engagement Policy which provides a transparent framework for engaging students, parents and the community engagement. It has since been approved by the Board of Trustees.
- Strategic Planning: A rolling annual Strategic Milestone Calendar has been developed and will be kept current by staff in order that staff and trustees can look ahead at the critical governing work of the Board for the coming year and plan accordingly.
- Keeping our Policies Current and Effective: Our Meta Policy was reviewed and updated to ensure a consistent process for the identification, development, review, and monitoring of policies. The new Meta Policy also states that metrics stating how the success of our policies will be measured must be identified for all policies, and regular reporting on them provided to trustees.
- Comprehensive Policy Review – in progress: A comprehensive review of all the policies in the TCDSB Policy Register is well underway. Priority was first placed on those policies defined as ‘student’ policies, and these have been reviewed and revised, as needed. All governance-related policies have also been reviewed and updated. A consolidation exercise has been completed – reducing the total number of policies. Currently senior staff and trustees are working through the remaining categories of policies.
- Investigated creation of an Ombudsman role: Following the unanimous passing of my motion to investigate the role of Ombudsman at the November, 2011 Board, the Governance Framework committee has has started work. Both the UofT Ombudsperson (Joan Foley) and the City of Toronto Ombudsman (Fiona Crean) have spoken to trustees regarding their role. Unfortunately, the motion to create a Ombudsman lost with a 6-6 tie vote. Had TCDSB Trustees voted to create the position, ours would have been the first Board in the province with the role – supporting excellence in governance, transparency and accountability for students, parents, and the community. For more on the role and the vote, please see the May and June, 2012, Board agendas and minutes.
- Running of Board Meetings: Board meetings may now extend beyond 11pm to complete any agenda items which are deemed ‘urgent’ by trustees. Unanimous approval is required by trustees for extension beyond 11pm to deal with any other matter on the agenda. A new method of tracking Board decisions and motions has also been developed to give better visibility and ensure critical work is dropped.
- Comprehensive Board By-Law Revision: An ad hoc committee of Governance carried out a comprehensive review and revision of the Board’s by-laws to remove any barriers to good governance and enable trustees to carry out their work more effectively. These by-laws were then reviewed, revised and finally approved by the Board of Trustees in December, 2015.