Canada: TDSB Advisory Panel Report Highlights Structural Governance Issues For School Boards

Last Updated: January 29 2016
Article by Gillian Tuck Kutarna

Last March, the Minister of Education appointed the Toronto District School Board Governance Advisory Panel ("Advisory Panel"), to consult and make recommendations with respect to structural and procedural changes to the Toronto District School Board. The Advisory Panel was constituted in response to an earlier review of the Toronto District School Board led by external consultant Margaret Wilson, which concluded that underlying the governance dysfunction within the board was a "culture of fear" and "lack of trust".1

The mandate and scope of the Advisory Panel was to "consult on governance structures that would better enable trustees to focus on broader policy issues in balance with responsiveness to local concerns."2 The Advisory Panel recently released its report.3 The report identifies a variety of structural challenges some of which are not unique to the Toronto District School Board and are therefore worth considering for their wider application to school board trustees across the province.

In assessing how to strike an appropriate balance between policy and local issues, the Advisory Panel identified the need for clarification of the role of school board trustees, noting that while the Education Act requires that a board of trustees develop and ensure the implementation of a multi-year strategic plan, there are often more immediate pressures which compete for the attention of the trustees.

In particular, the Advisory Panel observed that there is an inherent tension between the school board trustee's role as the voice of their community, and their statutory duty to act as a unified governing body. School board trustees are elected by their local communities, and within those communities are expected to speak for their constituents as a group as well as represent "their schools" and advance individual student needs. Once elected, however, school board trustees have a statutory obligation to make decisions in the best interests of the school board as a whole and all of its students.

In addition to navigating these competing pressures, school board trustees must recognize which issues are strictly operational and therefore under the purview of staff, and those which may be appropriately addressed by a school board trustee. Yet the Advisory Panel's Report points out that relatively little formal orientation and ongoing training is available for school board trustees. The Advisory Panel recommended that school board trustees be required to attend comprehensive governance training immediately upon taking office as well as participate in ongoing professional development throughout their term.

The Report also identified the important role the Chair of the school board plays with respect to good governance. Despite the short one year term of office, the Chair assumes significant leadership and governance responsibilities, including presiding over trustee meetings, and in conjunction with the Director of Education establishing the meeting agenda and ensuring that all trustees have the background information required to participate meaningfully in debate and decision-making. In addition, the Chair is the public spokesperson for the school board, and is responsible under the Education Act for ensuring that the board of trustees remains focussed on its mission, vision, and multi-year strategic plan.

Given the breadth and depth of these responsibilities, the Advisory Panel recommended that the board of trustees develop requisite criteria for candidates, including but not limited to "governance experience and training, conflict-management and consensus-building skills, and demonstrated experience working with city-wide and/or board-wide issues".4 The Advisory Panel further suggested that the board of trustees annually evaluate the Chair's performance measured against these criteria, the Chair's statutory responsibilities, and board policy.

The Advisory Panel also suggested that a clear distinction of roles, and a relationship of trust between the Chair and the Director of Education is essential to good governance. The Chair has a responsibility to ensure that school board trustees are able to monitor the implementation of the strategic plan through the receipt of regular reports. The Chair must also assist school board trustees in developing the means to hold the organization accountable through oversight of the Director of Education as the only employee directly accountable to the board of trustees.

The Director of Education has a duty to intervene when school board trustees attempt to exert individual influence outside the board room, for example by communicating directly with staff to request reports which do not serve the best interests of the school board as a whole and have not been approved by the board of trustees.

The ability of the Chair and the Director of Education to reconcile these and other multi-faceted features of the governance relationship, and to be seen as working together in the best interests of the school board, can set the tone for the rest of the organization. The Advisory Panel recommended that the board of trustees engage in regular self-assessments to measure its effectiveness in realizing the goals set out in the multi-year strategic plan.5

Also highlighted in the Advisory Panel's Report was the need for accountability and transparency with respect to the recruitment, hiring and placement of principals and senior staff. The Advisory Panel commented that the practice of school board trustees sitting on interview panels for supervisory officers led to the potential for undue influence of personal preferences, resulting in interference in succession planning, service and program delivery in schools, and a negative impact on staff morale.6

In a statement released December 11, 2015, Minister of Education Liz Sandals responded to the Advisory Panel Report by stating that she intended to give new interim Director of Education, John Malloy, the Toronto District School Board and TDSB trustees "the opportunity to make the necessary governance and operational changes ", and that the Ministry will support the Toronto District School Board in implementing recommendations such as clarifying the roles of school board trustees. The Minister also stated that the Ministry would "consult with our education partners on the recommendations that could have province-wide implications." The Advisory Panel identified governance challenges which have led to sometimes dire consequences at the Toronto District School Board. In analysing the causes, the Advisory Panel commented that, while the size of the Toronto District School Board was a complicating factor, its geographic and demographic profile was not at the root of its governance dysfunction. This conclusion is supported by a survey of other school boards in the province, many of which have experienced governance challenges similar to those described in the Report. The Advisory Panel's analysis and recommendations, as well as further Ministry consultation, will provide a focus on these complex issues.


1 "Review of the Toronto District School Board", January 15, 2015,

2 Toronto District School Board Governance Advisory Panel Report, Page 3.

3 December 11, 2015, at

4 Recommendation 8, at page 20.

5 Recommendation 7, at p. 20.

6 At page 16

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Gillian Tuck Kutarna
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions