Trustees regain control of Peel District School Board
Published Tuesday, January 24, 2023 10:33AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 24, 2023 3:55PM EST
Trustees are back in control of the Peel District School Board, more than two-and-a-half years after Education Minister Stephen Lecce assigned ultimate decision making authority to a supervisor.
Lecce placed the board under the supervision of Bruce Rodrigues in June 2020 amid widespread concerns about anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, as well as a myriad of issues related to the board’s governance and its human resources practices.
But in a letter sent to the Ministry of Education earlier this month, Rodrigues confirmed that the board will now once again have the ability to govern itself.
“I am confident that the changes I have made to the senior administration team will help to ensure that the necessary leadership, policies, and practices are in place to allow the board to better serve students and families,” Rodrigues wrote. “These changes will also ensure that staff at all levels of the board have work environments that are respectful, fair, inclusive, and better represent the communities served by the PDSB.”
The initial decision to place the board under supervision came in the wake of a third-party review that found that Black students were overrepresented in suspension data and raised concerns about the board’s commitment to addressing systematic racism.
Lecce ultimately issued 27 binding orders following that report but ultimately decided to place the board under provincial supervision months later amid frustrations with the slow pace at which his orders were being implemented.
In his letter, Rodrigues said that when he was initially brought in the board “lacked capacity to effectively govern in the interests of all students” and “in some cases the willingness to provide the leadership required to ensure that the diversity of students and families in the PDSB was well served.”
However, he said that after two-and-a-half years he believes the board is now better positioned to “govern the PDSB in a manner that is accountable, transparent, respectful, and responsive to the issues and concerns of the communities it serves.”
Rodrigues also noted that the board has now either implemented or is in the process of implementing all 27 orders.
“Capable and steady leadership on both the elected and administrative sides of the board is essential to any successful school board. With the complex issues facing a board the size of the PDSB and with the incredible diversity of communities its serves, it is also essential that leadership is steadfastly focused on serving the needs of all students, particularly those communities of students who have not been well served,” he said. “Understanding those realities and needs will require the board and the senior leadership team to engage with students, their families and the wider PDSB community – to listen and to be accountable for efforts the board is making to ensure that inequities are addressed, barriers are removed, and that conditions are in place to set every student up for success.”
Rodrigues pointed out that the board did issue an apology to the community, as requested by Lecce, and is giving further consideration “to a mediated, restorative process,” with that work “ongoing.”
He also said that an updated anti-racism policy was approved in June of last year.
Nonetheless, at least one community organization working to combat racism said that it is disappointed with the decision to end the supervision order.
In a statement released on Jan. 20, Advocacy Peel said that many residents “feel betrayed because the ministry never consulted with Black community representatives until after the decision was made.
“Once again the historical practice of ‘decisions made about us and for us but not with us’ repeats itself and does not instill confidence and does not instill confidence and hope in the community,” the group said.
While the Peel District School Board will no longer being under an official supervisory order, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said that it will be expected to give quarterly updates on the progress they are making.
The spokesperson also said that the decision to end the supervisory order comes after "meaningful progress to combat racism and discrimination at the Peel District School Board."
"Parents can rest assured that the Ministry of Education will continue to ensure all students feel safe and respected within our schools," Grace Lee said.