The first of 16 public meetings put on by a provincial task force looking into how the Toronto District School Board might do a better job of running itself saw a little more than 30 people turn out at North Toronto Community Centre on Monday night.
The crowd, of which a third was made up of current and former school trustees, teachers and Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle, sat around six tables in a meeting room to discuss pre-posed questions by an advisory panel appointed by the province.
The panel was formed in mid-March after a scathing report by Margaret Wilson, whom the province had asked to investigate governance at the school board, suggested there were deep-rooted problems at the board and that it required an overhaul.
Highly publicized spats during board meetings — including one between former Ward 8 trustee Howard Goodman and director of education Donna Quan that ultimately led to criminal harassment and forcible confinement charges against Goodman — were among the catalysts for Wilson’s appointment.
After an hour and a half of roundtable discussions answering questions on the benefits of the TDSB being a large board, how it should reach out to families and how people would know the trustees “are governing in the interests of all students,” advisory panel chair Barbara Hall, a former mayor of Toronto, read the responses back to the room.
While the series of meetings is meant to gain insight from the public on how the school board might better govern itself, the feedback after Hall spoke focused mostly on how the process itself was flawed.
One person complained the questions were “biased” while another said they were crafted in such a way that they were “blame-based and not solution-oriented.” One woman said allowing trustees and provincial representatives at the meeting made it difficult for people to give their true opinions since the people they take issue with are there “looking over their shoulders.”
The public consultations run across Toronto until May 30.
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