What do Trustees Do?
School Board Trustees — Who are they? Why are they important?
School board trustees are the members of the district school board. They are locally-elected representatives of the public, and they are the community’s advocate for public education. They are required to carry out their responsibilities in a manner that assists the board in fulfilling its duties under the Education Act.
A trustee’s role is to maintain a focus on student achievement and well-being and to participate in making decisions that benefit the entire board district while representing the interests of his or her constituents. Trustees must also communicate the views and decisions of the board back to their constituents.
This is not as simple as it sounds. Because Ontario is large and diverse, the job of school board trustee varies widely. A trustee is responsible for identifying the needs and priorities of their community and for ensuring these are considered in the decisions that result in practical educational opportunities for students. In doing so, trustees must mediate among conflicting interests and values. A trustee must do this in collaboration with the other members of the school board by developing policies that work for all students, and ensuring they are implemented effectively. Whether it is consulting with communities on how the board will provide French Immersion programs or offer before and after school programs or name a new school, it is the local trustee who makes sure that the community has a direct way to express its views on vital education decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. School trustees play an indispensable role in preserving our democratic heritage.
The school trustee is a member of a team.
Only the team (the Board), not an individual trustee, has the authority to make decisions or take action. A school board must place all students first when making any decision.
Trustees are required to uphold the implementation of any board resolution after it is passed by the board. In exercising their role, they are required to comply with the board’s code of conduct.
Trustees are responsible for establishing policy direction
Policies set out the expectations about what should happen or how services are to be provided within the school board. A well-written policy describes to parents, the public and the board’s staff, what they can expect. The Board of Trustees ensure that the director of education carries out responsibilities for implementing board’s policies. They entrust the day to day management of the board to its staff through the board’s director of education.
Trustees, as members of the board, are accountable to the province
The Board of Trustees is accountable to the Province of Ontario for the proper conduct of their duties and powers, including the implementation of provincial policy and the use of provincially allocated funds.
Trustees are accountable to their electorate
As elected officials trustees must balance the demands of the community with the duties required by the Ministry of Education. By law, they are required to consult with parents, students and supporters of the board on the board’s multi-year plan and bring the concerns of these groups to the attention of the board. This can be challenging and takes dedicated leadership coupled with a willingness to seek innovative ideas and the courage to implement them.
School Board Trustees are community leaders
School board trustees have a responsibility to all the families in their community – not just their neighbours, and not just families with school-aged children. They work with their school board colleagues and with other community partners to ensure that all the students within the board’s jurisdiction have equal opportunities to reach their maximum potential.
Trustees demonstrate their leadership in the following key areas:
- Establishing vision to ensure a strong public education system
- Setting goals for student achievement
- Undertaking assessment to measure progress
- Promoting accountability throughout the school board
- Allocating resources in ways that ensure equity of opportunity and demonstrate accountability
- Establishing a respectful, caring, professional climate throughout the school board
- Creating collaborative relationships inside the board and across the community
- Promoting continuous improvement
- Promoting community involvement and establishing communications