Trustee Time Commitment
What are the time commitments for a School Board Trustee?
Attending board meetings and committee meetings
Trustees are expected to prepare for, and participate in, all board meetings and all meetings of board committees of which they are members. Preparing for a board meeting by reviewing all the material can be time-consuming.
A trustee must be physically present in the meeting room of the board for at least three regular meetings of the board in each 12-month period beginning December 1. Furthermore, a trustee cannot miss three consecutive meetings unless approval is granted by the board. All boards have policies in place to allow for electronic participation in meetings if a trustee is unable to attend in person. Attendance at board and committee meetings can be in person or through electronic means subject to limitations in Ontario Regulation 463/97 (Electronic Meetings).
Recent amendments to the Education Act now allow trustees to take parental or pregnancy leaves for up to 20 weeks without authorization from their board. The seats of the members who take parental or pregnancy leaves would not be declared vacant.
Board meetings are not, however, the only time commitment for trustees. To get a full picture of board-related requirements, candidates should check with their local school board office.
Other duties at the school board
There are other obligations for school board trustees to undertake in their role as a school board member. Some of these are statutory (meaning mandated by the province) and some are not. Statutory duties include the appointment of a trustee to various committees: the Special Education Advisory Committee, to the board-based quasi-judicial committees such as those responsible for conducting proceedings dealing with the suspension or expulsion of students, to the Audit Committee, the Supervised Alternative Learning Committee and the Parent Involvement Committee. The board may also establish non-statutory committees or working groups as needed and these will also have trustee membership.
Attending community meetings as a representative of the school board
One of a trustee's key responsibilities is to facilitate communication between the board and community groups. Trustees may be asked to attend meetings such as school council meetings, community groups, municipal councils and municipal committees, meetings with MPPs and MPs, and other community agencies such as district health councils and library boards. Trustees not only have the responsibility to attend these meetings, they must also bring back information from meetings and share it with the board. Community meetings are often held at night to enable working parents to attend. Attending school events and community functions will give trustee candidates a fuller picture of the role.
Responding to the concerns of parents and others
A trustee is often the first point of contact for parents and community members who have questions and/or concerns about their local school. While individual trustees do not have the authority to direct board staff to undertake any particular action, they can help in answering questions, finding solutions or facilitating interaction with the school and board administration.
Responding to telephone calls or e-mails, meeting requests and queries from constituents is an important part of the trustee role and requires some time commitment.
Time commitments will vary, but it is not uncommon for a trustee to spend an average of 15 hours per week on activities associated with the role. The focus of a trustee’s work can vary depending on the board’s goals and on internal factors (e.g., number and types of committees) and external factors (e.g., growing and declining student enrolment, geography, travel distances). All prospective trustee candidates should contact their local school board for specific information about commitments.