BY ALEX GREGORY
Not a good look. A report released by the investigator for a provincial review of the Peel District School Board claims that deficiencies and “dysfunction” have left the Board without “the ability to provide good governance or to effectively carry out its responsibilities to oversee and ensure proper compliance.”
The report, written by Arleen Huggins and submitted to the province on May 18, outlines the status of binding directives issued by the province earlier this year, in relation to claims of racism, inequality and trustees’ behaviour — and the report card didn’t make the grade. The report outlines several directions that haven’t been fully complied with, pointing to conflicts between trustees and a lack of “good governance” that has caused responsibilities to not be complied with. “My expectation is clear: the Board must change, or I will take further action.
We cannot and will not sit idle, while families and students continue to feel isolated, victimized, and targeted,” Education Minister Stephen Lecce said Monday, in reference to the review. “It is clear that we must continue our work to confront racism – specifically anti-Black racism – within our schools across the province. One of the directives highlighted by Huggins concerns the development of a mandatory “Learning Plan for Trustees,” which would provide direction equity and inclusion opportunities, by-laws and other directives within the Board.
Huggins noted that staff weren’t consulted on the development of the Plan until it had been written and tabled for discussion, with an admission by a director that the report “won’t be done in depth.” “The lack of involvement of all Trustees in critical Board initiatives, other than to approve work done by the Chair and Vice Chair, is more than a questionable governance practice; it amounts to missed opportunities to include the diversity of perspectives and expertise – informed by lived experience of a racially diverse Board – to inform policies, practices and initiatives.,” Huggins wrote in the report. A further directive has been issued to the Board by Lecce to meet the requirements outlined in Huggins’ report by June 22. In a statement Monday, PDSB Director of Education Peter Joshua said that the Board would meet the requirements outlined by the province. “Our response will include the specific actions that are already underway, and how we will address issues raised by the Investigator, including the division among members and within the senior management of the Board; a comprehensive plan to consult with all community groups; and timelines and deliverable that the Board will meet to implement the plan,” said Joshua, who acknowledged that there was skepticism and mistrust sowed by “years of inaction.”
“The Black community in the Peel District School Board, and colleagues and students have been telling us for decades that anti-Black racism is part of their daily lived experiences. To date, as a school board, we have not been successful in eradicating anti-Black racism. .. we must intentionally interrupt and disrupt anti- Black racism and all forms of systemic discrimination, and we are committed to doing so.” Commenting on the matter last month, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath also accused the province of “passing the buck” on the matter, and not addressing the root causes of anti-Black racism in the Board.
“The PDSB Review laid out the ongoing and horrifying realities of anti-Black racism at the Peel board and the consistent failure of board leadership to solve this crisis in their schools,” said Horwath. “The Ford government needs to issue directives that address the root causes and failures in leadership that are responsible for the crisis of anti-Black racism at the PDSB. Until they do that, this government will not be able to ensure that Peel students and families have a safer environment to return to.