Toronto trustees are expected a select a quiet, steady hand next week to lead the country’s largest and most diverse school board, a change of tack from the previous director who resigned amid plagiarism allegations.
Donna Quan, the Toronto District School Board’s former deputy director and who has been temporarily filling the director’s role, is widely expected to be appointed to the top position, according to education insiders. She would take the helm of a $2.9-billion organization. Trustees will vote on the recommended candidate at a board meeting on Wednesday.
Trustees reached by The Globe and Mail have been reluctant to reveal who is being recommended for the director’s role, but have strongly hinted that it won’t be a surprise. From the onset, Ms. Quan has been the obvious choice.
“Donna’s done an excellent job, and I think many people on the board feel that she’s done an excellent job,” said TDSB chair Chris Bolton, who declined to reveal the candidate’s name. “What we need … is to have a good stable start to the school year and this is important for the school board because last year was quite busy.”
It was a difficult year for the TDSB. Chris Spence, often described as a charismatic, inspirational leader, resigned in January after allegations of plagiarism pertaining to everything from his personal blog to newspaper opinion pieces began piling up. The University of Toronto initiated an investigation into whether Dr. Spence plagiarized parts of his 1996 PhD dissertation.
Canada’s largest school board has also faced widespread criticism for the way it spends on construction projects, and a $10-million budget overrun at Nelson Mandela Park Public School prompted the Ontario government to cut off funding for new TDSB building projects in October. That funding was restored in exchange for trustees promising to sell off unused school land.
Problems persist. The government has initiated an investigation into the board’s “financial management practices” at the request of Ms. Quan. The results of that investigation are expected this fall.
Those who know Ms. Quan say that she has an operational bent and thinks issues through. That’s the opposite of Dr. Spence, who was a visionary leader.
“Chris had his own way of doing things and was very good at that. But I think right now what we really need in a director is we need someone who can sort of just get down and get to the work that needs to be done,” Mr. Bolton said.
Ms. Quan started teaching in 1983. She moved to the TDSB in 1985 and has held a number of senior position, including principal and superintendent.