The newly minted director of Canada’s largest school board plans to make all expenses from her office public in an effort to be more accountable.
Donna Quan’s four-year term as director of education at the Toronto District School Board was made official by trustees on Wednesday. She had been temporarily filling that role since the previous director resigned amid allegations of plagiarism. Ms. Quan takes the helm of a $2.9-billion organization that has come under criticism for fiscal mismanagement.
Ms. Quan pledged to increase the level of accountability, right down to how her office spends its dollars.
“On the forefront of my mind is behind every dollar is a face, is a student’s name,” she said Wednesday. “Fiscal accountability will be the key to our directions, ensuring that our dollars are well spent, that accountability in terms of what’s in the classroom … and how they can make a difference is evident to all that we serve.”
It has been 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 is currently investigating whether Dr. Spence plagiarized parts of his 1996 PhD dissertation.
The board has also faced criticism for the way it spends on construction projects after a $10-million overrun at Nelson Mandela Park Public School prompted the Ontario government to temporarily cut off funding for new TDSB building projects.
Problems persist. The government has initiated an investigation into the board’s “financial management practices” at the request of Ms. Quan. The results of the investigation are expected shortly.
Ms. Quan has a different leadership style from Dr. Spence, who was described as a visionary leader. “I would describe myself as a doer, as action oriented, as one that listens, and listens for a purpose and engages for a purpose,” she said. “And my purpose is to ensure that all our actions, and all our partnerships and all our conversations result in something for students in the classroom.”
Trustees have sought advice from the Minister of Education on Ms. Quan’s salary, said TDSB chair Chris Bolton. The previous director earned around $270,000. Mr. Bolton said other school districts have given their directors raises, but the TDSB hasn’t for the past two directors.