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Sources have told The Globe that Donna Quan, whose tenure as TDSB education director has been characterized as an era of discord and dysfunction, had an advisory role created for her in the provincial bureaucracy so she could be allowed a graceful exit.Mark Blinch/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario government created a senior advisory role within its bureaucracy for the Toronto District School Board's top-ranking staffer as part of a plan to address a leadership problem at the institution, sources say.

Officials in the Ministry of Education have come under mounting pressure this year to deal with the dysfunction gripping the TDSB, school-board sources said. A report commissioned by Education Minister Liz Sandals chronicled a number of problems at the school board, including micromanaging by education director Donna Quan. A second report also commissioned by the minister, and not yet publicly released, documented similar leadership problems, the sources said.

Ministry officials were told to find a new job for Ms. Quan so that she would willingly leave the school board, the sources said. "It's the job of the ministry to solve these problems, and that's what they've done with Donna," one of the sources said.

The TDSB announced on Monday that Ms. Quan will be seconded to the Education Ministry for the remaining 20 months of her four-year employment contract. She will work out of York University as an adjunct professor and senior adviser to the government, conducting a study on how school boards in Ontario can collect better demographic information on students.

School board trustees had no involvement in the talks between the Education Ministry and Ms. Quan. The ministry set up the secondment, TDSB chair Robin Pilkey said in an interview. Deputy education minister George Zegarac handled the negotiations for Ms. Quan's secondment, a spokeswoman for Ms. Sandals said.

Trustees learned for the first time at a special board meeting on Monday that Ms. Quan was leaving. They had received a notice on Friday inviting them to a meeting to deal with unspecified personnel issues, a source said.

The sources said Ms. Quan's secondment to the ministry is the best possible outcome for everyone involved. It allows Ms. Quan to make a graceful exit, they said, and the school board to put an end to an era marked by discord during the director's nearly three years at the helm.

Ms. Sandals was asked by reporters on Tuesday why Ms. Quan was being rewarded with a plum posting at the ministry, after all the controversy over her leadership at the school board.

"I don't look on this as a reward about things that have gone on in the past," Ms. Sandals said.

Rather, she said, there is a need for the government to collect census information on students to help the ministry better design education programs. Ms. Sandals said Ms. Quan is a logical choice for the new senior advisory role because she played a leadership role in the collection of information on students at the TDSB, which has the most extensive census data in Canada.

Ms. Quan will assume her new duties on Dec. 14, three days after a special committee of the TDSB board appoints an interim education director to succeed her. She will continue to collect an annual salary of $272,000 under the terms of her TDSB employment contract.

Shortly after Ms. Quan's interim successor assumes the helm, Ms. Sandals said she plans to release a report on the TDSB that was completed by a panel of civic leaders and former trustees in August. Ms. Sandals said she did not want to release the report during labour negotiations with teacher unions.

With a report from Adrian Morrow

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