The outgoing chair of the Toronto District School Board says she's encouraged that a provincial probe will fix the problems plaguing the institution.
Mari Rutka, who lost her seat in the recent municipal elections, met with Education Minister Liz Sandals on Wednesday, after she asked the province to intervene. She is one of five trustees who wrote to Ms. Sandals this month, expressing concerns about the schism between the board's top-ranking staffer and elected officials.
The government appointed education consultant Margaret Wilson on Tuesday to examine operational issues at Canada's largest board, including director of education Donna Quan's refusal to release her employment contract to trustees and whether Ms. Quan's compensation complies with Ontario's wage-freeze legislation.
"I do hope it is a good process and will lead to positive changes in the board," Ms. Rutka told trustees at a board meeting Wednesday evening.
Ms. Sandals intervened after tensions came to a head this month over Ms. Quan's refusal, preventing trustees from reviewing her performance. Controversy has swirled around the board for several months over decisions by staff revealed in The Globe and Mail, including a mysterious $200,000 payment to a food-services company and education partnerships in Asia.
Ms. Quan has said staff will co-operate with Ms. Wilson's review.
Ms. Wilson will report on her findings by year end, at which point the government will conduct a broader review into the structure of the board, including whether it is too big to function properly. The TDSB, a product of the amalgamation of several boards in the late 1990s, has a $3-billion annual operating budget, nearly 600 schools and 22 trustees. Ms. Sandals has raised the spectre of placing the board under supervision, which would strip trustees of their power.
The meeting on Wednesday marked the last gathering of the old board. A new board, which includes 11 newly elected trustees, will meet in December. Many ran on a campaign of transparency and accountability, and will have to deal with the fallout of the probe and the government's actions.
Krista Wylie of Fix Our Schools, a new parent network with close to 300 members, said students "have been penalized long enough for the inability of the grownups in charge to work together."
"We are optimistic that this unprecedented move by the province is the first step towards righting this wrong," Ms. Wylie said.
With a report from Karen Howlett