Canada's largest school board has named a new director – a move that sources say helps it avoid being placed under provincial supervision.
Toronto District School Board trustees appointed bureaucrat John Malloy as interim director of education at a meeting Wednesday evening. Mr. Malloy, an assistant deputy minister of education and former director of the Hamilton-Wentworth school board, replaces Donna Quan, who is stepping down on Friday after a rocky tenure. Mr. Malloy begins his 18-month term on Jan. 4.
"John is a highly respected educator," TDSB chair Robin Pilkey said in a statement after a two-hour private board meeting. "He will play a key role in moving the TDSB forward for the betterment of our students, parents and all employees."
School board sources said Education Minister Liz Sandals expects the new leadership to address many of the problems plaguing the board, including the "culture of fear" documented in numerous official reports. As a result, the sources said, Ms. Sandals does not plan to send in a supervisor to work with staff and trustees to make improvements.
An advisory panel set up by Ms. Sandals to examine major structural problems at the school board recommended placing it under immediate supervision and then breaking it up into smaller boards if improvements were not made within a year.
The panel, led by former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, was appointed last March. The Education Ministry formally released the report on Friday evening after sitting on it since August and after it was accidentally posted on the ministry's website that day.
The panel confirmed what other reviews have found – that a "culture of fear" permeates the highest levels of the bureaucracy. The report describes how several staffers declined to meet with panel members, amid concerns that participating would hurt their career advancement. Several who did talk to panel members broke down in tears, the report says.
Ms. Sandals has not yet formally responded to the report, which she had initially planned to release on Dec. 17. She told reporters Wednesday morning that she will "look at responding" once an interim director is chosen.
During her nearly three years at the helm, Ms. Quan had been a polarizing force. Tensions at the board peaked in late 2014, when then chair Mari Rutka wrote to Ms. Sandals, complaining that Ms. Quan was refusing to provide trustees with a copy of her contract.
The incident led Ms. Sandals to appoint a special investigator, education specialist Margaret Wilson, to review the board. Ms. Wilson's report paved the way for the review conducted by the panel led by Ms. Hall.
The panel traces problems back to 1998, when seven boards merged to form the country's largest school system, with nearly 232,000 students. The previous boards had different cultures and roles for trustees, leading to confusion in the amalgamated entity.
As for Ms. Quan, the government created a senior advisory role for her within its bureaucracy as part of a plan to address a leadership problem at the school board.
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 across Ontario can collect better demographic information on their students.