Trustees finalize policies, approve budgets and serve on committees. They ensure school boards operate according to provincial regulations.
But, when you ask them, you realize there’s so much more to the role.
Trustees are the public’s voice in the Ontario education system—they represent the interests of students, parents and the community. Connecting with their communities and seeing first-hand how our schools help students reach their full potential is what many Trustees say is the best part of the role.
In their own words
Robert North, Adjala-Tosorontio & Essa and Chairperson of the Board:
Being a trustee not only entails strategic planning, budgeting and policy development, but more importantly, seeing how these decisions roll out and impact our students, families and communities. The beauty of local government is that the people around the table are part of the communities that they serve. They bring local knowledge and local needs to the table, and know what makes sense for their communities.
I thoroughly enjoy serving the residents of my area of Simcoe County because I get to see first-hand the efforts of our staff, administration and table. Other levels of government may have bigger budgets and larger geographies but the level of government that I have the honour of serving with definitely has the greatest connections.
Suzanne Ley, Barrie, Wards 1, 2, 3:
I feel most useful as a Trustee when I am able to help the public maneuver through our system. It can be overwhelming. Even if the result is not what the person hoped for, I am always thanked for connecting folks to the correct person for the situation. When it comes to making decisions that affect the students and families of Simcoe County, I feel that local representation is extremely important. Who knows and cares about the area better than those who live their lives here?
The position can be quite challenging but it is incredibly rewarding when an idea comes to fruition. French Immersion is a great example. I feel that we heard there was a desire for the program. How amazing to see those young students speaking a new language within days of entering the program. As Trustees, I feel we are very fortunate—we have only one focus to be concerned with: educating the students of Simcoe County. It is truly exciting to listen to our students and make decisions based on their needs.
Krista Mayne Barrie, Wards 4, 5, 6:
I LOVE being a trustee because I get to see and hear first-hand from our Director and Superintendents how they are making sure of our students’ success and well-being in Simcoe County. Should a constituent have a question, I know I can go to any of the administration at any time to find the answers. Having two boys (one in elementary and one in secondary) in the system, it is great to be part of the table that creates/adjust policy to ensure nothing but the best outcomes for students. So exciting!
Caroline Smith, Collingwood and Clearview:
A trustee today holds a unique role as an ombudsman connecting the public and the school board administration, while also focusing on provincial legal legislative responsibilities. It is a balancing act to keep an eye on the needs of the students, and the opinions and input of the public and board staff. It means advocating for enhancements to student education, while fairly focusing on sharing taxpayer-funded resources.
With this Jenga of responsibilities is the overarching role of encouraging transparent public accountability. That accountability helps maintain public confidence, which allows for the ongoing funding of Ontario’s public schools.
As a trustee, I believe expanding accountability for public process is the keystone to all positive change. When asked what makes you come back meeting after meeting, year after year, I note it is the knowledge that I make a difference by my advocacy and focus on transparent government. This inspires me and fills me with positive long-term expectations for public education in Ontario.
Amanda Monague, First Nations Representative:
Being a First Nation Trustee has helped me learn about the role of a trustee, how the board works, the board’s First Nation Métis Inuit Education Plan and the variety of programs offered to students, parents and the community.
Highlights include serving on the First Nation Education Advisory Committee (FNEAC), the First Nation Trustee Council (FNTC), and the review and signing of the Education Services Agreements. The FNEAC and FNTC meetings enable schools and school boards to share the wonderful initiatives that support First Nation students academically, and to promote cultural understanding through programs, curriculum, professional development, or events held throughout the year. Being the First Nation Trustee also allows me to advocate on behalf of the students and parents by presenting issues or concerns at the FNEAC and FNTC meetings. I participate in discussions on how to tackle the challenges within education for Aboriginal students such as the need for more Native language teachers and better Native language programs.
There continues to be a phenomenal amount of work being done to improve Aboriginal education. Key components to its success include developing Education Services Agreements that promote collaboration, and sharing of information and resources between the school board and First Nation communities, and for more students to self-identify so that the Ministry, school boards, and First Nation communities can determine where the success stories are and where further support is needed. Aboriginal Education is changing, and I am glad to be a part of it.
Michele Locke, Midland, Penetanguishene, Wasaga Beach & Tiny:
The best part about being a Trustee is working for and with the students. Whether it’s the Holiday Lunch at Wyevale Central, the powwow at Huron Park, graduations at secondary schools or watching students collaborate beautifully at conferences, I love every minute I get to spend with students. In a sometimes negative, stressful world, it is important to be a part of the positive events in our school communities. It gives me hope and shows them hope when everyone is working so hard, as a team…anything is possible!
Debra Edwards, Orillia:
I love being a Trustee because I love helping families and students. As their education advocate, I can assist them to navigate through an education system that may seem unfamiliar to some parents. I especially feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction in helping students who, for whatever reason, do not have advocates to help them to achieve quality education and student success.
Peter Beacock, Oro-Medonte & Springwater and Vice-Chairperson of the Board:
The Trustee role can be quite demanding, especially when you are the Chair or Vice-Chair of the board, as these roles put increased workload on you. The reward is the great people you meet along the way. Getting to meet people with very interesting and diverse cultures is a real joy. Being able to help people through the different processes and serving a liaison between community members and the board is very fulfilling. One of the greatest rewards is visiting schools and classrooms. When you see the smiles on our students’ faces at an outdoor classroom, or watching them in action in Full Day Kindergarten, or a music program, you feel good knowing that the decisions that we made were the right ones for our kids now and into the future.