I’m going to summarise the situations at The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board in one sentence:

**The Board of Trustees of The Hamilton-Wentworth School Board is a **gong show.

From improper closed door meetings to complaints against each other, it’s a wonder anything gets done around the Board.

Tonight, they’ll waste thousands of taxpayers dollars on their accusations against one another about ethical violations.

There are two root causes for the dysfunctional nature of the Board of Trustees:

  1. The same personalities have been on the Board together for over a decade.
    Hamilton voters rarely vote out incumbents and incumbents rarely step down. The core group of trustees and committee members at the HWDSB does not change, small disputes eventually build into large disputes, small personality differences fester until they blow up into frivolous vendettas and character assassination.
  2. **The Trustees themselves are a relic of a time when education decisions were made locally
    **The Mike Harris Conservative government stripped local school boards of their taxation powers and moved budgeting decisions to Toronto. The funding formula imposed by Toronto gives Trustees little flexibility in spending and curriculum decision are also made by the Ministry of Education.This leaves Trustees with the power to make some local policies, hiring the Director of Education, and decide on which schools to close to meet funding formula requirements.

What is the role of the Public School Board trustee in the post-Mike Harris era?
There is no easy answer to that. They could be an advocate for their local community, but Toronto doesn’t listen to individual trustees. Have a problem at your school? You can call your trustee, but a hotline manned by a school board staffer be just as effective.

The Trustee as a bollard against government cutbacks and under-funding?
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School trustees decided in 2002 to pass a deficit budget instead of continuing to cutback programs. The Board was promptly divested of its budgetary powers and a provincial supervisor appointed by the Ministry of Education. They can’t serve this purpose either.

Why have Trustees at all?
The question will eventually be raised, is there any value to continuing with local Boards of Trustees? In the case of the Hamilton public board, unless Trustees get their act together, the answer will be obvious.