Both voters and candidates uninformed on role of school trustees: researcher
With the civic election just over a month away, a lot of attention is being placed on the race for city council seats and who will occupy the mayor’s chair.
But you may not know nearly as much about another race on the ballot – the one for school division trustee.
And it wouldn’t surprise researcher and author Laura Reimer.
"According to research, the people that are running and the people that are voting for them, know very little about the role of school trustees."
"It still is a learning experience," said Arlene Reid, who's been acclaimed as a trustee in the Winnipeg School Division. Reid was first elected in a 2016 by-election. She says while she had experience as a parent council chair, and sat on the boards of several charitable organizations, she said with its $400 million budget and 33,000 students, sitting on the Winnipeg School Division board was a major culture shock.
“That's a large corporation to have to deal with."
It’s a corporation with the power to tax residents, and Reimer is concerned about accountability.
"There really is no measure on whether or not school trustees are doing what they're elected to do, what the plan for the school division is, or if they're fulfilling provincial goals."
Still, she says there are many trustees who work very hard to ensure they are fulfilling their mandate.
The Manitoba School Boards Association holds candidate information sessions to explain what school trustees and boards actually do, available online.
The Association also holds an orientation session for the newly elected trustees.
"We teach them about policy and process making. As well as some of the procedures that are involved in the conduct of meetings," said executive director Josh Watt.
And while this session is optional, Watt says all of the new trustees attend.