Toronto District School Board

Remarks by Newly-Acclaimed Chair Robin Pilkey

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Categories: News Releases

Remarks by Robin Pilkey, Newly Acclaimed Chair of TDSB

August 12, 2015

Check Against Delivery

 

Thank you for your support and confidence in me. It is an honour to be elected Chair of Canada's largest school board and I don't for a moment underestimate the responsibility this position holds. I echo Trustee Cary-Meagher's comments of appreciation for the work done by Trustee Chen in his term as Chair and I thank him very much.

I believe this role is a shared responsibility -- built on leadership, engagement of all the Trustees and respect for each other and for our senior staff.

I approach the role of Chair with a strong sense of optimism for the future. Yes, there are many challenges that lie ahead. But this is a Board that is up to facing these challenges head on.

Like me, we have newer Trustees who bring a fresh perspective to our discussions. But we also have many Trustees who bring a wealth of experience and who provide tremendous value to our decisions.

We also have a Board that closely mirrors the people we serve-- we have a rich mosaic of Trustees by gender, racial and ethnic background, professional occupations, religious beliefs and we together are a true reflection of Toronto's communities and neighborhoods.

To me, this is all part of a winning combination - a winning team. And in fact we have proven this many times in the last seven months.

For example,

  • We have demonstrated considerable cooperation in effectively and efficiently meeting the Minister of Education's directives, which were all accomplished in three short weeks;
  • The newly-created Governance Policy, approved unanimously by this Board, confirmed the effective roles and responsibilities of Trustees, the Chair, Committees, and staff to best support the success and well-being of students;
  • The Board's leadership in voting to create an Office of an Integrity Commissioner. The TDSB will be the first school Board in Ontario to have such a position and it will help ensure respect and adherence to good governance and oversight;
  • The implementation of a Whistleblower Policy represents a continued commitment to the theme of ensuring ethical and professional conduct, and an on-going commitment to enhancing public confidence in the integrity of TDSB Trustees and employees; and,
  • Most importantly, our teachers continue to get the results parents and students want to see -- a significant increase in graduation rates and a steady increase in Board-wide EQAO results.

The coming school year will present new challenges. But again, I feel this Board is up to the tasks ahead.

While we await the report of the Hall Advisory Panel, it is important to note that we did not sit idly by on the side lines. Our TDSB's submission to the Hall Advisory Panel was spirited and forthright. I was proud to be among the 21 Trustees to affix my name to our response. 

I am not saying things are perfect at the TDSB, but I can tell you that I would have a hard time finding fault with the performance of this Board since the election.

There is always room for improvement and I am hopeful that the Hall Advisory Panel report will make productive and useful recommendations for the future of TDSB - a future where we can build on the accomplishments since amalgamation and where Trustees serve as a symbol of open, transparent and democratically elected representation in public education.

Just this week, we have received the report and recommendations of the Premier's Community Hubs Framework Advisory Group. At first glance, the advisory group seems headed in the right direction. The TDSB has been a leader in creating community hubs in our schools.

But our experience tells us that the promise of community hubs will require radical change in provincial funding to support community services and activities in schools. 

The report is also a reminder to all of our community partners that where and when it makes sense to close or sell a school, the TDSB must receive fair compensation as we continue to face pressing needs to repair our schools and in some cases build more school space where enrolment is booming.

That being said, the TDSB looks forward to participating in the creation of a new provincial framework for the community use of schools.

Let me turn briefly to a matter that is of significant importance to our students, parents and employees.

We are, as we have always been, committed to working with our provincial association to achieve new and fair collective agreements with our employee groups. 

While we are working with a new legislative framework for negotiations  and while one should expect hard bargaining on all sides,  we must all remain committed to achieving province wide settlements as soon as possible -- our students and parents are counting on all sides to live up to this expectation. I am pleased to report that next week the province, schools boards and OSSTF will be returning to the bargaining table to resume negotiations.

Let me close where I began:  assuming the Chair of the TDSB is an incredible honour and responsibility. As a newer Trustee to the Board I will have to muster all my resources to be effective, efficient and fair minded.

Like all members of the Board, I am aided and guided by professional, community and personal experience and credentials and some core values and expectations for our schools.

Mine include 25 years as a Chartered Professional Accountant. Before being elected as TDSB Trustee for Ward 7 (Parkdale - High Park), I chaired the Ward 7 Council for a number of years in addition to parent advisory committees at Swansea Public School and Western Technical-Commercial High School.

I am also a parent of three children, two who have just graduated and one who is entering grade 11. 

I am committed to achieving quality and equity of opportunity for all TDSB students. To achieve this, the TDSB must work with the Ontario government and it must work with the TDSB and all our education partners to ensure our school system has a sustainable financial base.

In turn, we as a Board, together with our staff, have the responsibility to deliver high quality education in a financially responsible manner.

Our parents would surely support these aspirations -- they want the best for their children and they want the best our schools and staff can offer.

Parents are the TDSB's most effective champions. But to be effective, we must take innovative and creative ways to engage them in our challenges and solutions.  When we think, for example, of the incredible contribution that parent groups such as Fix Our Schools is making towards the improvement of provincial funding for school repairs, we see the enormous potential that our engaged, informed and willing parents have. Yes, it is true; parents can be our harshest critics, especially when we give them reasons to be. But they can also be our most formidable champions.

I sincerely thank you for your generous time this afternoon and look forward to working with each and every one of you, our Director of Education, Donna Quan and senior staff in the months ahead. Please continue to have a safe and enjoyable summer and see you back on August 26.

Thank you.

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