|Old school on the hill pre-1896|
The universal understanding in the past has been that the school trustees saw their responsibility as a matter of providing the best possible educational environment within the context of the community.
In recent years, that model has shifted to something quite different. As a result of changes in the Education Act since 1995, school boards have been given certain powers which are not subject to question by anyone, including the very people who elected the board of trustees. School boards, therefore, have the right to close, open, build, or alter any school they so desire without input or objection by the people or the municipal government of that area.
The net effect of this new power, is that school boards are now controlled by the Ministry of Education, not by their electors. They no longer earn the title "trustees".
On June 12, 2012 the chairman of a city and area school board pointed out that the Ministry now directs the staff of each board through the Directors and senior administrators as to what the elected board is expected to do, then the director and superintendents give the board instructions on what policies they are to adopt to accommodate the Ministry's demands. This Chairman, indicated that the pressure from the ministry is intense and the senior staff transfer that pressure to him and become quite agitated when he does not immediately comply with the "orders from Queen's Park".
The unstated reason for granting this power to school boards, we believe, is to accommodate the plan of the provincial government to reduce drastically the number of schools in the province, in other words to consolidate schools and make remaining schools larger, more efficient and effective, and by implication, reduce the costs of education.
This trend was started by the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris, and has been continued and accelerated under the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty.
School consolidation on a system-wide basis does not work. It does not save money, it does not improve quality of education. In fact, it more often than not increases costs and lowers education quality.
There is a ton of research that discredits consolidation campaigns such as Ontario has been waging. The uncalculated factor in all of this is the damage to communities who lose their schools - in particular, those communities who lose their only school.
This is not to say that all school boards have abandoned their pledge to represent the community. But those that buck the trend are often under threat to be punished in some pecuniary way by the Ministry.