Sorry— not sorry? School board motion to apologize to rural leaders dies behind closed doors 

Thames Valley District School Board Administrative Building in London, Ont. on Thursday, June 30, 2022. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

“By any stretch what happened, under the municipal act, was illegal, poor governance, no accountability,” Deputy Mayor of Thames Centre Kelly Elliott says about a decision earlier this week by the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB).

On Tuesday during a closed-door in-camera meeting, TVDSB Trustees discussed a motion to formally apologize to rural leaders who participated in the Rural Education Task Force (RETF).

It was ‘out of order’ by Chair Lori-Ann Pizzolato in public session but the board has offered no further explanation.

“It’s unfortunate how it all played out because there really was a chance to mend the bridges,” says Elliott.

In March, members of the Rural Education Task Force placed their draft report on the agendas of several rural municipal councils in Oxford County, Elgin County, and Middlesex County so the public would see the results of two years' worth of work.

The RETF claimed they were being silenced by TVDSB despite being appointed to dig into key issues in rural education since the summer of 2019.

The school board responded at the time with a tersely worded letter to the Oxford County CAO stating the decision to post the draft report was an 'egregious breach' and directed them to ‘remove the draft report from the agenda.'

It stated a failure to do so would constitute a betrayal of the statutory and jurisdictional authority and mandate of the (school) board.

The letter further angered many rural politicians, including Elliott.

Tuesday’s motion appeared to be an attempt to mend fences before it was ruled to be ‘out of order’ by TVDSB trustees.

The motion read:

  • Whereas: recognizing that board governance can be seen in the level of public trust in a Board; and,
  • Whereas: good governance holds leaders responsible;
  • Therefore be it resolved that: a retraction of statements made by the TVDSB and the TVDSB Chair of the Board in regard to: Rural Education Task Force (RETF) Chair and Trustee members of the RETF; the CAO’s and Wardens of Oxford and Middlesex County and; the County Councillor members of the RETF.
  • And, that an apology for the statements is granted in a public manner

Meanwhile, Elliott says next steps for the RETF remain uncertain.

“Where the Rural Education Task Force stands right now is unknown,” explains Elliott. “They have sent it back to committees with no deadline, no due date, nothing.”

She adds that the dispute has never been about seeking a public apology.

“I will extend an olive branch and continue the work,” Elliot said. “Our communities are more important than this. They are more important than an apology.”