At their annual meeting on Dec. 1, Peel District School Board trustees acclaimed Janet McDougald, trustee for Mississauga wards 1 and 7, as chair. McDougald has been a trustee for 27 years, has served as chair for 18 years and was previously vice-chair for three years. Suzanne Nurse, trustee for Brampton wards 2 and 6, was acclaimed as vice-chair. Nurse is starting her tenth year in public office.
In her inaugural address, McDougald detailed some of the challenges the board, schools and staff faced in the past year, including working with the community to build a better understanding of the revised Health and Physical Education curriculum. She also addressed how trustees worked together with staff and schools during strike and work-to-rule action in elementary and secondary schools.
“This has been a year in which we were tested,” McDougald said in her remarks. “The provincial labour situation not only put pressure on us, but also on the relationships within our schools and centres. It was—and remains for some groups—an unfairly long, complicated and frankly, fractious process.”
“As a board we stood together. We learned to work together in a time of constant intense pressure. How? By focusing on our positive relationships, by mirroring our values. Our values—as it says in our mission—are the foundation of our genuine relationships. To see them in action, we need to look no further than our schools. There is no sugar coating what we have gone through as a system.”
“But, throughout all of that, our Peel schools stayed focused on student learning and keeping schools open and safe,” added McDougald. “I don’t want us to underestimate how difficult it was for our staff to keep that happening—to stay positive—to keep focused on students.”
“What we saw in schools was that positive attitude—that unwavering focus on students, and a commitment to preserving relationships. As a board, we appreciate that, as well as the work of all staff at schools and centres throughout the very difficult labour situation—one that is hopefully, reaching resolution. There are still groups who have not reached an agreement—hopefully they will soon."
“We will always value that incredible work we saw in schools. Yet, we also need to learn from it,” said McDougald. “And while we still have a few outstanding issues, provincially and locally, this board will now begin to ask all the partners in the process to review, and, more importantly, revise the bargaining structure.”
Noted McDougald, “It simply does not work. Not for boards. Not for federations. Not for staff. And most importantly, not for our students. The government must create a better bargaining process.”