Final report

On June 22, 2020, the Minister of Education placed the Peel District School Board (PDSB) under supervision following a review and investigation into the board’s capacity to address serious concerns related to systemic discrimination, specifically, anti-Black racism and serious issues related to governance, leadership and human resources practices in the board.

As supervisor, I have worked with board staff, the Board of Trustees, community members, students, and parents over the past 2 and ½ years to rebuild relationships and trust that had been eroded over a significant period of time. When I accepted the appointment, I assumed control over a board that lacked capacity to effectively govern in the interests of all students of the board. Administrative leadership and elected leadership lacked the capacity and, in some cases, - as noted in the Investigator’s Report - the willingness to provide the leadership required to ensure that the diversity of students and families in the PDSB was well served.

I am confident that the changes I have made to the senior administration team will help to ensure that the necessary leadership, policies, and practices are in place to allow the board to better serve students and families. These changes will also ensure that staff at all levels of the board have work environments that are respectful, fair, inclusive, and better represent the communities served by the PDSB.

I have also invested significant time and resources to build the capacity of the Board of Trustees (Board) to position them to govern the PDSB in a manner that is accountable, transparent, respectful, and responsive to the issues and concerns of the communities it serves. With the election of 6 new trustees, the Board is working together to establish productive and collaborative working relationships at the board table, and with the support of Director Swarup, the Board will be focused on the ongoing work required to realize the transformational organizational and cultural change set out in the minister’s binding directions.

Capable and steady leadership on both the elected and administrative sides of the board is essential to any successful school board. With the complex issues facing a board the size of the PDSB and with the incredible diversity of communities its serves, it is also essential that leadership is steadfastly focused on serving the needs of all students, particularly those communities of students who have not been well served. Understanding those realities and needs will require the Board and the senior leadership team to engage with students, their families and the wider PDSB community – to listen and to be accountable for efforts the board is making to ensure that inequities are addressed, barriers are removed, and that conditions are in place to set every student up for success.

Parents and community leaders will no longer tolerate dysfunction at the Board and will be watching closely how the Board interacts with each other and with the senior leadership team. The six returning trustees have had the benefit of the training and supports provided to them while under supervision, and the newly elected trustees have received a comprehensive orientation and professional development support. The Board has also committed to an ongoing professional development program which will help to support effective and accountable governance.

While the newly elected board has begun its term of office in a productive and positive way, it is appropriate for regular updates to be sent to the minister to confirm that relationships are professional, respectful, and collaborative among the trustees and between the Board and the senior leadership team. The minister would be advised to similarly request confirmation and evidence that the Board is responding to community concerns in a respectful, timely and meaningful manner.

I have provided an overview of the work undertaken to date in response to Minister Lecce’s binding directions, which were issued on March 13, 2020 in the appendix of this final report.

Progress on minister’s binding directions

Minister’s binding directionsProgress to date
Direction 1 – Conflict resolutionThe Board retained an independent mediator and conflict resolution expert, Kim Bernhardt to conduct mediation with the members of the Board and the Director of Education and Associate Directors. A mediator’s report was submitted in June 2020, though not all the members of the Board participated in the mediation. Since then a new board has been constituted and there remains hope that this new board will be more collaborative.
Direction 2 – Cease board member involvement in hiring/ promotion/ appointment panelsThe Board approved a policy in May 2020 outlining that its members no longer participate in the hiring, promotion, and appointment, including for temporary or acting positions, of any employee of the Board with the sole exception of the Director of Education.
Direction 3 – Suspend of all Code of Conduct related complaints and investigationsIn March 2020, the Board confirmed that complaints were not to be considered again until the minister is satisfied the Board can work together and with the Director and Associate Directors. In February 23, 2021, the PDSB’s Integrity Commissioner began developing a plan for the adjudication of all pre-existing matters once the new code of conduct and complaint protocol was approved which was now slated to be tabled with the new board.
Direction 4 – Hire an Integrity CommissionerThe law firm of Parker Sim was appointed as the Board’s Integrity Commissioner; confirmed in a report to the Board at the January 25, 2021.
Direction 5 – Work with a governance expert to establish procedures and practices for effective governance and hire a full-time parliamentarian/ governance officialA permanent Governance Officer was hired in November 2021. Progress continues on implementation of revised by-laws and governance directives, including training and development of resources. The revised code of conduct and complaint protocol is currently with the Integrity Commissioner for review and plans are to have it ready for approval by the new board.
Direction 6 – Implement an Annual Learning Plan (ALP) for School Board MembersThe Board has adopted an ALP for trustees. Training on all topics required under this Direction has been completed except for Code of Conduct training, as the new draft policy is currently under review. In addition, a new trustee orientation program and Trustee Portal is available for the new board.
Direction 7 – Ensure racial diversity of standing and ad hoc committee membershipAll board members have completed a voluntary self-identification process, which the supervisor used in the determining the composition of board committees. In a July 8, 2022, letter from the ministry, it was confirmed that when the self-identification process and requirement of a three-quarters majority vote for composition of committees is incorporated into board bylaw, this Direction will be considered complete.
Direction 8 – Retain and expert to assist in development of a Director Performance Review ProcessSupervisor working with Director Swarup on establishing an appraisal process to be in place once supervision ends. Also of note is that the supervisor did complete an appraisal of the Director this past year and an external firm was included in the process to support a modified 3600 assessment.
Direction 9 – Implement an Annual Equity Report CardThe Board released its first Annual Equity Accountability Report Card in September 2021 which established a baseline of disproportionality measures along five main theme areas: Student Achievement, Programs and Pathways, Special Education, Student Discipline, and Student Well-Being. Additional report cards have been released: “Exploring the Equity Gap by Faith/Spirituality” (November 2021) and “Amplifying the Voices of African, Afro-Caribbean, and Black Students” (December 2021).

In March 2022, the board released “Understanding the Equity Gap in Special Education”. In July 2022, the ministry requested that the Board outline a specific process or timeline for using the equity report card to provide such measures, and to include expulsion for future analysis as per the minister’s direction. This work is currently underway.

In October 2022, the second Annual Equity Accountability Report Card was released. The report card provides trend data from 2018-19 to 2021-22 for a number of outcome indicators. Its purpose is to provide insights into the disproportionate experiences of Peel District School Board (PDSB) students over the last four school years.
Direction 10 – Establish an Equity Office and a Superintendent of Equity positionThe Board has established an Equity Office and hired a Superintendent of Equity and an Equity Outreach Officer. Completion of this direction is tied to the development of the Equity Action Plan which is currently in progress (see Direction 14).

The Board has established a community engagement framework and will be engaging in consultations to repair and rebuild trust with communities.
Direction 11 – Establish a Student Advisory Committee representative of the student body demographicsCompliance confirmed in December 2021, with the board’s submission of a Terms of Reference developed in consultation with students and student groups.
Direction 12 – Preserve and safeguard independence and neutrality of the PDSB Human Rights Commissioner’s OfficeThe board has hired a Human Rights and Equity Advisor, a Human Rights Officer and a Human Rights Student Outreach and Early Resolution Advisor as well as established an interim operating procedure, effective as of November 1, 2021, to address or, where required, investigate incidents/complaints of discrimination contrary to the board’s Human Rights Policy (Policy 51).

The revised policy and operating procedure are out for consultation with Indigenous partners and community members.

In December 2022, an additional report was provided as an update further to Directive 12 of the Ministry’s Review, specifically with respect to “ensuring the Board’s human rights complaints procedure is widely communicated and accessible”.
Direction 13 – Issue apology to the communityAn apology letter to the community was issued on September 23, 2020. In a February 23, 2021 report, the Board stated that further consideration is being given to a mediated, restorative process with members of the Board and community. This work is ongoing.
Direction 14 – Develop and implement a four-year Equity Action PlanCompletion of the Equity Action Plan is contingent on that of the Board Improvement Equity Plan (currently in progress) and the Multi-Year Strategic Plan. Revisions to the draft strategy are underway to include feedback from PDSB community stakeholders.

As subsequent work on the 4-year comprehensive equity strategy, the following reports were developed:

In June 2022, a report was prepared to provide a progress update on the development of the Black Student Success Strategy that will guide PDSB staff in addressing anti-Black racism throughout all aspects of the organization, as mentioned in the report to the Board dated January 26, 2022. This report also submits the final draft of the strategy entitled—Black Student Success Strategy: We Rise Together 2.0.

In December 2022, an update was provided on the development of Affirming Muslim Student Identities and Dismantle Islamophobia Strategy (the anti-Islamophobia Strategy).
Direction 15 – Develop and implement a professional learning plan for Senior Staff on equity, human rights, and anti-Black racismAn update on the annual learning plan was submitted to the ministry, confirming that the plan has been drafted and approved by the board.
Direction 16 – Develop and Anti-Racism Policy in consultation with the Ontario Human Rights CommissionAn updated Anti-Racism policy was approved by the Board on June 22, 2022.
Direction 17 – Develop a plan to reform PDSB’s current guidance systemThe Board has created opportunities for Black and other racialized staff to become qualified Guidance Counsellors and hired into positions in schools to address the underrepresentation of racialized staff in Guidance programs.

In October 2022, the following report was submitted Directive 17 - Reform of the Guidance Program/System - Final Report to provide a comprehensive overview of the relevant changes to reform its guidance system to address the needs and expectations of all students and their families, and to remedy the inadequacies and gaps in supports and guidance for historically and currently underserved demographic groups, with particular focus on Black students.”
Direction 18 – Complete a comprehensive diversity audit of PDSB schoolsAssessments of system practices, procedures, programs, and structures have occurred in the areas of special education, programs, and pathways; student discipline, student wellbeing, student achievement have resulted in changes such as:
  • the dissolution of Vocational 2 programs
  • the progressive establishment of integrated environments
  • the review of Policy 27 - School Naming via a working group
  • restructuring of the Regional Learning Choices Program selection system to allow students who meet admission criteria and who self-identify as Black, African, Métis, First Nations, or Inuit the ability to enroll in the specialty program of their choice
In December 2022, a report was submitted to provide an update on Directive 18 and the audit tools that have been developed to meet the mandates and deliverables of the Directive.
Direction 19 – Design of a Grade 9 and 10 de-streaming pilot projectAs part of the de-streaming pilot project, the Board offered de-streamed Grade 9 mathematics and English courses in more than two pilot schools in 2021-22 and in September 2022 all secondary schools will offer the two de-streamed courses. In addition, the Board has phased out locally developed secondary courses and vocational 2 programming as further example of its commitment to addressing disproportionalities for Black, Indigenous and Latin American students. The report also provides preliminary data on the pass rates for students in de-streamed Grade 9 mathematics and English based on racial identify, special education needs and English Language Learners. The Board has submitted to the ministry a final pilot de-streaming plan on June 28, 2022.
Direction 20 – Develop and implement a communications plan to better inform the diverse PDSB communityThe Board submitted a draft Communications Plan for Secondary School Pathways to the ministry on June 28, 2022, outlining a comprehensive secondary school program placement and course selection awareness campaign with strategies, tactics, and timelines. The Board will finalize the plan and submit a final report in Spring 2023.
Direction 21 - Develop policies, guidelines, and interpretations with the aim of eliminating suspensions and expulsions of students from JK to Grade 3The Board has established a mandatory capacity-building series for principals on procedural fairness to prepare them to address systemic anti-Black racism in school disciplinary procedures, and in February 2022, the Board completed a series of learning modules on mandatory training for principal candidates, new and current principals that emphasizes the principles of procedural fairness and is delivered through the lens of human rights as they apply to children and youth.

These modules represent partial fulfilment of the direction - additional modules on the revised student discipline policy and modules on restorative justice are under development. Other deliverables are in progress and communications protocol and implementation plan will be submitted in a follow-up report in Spring 2023.

In October 2022, a report was submitted that highlighted the Revision of Policy 48: Safe and Caring Schools which highlighted the following:
  • The revised Policy 48 foregrounds procedural fairness and prioritizes restorative justice as an alternative to suspensions, expulsions and exclusions.
  • Principals have received mandatory training on procedural fairness including the requirement to consider Mitigating and Other factors when considering a suspension or expulsion.
  • Under the revised policy, principals are required to notify their superintendent when considering a suspension or expulsion.
The objectives of this report are to:
  • Submit for receipt and approval this revised version of Policy 48: Safe and Caring Schools Policy (attached as Appendix A) to replace the existing policy.
  • Share Directive 21 Communications Protocol (Draft) (attached as Appendix B) to ensure stakeholders are aware of the steps taken to address racial disparities in student discipline
  • Report on the feedback received through internal and external consultations and describe the changes/adaptations made because of the feedback received. The Policy 48: Safe and Caring Schools Consultation Report is attached as Appendix C
Direction 22 – Identify and eliminate racialized disparities in suspensions, exclusions, and expulsions of PDSB studentsCompletion of this Direction contingent on data collected as part of Direction 21 which is currently in progress. Completion of the final report is planned for late Fall 2022 followed by monthly reports to the Ministry until June 2023

This report will be submitted in February 2023.
Direction 23 – Review the Director’s Office and Central Board FunctionsA review report by external consultants was completed in October 2020 and submitted to the ministry. However, since that time there has been significant turnover in the Director’s Office, and the current Director would like to review the report and make necessary adjustments.

This report will be submitted in February 2023
Direction 24 – Implement an Employment Systems Review (ESR) committee and submit a Terms of ReferenceAn ESR Reference Committee was established in May 2020. A final ESR report is planned for late 2022.

This report will be submitted in May 2023.
Direction 25 – Establish a centralized applicant tracking system (as part of Direction 24)Implementation of the new tracking system is scheduled to begin with selected employee groups by November 2022 prior to full implementation in Summer 2023. A report on the successful implementation of this system with all employee groups and data on equitable and transparent hiring practices and results will support completion of this Direction.

This report will be submitted in March 2023.
Direction 26 - Develop a new, robust, and comprehensive Fairness and Equity in Employment Strategy (using results from Direction 24)Work on this direction will begin once Direction 24 has been completed. Submission of the Fairness and Equity in Employment Strategy is planned for Summer 2023.

This report will be submitted in May 2023.
Direction 27 – Review the board’s applicant management system for potential screening-out of racialized candidatesA final report on the review of the Board’s application tracking and management system was submitted to the ministry in October 2020 and was confirmed as complete by the ministry.