Experience that Matters: Being a Trustee and not a Custodian

Standard

I feel it’s important to clarify the definition of a Trustee. A Trustee is defined as someone having property, authority, or a position of trust or responsibility of trust for the benefit of another. The important phrase in the Trustee definition is ‘benefit of another’. A Trustee should not be confused with a Custodian. Custodians function more to protect and preserve. This is an important distinction. Protecting and preserving may work when tradition is at stake. However, our educational institutions are at a turning point of relevance. Keeping the status quo and treating the role as a Custodianship will further erode public education’s hold on being relevant.

According to the Elections Ontario the Trustee role can be summarized into the following:

  • Work with the Province to implement change.
  • Work with constituents to ensure local needs are met.
  • Ensure appropriate use of allocated funds.
  • Lead by setting policy direction and implementing Provincial mandates.

http://elections.ontarioschooltrustees.org/en/about-trustees/what-trustees-do.html

Enrollment numbers are down across Ontario, budget numbers are escalating and sources of revenue are declining. The shift in enrollment illustrates a lack of public trust in our education system, which indicates that the status quo must change.

The Trustee needs to work on innovating through community engagement and collaboration. The Trustee needs to be central in delivering change to services that attract families back, or keep families invested in, public education. If Provincial mandates conflict with local needs Trustees need to be leaders with the Province to work on modifying a Provincial mandate to align with local requirements. Decisions need to make financial sense to the board and to families. If Total Cost of Ownership shifts negatively for both the board and families Trustees need to lead and look for alternative options. A more expensive system that does not meet local needs and loses community trust and engagement resulting in a loss of revenues is not a sustainable future. Our public education system will continue to lose its relevance and cost more to maintain.

When thinking of this experience I feel a Trustee should:

  • Understand how to manage large budgets, understand returns on investment and total cost of ownership of proposed changes. If this is not being considered then decisions will have negative outcomes.
  • Be able to advocate local needs and partner with Ministries to implement change that aligns with local requirements. This means being able to manage upwardly and be able to have difficult conversation with other leadership groups to ensure a constituency has fair representation.
  • Work with various stakeholders through regular communications. Neighborhood group and school council meetings should be regularly attended. Having visibility at community events as well as providing information via newsletter, blog, or other mediums. These should be at the core of the role.
  • Have long range planning where there is a spirit of entrepreneurship to attract and keep families committed to public education by offering a variety of programs and services that excite and inspire students.

How does my education and experience align to the Trustee role?

Education:

  • University of Toronto Graduate
  • MBA Candidate
  • A certified project management professional
  • A certified professional in healthcare information and management systems
  • Canadian Securities Course Completion and Certificate

Skills acquired: research, long term planning, project management, investing and accounting.

Experience:

  • Fifteen years of experience managing large capital and operational budgets in both the public and private sector
  • Ten years experience in the public sector advocating local needs with Ontario Ministries and Municipalities, defining policy and working with various stakeholder groups.
  • Fifteen years of experience delivering enterprise strategy and change.
  • Fifteen years of experience effectively communicating progress and updates to various stakeholders.
  • Ten years experience building sustainable communications and working relationships with Ministry and community partners.

Skills acquired: strategy, communication, planning, advocacy, budget/people/Ministry management skills.

Volunteer:

  • As Policy Chair at the Guelph Public Library worked with a team to revamp and revise all Guelph Public Library policies.
  • Active fundraiser at Victory Public School’s annual dessert party
  • Created, managed, programmed and marketed DNA Film Festival that led to film distributions for independent artists.

Skills acquired: policy creation and maintenance, public engagement and entrepreneurial skills.

Personal:

This can’t be bulleted or summarized. As a parent with young children in the public school system I am invested. Decisions by the Province and board affect me and my family. I can have the empathy that comes from knowing the pressures and challenges of raising a child in today’s society. If the decision doesn’t make sense for my family then I would not support adversely affecting someone else’s. To me that’s my largest benefit to constituents. My skills will help me provide leadership and service, but my family and children is what will give me the passion to do the job in a conscientious and considerate manner for all families.

I hope to have your vote on Oct. 27th and am always open to discussing how I feel and what I can do for the Trustee role at greater length to individuals or groups so feel free to contact me anytime.

Best regards and Sincerely,

Aaron Blair

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