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Public school board in search for new director of education

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The Trillium Lakelands District School Board has begun to interview candidates to replace the outgoing director of education, Larry Hope, who retires on July 31.

The board is hoping to have a candidate in place by the end of June, who will be ready to take over as Hope ends his decade-long tenure with the board.

Larry Hope, director of education, TLDSB.

Sinead Fegan, communications officer with TLDSB, says the job search closed May 29. The board has engaged the services of a consulting company to assist in the hiring.

In industrial parlance, these firms are better known as head-hunters. Their job will be to ensure the posting has received the appropriate distribution locally, provincially and perhaps even nationally.

They will assist in filtering the candidates based on minimum qualifications set by the province for a position of this stature.

Often, the contracted firm will prepare the parameters for the interview and provide the trustees questions to ask. In some cases, the consultants may assist in the negotiations for compensation and benefits once the hiring is completed.

Fegan says the hiring of the director is a board decision and that “all trustees will be participating in the process.”

When asked, Fegan confirmed the position has been advertised internally and externally. She would not comment on the number of applications, the number of people the board plans on interviewing, or names of those being considered.

When asked if the new candidate will inherit the considerable compensation package that made the outgoing Hope the best paid director of education in Ontario at one point, despite the board’s small enrollment size, Fegan said, “The salary will be negotiated with a new director of education but will follow the parameters set out in the school board executive compensation program.”

Parameters influencing the final compensation package will include education, seniority, and experience.

According to ontariosunshinelist.com, Hope earned between $266,446 and $301,875 per year between 2017 and 2019, depending on the year.

Fegan hopes the board will be able to announce the new director, “as soon as the individual has agreed to take the position.”

“There will be a special meeting of the board. The new director of education will be announced at the public session of this special board meeting. We do not yet have a date for this meeting as it will be dependent on the selection process completion.”

The new director will be inheriting a board that, while geographically expansive, only has 41 elementary schools, seven high schools and seven adult education centres with a total of about 16,000 students.

As a point of comparison the Toronto District School Board has 451 elementary schools, 110 secondary schools and educates close to 250,000 students.

Sources with knowledge of the hiring process who asked for anonymity because they were not designated to speak for the board, says “There is no shortage of qualified individuals both internally and externally.”

“The consulting firm has been overwhelmed with applications from excellent people currently working in the GTA and surrounding urban areas. I think the quality of life the area can offer, the cost of living and the current very generous compensation package the director is being paid has brought some interesting folks out of the woodwork. A number also have connections with the area. They are ‘summer people’ with deep roots in cottage country.”

A second source who also asked for anonymity wondered if the pandemic had also “made some urban individuals reconsider where they want to spend the rest of their careers.”

That same source added that there is “sadness among current senior staff” that the position has only become available a year after two very well-respected and long-time local superintendents, Bruce Barrett and Dianna Scates announced their retirements. Many at the board and the community at large thought either “would have made fabulous directors.”

Colin Matthew, District 15 OSSTF president, hopes “the board will hire someone with strong conviction in the value of public education.”

“We see in the current provincial government a ministry that is uncomfortably close to big technology and corporate interests that would seek to redefine education in Ontario.”

Matthew says the union is hoping “for someone who sees value in collaboration and meaningful engagement of all stakeholders.”

“The next director will need to be a creative thinker as we deal with the short term problems of COVID-19, as well as difficult administration in Queen’s Park, and (an) attempt to reverse years of under-funding to education that has seen class sizes grow and fewer supports in place for students, particularly those with special needs.”

Karen Bratina, president of ETFO, was unavailable for comment.

Kirk is a retired high school history teacher and coach who has had a lifelong interest in politics at all levels. Since retiring, Kirk has spent the last three years doing freelance writing of all kinds for various platforms. Kirk can often be found sitting in the press gallery at City Hall observing and reporting on the vagaries of local government.

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