How do the decisions made by school trustees impact me? What is the role of school trustees, individually versus collectively? How can I evaluate the trustee candidates?
School trustees provide a link between local communities and the school board, bringing the issues and concerns of their communities to discussions and decision-making at the board table.
In this unit, students form groups and role-play a governing board of trustees where they debate an issue and pass a motion for schools in the board. Afterwards, students will learn more about the role of boards of trustees and individual trustees, and research the composition of their local school board. Then, students will create an ideal profile of a school trustee and find out which candidate most closely matches up. In the Consolidation activity, students will reflect on ways to improve the school experience for students within the board, and articulate these views to the newly elected school trustee(s) or student trustee(s) for their board.
We are learning to:
- develop an understanding of the role of boards of trustees and how political institutions affect our lives (Citizenship Education Framework – Structures);
- use the inquiry process to formulate questions, interpret, synthesize and critically analyze the school trustee candidates (Global Competencies – Critical Thinking & Problem Solving);
- demonstrate effective communication skills to share ideas and information with classmates (Global Competencies – Communication);
- voice informed opinions on matters relevant to our school community (Citizenship Education Framework – Active Participation).
- explain how a board of trustees makes decisions;
- influence my peers with my ideas and opinions;
- describe the role and responsibilities of school trustees;
- explain my ideas using details and examples;
- determine through research if school trustee; candidates have priorities that match my interests and concerns;
- express my opinion about how schools in our board can be improved.
Social Studies Gr. 5 B3, B3.2, B3.7
Oral Communication 2, 2.3
Writing 1, 2, 1.2, 1.6, 2.8
1. Invite students to share what they know about their school board. Questions to prompt discussion:
- What is the name of our school board?
- Who creates the vision and sets goals for the school board?
- Who establishes rules/policies for all schools in the board?
2. Explain to students that each school board has a group of elected representatives, called school trustees, which form a decision-making body. The board of trustees makes decisions as a whole; individual trustees have no individual authority. Board decisions are made by voting, where motions (decisions) are passed if they have majority support.
3. Divide students into groups of six or eight and have them model the role of the board of trustees.
a) Present one of the following scenarios to your students or come up with one of your own choosing.
- Many students across the board face challenges, including unique transportation needs, varying socioeconomic situations, and a lack of time, which limit their ability to eat breakfast each morning. Teachers believe this is negatively affecting students’ focus and interest. Some schools are able to have breakfast programs but some cannot afford to.
- Many students are taking their smartphone devices to schools. Some teachers allow them to use their devices in class for learning purposes. However, students also spend a lot of time using
their devices for non-educational reasons so it is becoming a distraction.
- Cyber-bullying is increasing within schools across the board. Some students are avoiding coming to school and it is causing many negative consequences.
b) Explain the process: Three roles must also be assigned within each group. One team member will act as ‘board chair’ and manage the meeting discussion, ensuring all members have a chance to contribute their opinions and to move, second and pass one or more motions (actions/decisions). One team member will be the note taker and summarize the team’s ideas. Another team member is an observer and makes notes about group dynamics and the process by which the final decision is made. Students with roles can also contribute their ideas.
Remind students that the goal is to pass one or more motions, which will determine which actions/rules will be implemented to address the problem. Students should listen to all ideas from all group members, consider the merits of each, discuss further for clarification, and decide which idea to vote for. In order for any motion to be put into place, it must be voted on and have support from more than half of the group members.
c) Provide guiding questions to help structure the discussion. Select questions based on the scenario.
- What are some possible solutions or actions that could be taken to improve the situation?
- What rules could be established?
- On the board website, what is the current policy and/or procedure that addresses the problem? What is good about the policy? What could be improved?
- Since the solution will need to be implemented for all schools of the board, what considerations need to be taken into account?
Teacher note: If there is a current policy or program that relates to the scenario, print it up in advance for the groups.
4. Each team’s ideas are presented to the class with a quick report about how the group functioned and the decision-making process.
5. Afterwards, have a follow up discussion:
- What are the opportunities and challenges in making collective or group decisions?
- How do you make group decisions with a group of people who do not all agree?
- How do you get your point across to someone you are debating with?
- How can ensure that you clearly understand the points of someone you disagree with?
- What skills are useful within a group that is debating an issue or determining a decision that may have opposing viewpoints?
1. Use the ‘School Boards in Ontario’ video (2:37 min) and accompanying slide deck to review the role and responsibilities of school trustees.
- School trustees provide a link between local communities and the school board, bringing the issues and concerns of their communities to board discussions and decision-making. Trustees have no individual authority; the board of trustees makes decisions as a whole.
2. As a class, review key information about your school board using your board’s website.
- What are the geographic boundaries of our school board? (Use a map as a visual aid)
- How many schools are in our school board?
- How many school trustees are elected?
- How many student trustees are on the board?
- Does our board have any First Nation trustees?
- If applicable, how many wards are there within the school board? Which is our school board ward?
3. Divide students into pairs or small groups and have them create a profile for their ‘ideal’ school trustee (Activity 7.1). Guiding questions:
- What personal characteristics would the school trustee possess?
- What skills or work experience would they have?
- What would be their motivation to become a school trustee?
- What priorities would they have?
4. Review the list of candidates running for school trustee using the following website: http://elections.ontarioschooltrustees.org
Teacher note: If your candidate(s) are acclaimed, skip to the Alternative Activity.
5. Ask students to learn about the candidates using the above website, candidate websites and social media pages, web searches or by contacting the candidates directly. This activity can be completed through a jigsaw method or you can assign each group one candidate to research and have them present to the rest of the class.
Teacher note: Students can also look at the board website to see if the candidate is currently a school trustee and running for re-election. If so, looking at minutes of past board meetings on the website can tell students the kind of motions the school trustee has moved and perhaps what their interests are.
6. Have a closing discussion about the candidates and have students write their reflections using the related worksheet (Activity 7.1). Please note that more than one copy may be needed depending on the number of candidates.
- Which candidate do you think would make the best school trustee and why?
- Which candidate most closely matches your ideal school trustee? Explain with evidence or examples.
Alternative Activity (Acclaimed candidates)
If your school trustee was acclaimed, invite them into your class for a discussion about the opportunities and challenges within the school board. Have students prepare questions in advance.
Ask students to reflect on what they would like to change or improve about the school experience for students within the board and have them find a way to articulate this message to their newly elected school trustee(s) or student trustees for their board. This can be in the form of a letter, speech or oral presentation, slide deck or multi-media piece.