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 lesson, students will explore and debate a position paper put forth by the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association (OSTA) using a Both Sides Now approach. Students will discuss the role of school board trustees, and research the composition of their local school board. In groups, students will create a profile for an ideal school board trustee, before researching and assessing the candidates running for election. In the consolidation
activity, students reflect on ways to improve school for students in the board, and articulate these views to the newly elected board of trustees, as well as their student trustee(s).
By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
- Develop an understanding of the responsibilities of school trustees and the decision-making process among boards of trustees (Citizen Framework – Structures);
- Explain the impact of board policies and decisions at their school (Concepts of Thinking – Political Significance);
- Work in a collaborative manner to learn about and assess the trustee candidates;
- Consider and respect others’ perspectives (Citizen Framework – Identity);
- Voice informed opinions on matters relevant to their school community (Citizenship Education Framework – Active Participation).
- I can describe the responsibilities of school trustees and the decision-making process among boards of trustees;
- I can analyze how board policies and decisions affect my life;
- I can collaborate with my peers to learn about candidates running for school trustee;
- I can demonstrate respect for others’ beliefs and opinions;
- I can evaluate and express my own beliefs and opinions.
CHV2O – A1, A2, B1, B2, C2, A1.1, A1.2, A1.5, B1.1, B2.4, C2.3
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 sets the goals and makes strategic decisions for the school board?
- Who oversees operations and makes management decisions at the school board?
- What are some responsibilities of the board of trustees?
2. Explain to students that each school board has one to three student trustees.
- Student trustees act as a link between students and the board. Student trustees are not board members but do have many similar rights and responsibilities. Student trustees participate in board and committee meetings. Student trustees may suggest motions to advance issues and may cast a non-binding vote. Student trustees are a direct pathway for students to have their voice heard at the school board level.
- In the way a student council advocates for students in the school, student trustees advocate for students in all schools the school board.
3. Under the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association student trustees work together to advocate on behalf of students across the province. As part of this work, the association writes ‘position papers’ to demand certain changes or improvements. Earlier this year, OSTA-AECO released several position papers (www.osta-aeco.org -> Media -> Position Papers).
- The Importance of Breakfast Clubs in Schools
- Student Wellbeing
- Climate in Schools
- The Student Trustee Vote
- Utilization of Student Representation
- Technology and Multimedia in the Classroom
- Environmental Education and Green Schools
- Safe Schools and Cyber-bullying Prevention
- Extracurriculars in Schools
4. Divide students into groups and provide each with one position paper to explore and debate using a Both Sides Now approach (Activity 6.1). Students will have an opportunity to reflect on the topic in the position paper and increase their understanding of the arguments that support and oppose the positions. At the end, they will reach a group decision whether they approve of the position or not. Consider providing some groups with the same position paper so that they can compare their decisions afterwards.
Teacher note: Some students may need help simplifying some of the language used in the position papers.
5. As a class, 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?
1. Use the ‘School Boards in Ontario’ video (2:37 min) and related slide deck to review the role and responsibilities of school trustees, and how the board of trustees makes decisions.
2. Review the term: policy. A policy is statement of intent or action to achieve certain outcomes. A policy also provides rules to be followed. Using a Turn and Talk strategy, ask students to think of specific examples of how school board policies and decisions affect their lives.
3. In small groups, ask students to create a profile for their ‘ideal’ school trustee using Handout 6.2 and Activity 6.3. What personal characteristics, skills, experience and motivations match the responsibilities of the role?
4. Using your school board’s website, review the composition of your school board.
- How many trustees are there?
- How many student trustees?
- Does your board have First Nation trustees?
- For those trustees elected in municipal and school
elections, what wards/municipalities do they
- Which trustees represent you and your family?
5. Review the list of candidates running for school trustee using the following website:
Teacher note: If your school trustee candidates are acclaimed, skip to the Alternative Activities.
6. Ask students to learn about the candidates using the profiles on the above website, candidate websites and social media pages, or through web searches. You can also look at the board website to see if the candidate is currently a trustee and running for re-election. If so, looking at minutes of past board meetings on the website can tell you the kind of motions the trustee has moved and perhaps what their interests are. This activity can be completed through a jigsaw method or you can assign one candidate to each group and have them present to the rest of the class.
7. Have a closing discussion about the trustee candidates and have students write a reflection based on their ideal candidate.
- Which candidate(s) do you think would make the best trustee and why?
- Which candidate(s) most closely matches your ideal school trustee? Explain with evidence or examples.
- Would you ever consider running for student trustee? Why or why not?
- How involved are you with the student council? Would you like to be more involved?
A. Select three school board policies that directly impact students. Ask students to change each policy to their liking, and describe how this change would affect students (consider advantages and potential drawbacks). Ask students to share their changes and as a class determine the best amendments.
B. If your school trustee was acclaimed, invite them into your class for a discussion about the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead within the school board, and
encourage students to share their ideas and concerns. You could also consider framing the discussion about some of the position papers released by OSTA or the specific policies analyzed in the above activity.
Elected trustees are accountable to the school community and bring community concerns to the board table. Emphasize the fact that student trustees act as the representative for students at the school board table.
Ask students to reflect on what they would like to change or improve about school for students in the school board, and find a way to articulate this to their newly elected school trustee(s) and/or the student trustee(s). This can be in the form of a letter, video, slide deck or multi‑media piece.
- Activity 6.1: Both Sides Now [PDF] [Word]
- Handout 6.2: The Role of School Trustees [PDF]
- Activity 6.3: My Ideal Trustee Candidate [PDF] [Word]
- Slide Deck: School Trustees [PPT]