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Toronto school board picks Mari Rutka as new chair

Mari Rutka is the new chair of the Toronto District School Board.

Photo courtesy of the TDSB

Toronto District School Board trustees have elected Mari Rutka as the new chair, signalling an openness to make the organization more transparent.

Trustees chose a new chair in a secret ballot on Wednesday, following the sudden resignation of Chris Bolton last Friday. Mr. Bolton offered no explanation for stepping down as chair and a trustee beyond saying it was for personal reasons.

Ms. Rutka defeated Sheila Ward, a staunch ally of Mr. Bolton's and a former chair.

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In their remarks and responses to questions before trustees cast their ballots, Ms. Rutka and Ms. Ward presented starkly different visions for governance at Canada's largest school board.

Ms. Rutka pledged to make the TDSB more transparent. Ms. Ward said she was running to uphold the status quo. "This is not a time for new initiatives," she said.

The two contenders' competing visions were on display in a testy exchange involving Ms. Ward's decision not to show other trustees an internal report accusing Mr. Bolton of putting his own interests ahead of a school when he was principal.

Ms. Ward said she decided not to share the report prepared for TDSB staff because such a move could have exposed trustees to lawsuits. "We investigated that issue very thoroughly," she said, and there was no proof of any wrongdoing.

Ms. Ward said her role as the chair at the time was to "protect the board" from any litigation.

Ms. Rutka vigorously disagreed with that explanation, ‎saying it is not up to the chair of the board to unilaterally make such a decisions.

The Globe and Mail has reported that Mr. Bolton directed tens of thousands of dollars intended for a Toronto elementary school to his charity before he was elected a trustee in 2003. Trustees were unaware of the probe, which spanned four years.

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Also on the agenda at Wednesday's meeting is a motion introduced by Ms. Rutka to suspend the TDSB's rollout of courses to elementary students in September through its Confucius Institute opened last month.

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