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Voters choose at least 12 new school trustees

Voters mark their ballot papers in the municipal election in Toronto on Monday.

Chris Young/Canadian Press

There was significant turnover at both of Toronto's English school boards in Monday's election, with at least a dozen new public and Catholic trustees.

It's a tough time to be a trustee. The Toronto District School Board is facing an unprecedented number of contentious school closings as it battles declining enrolment and tackles ways to balance it's thinly-stretched $2.5-billion budget.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is still recovering from an embarrassing expense scandal and a provincial takeover, as well as conflict-of-interest charges that saw two trustees removed, one last year and another in August, and third offered a last-minute reprieve just days before Monday's election.

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The trustee who was removed in August, Angela Kennedy, won a bid to regain her seat in Ward 11 (East York-Toronto). The trustee who won the recent reprieve, Barbara Poplawski, also won re-election in Ward 10 (Toronto).

Catherine LeBlanc-Miller, one of the trustees who testified recently against Ms. Poplawski, was unseated in Ward 9 (Toronto) by Jo-Ann Davis, a senior associate at a consulting firm.

On Friday, new conflict-of-interest allegations emerged against three TDSB trustees, Stephnie Payne of Ward 4 (York West), Irene Atkinson of Ward 7 (Parkdale-High Park), and Sheila Cary-Meagher of Ward 16 (Beaches-East York), each of whom was re-elected.

A ratepayer named Leroy St. Germaine launched the lawsuit. His lawyer, Stephen D'Agostino, said that over several years the trustees had failed to declare a conflict when voting on staffing decisions that might impact their children who worked for the board.

Ms. Atkinson said the notice of application was 400 pages long and contained a single affidavit from Mr. St. Germaine.

"It's character assassination," she said.

The seat left vacant by former chair John Campbell, who entered a tight race for city hall, saw the most crowded competition: Eight candidates ran to capture Ward 2 (Etobicoke Centre), which went to Chris Glover, a parent advocate who has volunteered with Save Ontario Schools, an anti-closing group, and who will likely represent a stark political contrast to his predecessor.

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Mr. Glover said late Monday that he hoped to integrate community services such as after-school programs as a way of keeping schools open.

"We paid for these schools with our tax dollars and we need to keep them open in the evening," he said.

In Ward 19 (Scarborough Centre), trustee Scott Harrison, a firefighter and former police officer, was unseated by David Smith, a CEO of an accounting and consulting firm.

Ex-trustee Shelley Laskin won back her seat in Ward 11 (St. Paul's), after leaving it in 2003 to a race that was won by Josh Matlow, who will now sit on city council

Six public and four Catholic trustees decide not to run for re-election, and at least two veteran trustees were unseated.

Trustee races often fall in the shadow of city hall, and across the province there are just a few more than two candidates for every spot: Only 733 men and women, many of whom are retired educators, concerned parents and aspiring politicians, ran to fill 317 public trustee seats across the province, according to data collected by the Ontario Public School Boards' Association.

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Editor's Note: An earlier version of this online article incorrectly stated Shelley Laskin's reason for leaving her seat in 2003. This online version has been corrected.

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About the Author
Education reporter

Kate Hammer started her journalism career in New York, chasing crime and breaking news for The New York Times. She came to the Globe and Mail in 2008 to do much of the same and ended up investigating allegations of animal cruelty and mismanagement at the Toronto Humane Society. More

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