What Is Happening in Limestone District School Board & Why Should You Care?

Roberta Lamb

[This article appears in the February/March 2020 issue of The SCOOP.]

Everyone in Stone Mills knows that the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) closed Yarker Family School after the 2016-17 school year. Many people know that the Loyalist/Stone Mills Trustee was censured last autumn. But outside of these two cases, what is there for local residents to be concerned about? Here is a summary of some other issues that are leading many people from Education Advocates and Rural Schools Matter to join with other like-minded parents to request an independent investigation into the LDSB.

Veteran Trustee David Jackson passed away suddenly in spring 2018. It was necessary to find someone to take his seat for the rest of the term. Many community members put forward letters of interest in the position but to no avail. The LDSB Trustees, advised by the Director of Education, met in private session and secretly hand-selected a replacement who had not applied for the position to operate as an elected Trustee:
https://globalnews.ca/video/4288591/limestone-district-school-board-meetings-under-the-microscope-in-beyond-the-headlines-with-bill-hutchins

In 2018, the Board exceeded the limits prescribed in the Education Act of banning a Trustee for one meeting. Instead, they banned a Trustee for six months, the rest of his term. His district was effectively deprived of elected representation. He could not receive documents, attend meetings, or vote on matters of importance to his district:
https://globalnews.ca/video/4448620/dozens-call-for-more-transparency-at-kingston-region-school-board

Public outrage over the censure of Trustee Robin Hutcheon for sticking up for a parent and student in 2019 saw the previous LDSB Chair of the Board speak publicly about the culture of fear Trustees experience at the Board:
https://globalnews.ca/news/6199478/trustee-chair-fear-limestone-district-school-board/

At the end of 2019, Global News-CKWS interviewed education expert Paul Bennett about the silencing of elected officials and improper practices at LDSB. He concluded the Limestone District School Board warrants an independent investigation:
https://globalnews.ca/news/6278217/education-consultant-provincial-review-limestone-district-school-board-kingston/

Over two dozen residents sent official complaint letters to the Chair of the LDSB. These included letters from the Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and two City of Kingston municipal councillors. Her response? These letters do not represent the LDSB community at large; no further action necessary, case closed:
https://globalnews.ca/news/6418192/trustee-limestone-school-board-transparency-probe/

What now? Education Advocates requested a deputation to the February 12 LDSB Trustees meeting to present our request for an independent investigation of LDSB. We hope supporters will attend this meeting and sign our petition to the Chair of the LDSB, the Premier, the Minister of Education, and all MPPs, requesting an independent investigation. Let the Board and Minister know that corruption, the unwise and improper use of Board Policy to muzzle dissent, meetings and communications that are not transparent and accountable, and a general culture of fear will no longer be tolerated.

Roberta Lamb can be contacted at rkl@me.com. You can get a petition to circulate from her.

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