Thursday 28 February 1991

Annual Report, Provincial Auditor, 1990

Lakehead Board of Education



Chair: Callahan, Robert V. (Brampton South L)

Vice-Chair: Poole, Dianne (Eglinton L)

Bradley, James J. (St. Catharines L)

Charlton, Brian A. (Hamilton Mountain NDP)

Conway, Sean G. (Renfrew North L)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot NDP)

Cousens, W. Donald (Markham PC)

Hayes, Pat (Essex-Kent NDP)

Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings NDP)

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton NDP)

O'Connor, Larry (Durham-York NDP)

Tilson, David (Dufferin-Peel PC)


Ferguson, Will (Kitchener NDP) for Mr Cooper

Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent NDP) for Mr Hayes

Cunningham, Dianne E. (London North PC) for Mr Tilson

Klopp, Paul (Huron NDP) for Mrs MacKinnon

Miclash, Frank (Kenora L) for Mr Conway

Ruprecht, Tony (Parkdale L) for Ms Poole

Clerk pro tem: Carrozza, Franco

Staff: McLellan, Ray, Research Officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1008 in committee room 1.


Resuming consideration of the 1990 annual report of the Provincial Auditor.

The Chair: The committee in its total fullness will come to order.


The Chair: Evelyn Dodds, are you here, Evelyn?

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

The Chair: Perhaps you would like to come forward and identify yourself for purposes of Hansard. I do not see a brief before us, so I presume you are going to wing it?

Mrs Dodds: Yes, I have something with me. My name is Evelyn Dodds and I am a trustee on the Lakehead Board of Education and until December I was the chairman of the board. I have also been, I guess, one of the rather outspoken advocates of reform in Ontario's educational system, both from the viewpoint of standards, which I believe are appallingly low, and from the viewpoint of costs, which are incredibly high.

I have brought to you the response of six trustees of the Lakehead board to the provincial audit. I was extremely concerned that you would hear only the official sanitized response -- the official response of the board to the audit -- from those who were not terribly pleased that the audit was conducted in the first place. I understand that you heard from those individuals yesterday. There were some of us on the board who not only were delighted that this audit was conducted for the first time but indeed had been actively striving to accomplish just that for many, many years, and we were very pleased that it came about. It is one part of the scrutiny that now needs to be brought to bear upon the school boards of this province.

I believe firmly that spending is out of control in the educational system of this province and that we must take many steps simultaneously to bring it under control and to get better return for the taxpayer. I have brought you two documents. One is the response of the six trustees to the audit, which is a very brief document, and the other is the brief which I presented to the select committee on education financing on 26 September 1989. I have not passed these out yet; I will whenever you ask me to.

The Chair: I did not realize you had one. If you could give it to the clerk, he will pass it out.

Mrs Dodds: I hope I brought enough. I am left to my own devices on these things.

The Chair: Maybe while he is doing that you would like to help yourself to a coffee and then we will continue.

Mrs Dodds: Because the response to the audit is not just an isolated opinion but falls within the context of a broader sequence of events, I would like to just briefly list for you the recommendations I made to the select committee on education funding in September 1989. Those recommendations included the fact that there should be provincial audits on a regular, random basis performed on all boards in the province. But that is only part of the solution that needs to be accomplished at this time. I would like to just briefly list the others.

The first recommendation I made was that there must be clarification within the legislation of the roles, duties and powers of trustees and of the supervisory officers of boards. There are numerous ambiguities in the legislation. There are entire sections that are not referred to at all. The consequence of this is that when trustees try to act on behalf of the public, when they try to exercise the will of the public and to influence the system, they are frequently stopped dead in their tracks by assertions of supervisory officers that they are not acting within the legislation. Lawyers get called in and there are all sorts of opinions bandied about back and forth, and because trustees usually have other jobs they become overwhelmed with this kind of objection and they usually either retreat or they decide it is easier to join the group.

Those who go in with a very clear idea of what it is they need to do to represent the public will are too frequently totally disarmed within the first few months of being on a board, simply because the duties and powers of trustees are not well delineated, not well described, and there is virtually no one for a trustee to turn to for assistance. The director of education in our board, for instance, can call on lawyers at any time. We have to call 15 trustees together, debate it in his presence -- and usually he participates rather vigorously in these discussions -- and then have a vote before we can hire a lawyer to get advice that would help us.

If we turn to the ministry, we find that ministry officials are nothing more or less than supervisory officers who have been promoted upward through the ranks. And while there may be nothing in writing that gives ties between these individuals, the plain human reality is that there is a power network that extends through the ministry to the supervisory level of boards that trustees cannot break; they are outsiders.

The second recommendation was that access to information should be assured. I have personally experienced many frustrating efforts over the past five years of being a trustee, and even before that as a member of the public, in that information that I felt it was my perfect right to have as a taxpayer -- never mind as a trustee -- was denied to me. There were all kinds of roadblocks put in my way and all sorts of legal threats flying around to the point that, at the beginning of my term as chairman this past session, I had people routinely following me around and writing down every single word I said; and threats of lawsuits abound.

The Chair: They never do that to us. Nobody really wants to know what we have to say, I guess.

Mrs Dodds: It can be intimidating when you are essentially alone, when you have no staff of your own, when you have no party structure to fall back upon and when you do not even have a structure within a board. You are 15 individuals who have run individually, and you may have some sort of bond through principle that keeps you tied, but you have no structure. You frequently do not even have a way of communicating privately with each other.

Just this week, for instance, I wrote some memos to the present chairman of the board and I put them on the desk of the secretary, who is supposed to be the trustees' secretary. I happened to stay in the board building a little later and no one knew I was still in the building doing some work in the lounge. When I went back into the office to get something, there was the director of education standing at the secretary's desk reading all of these memos I had left on the secretary's desk. So we are not even able to communicate privately with each other. We have no staff of our own. Our staff is the director's staff. We have other jobs because we are not paid enough to be trustees full time, so it is very difficult to find the hours to get on the phone and communicate with 15 people to get your lobbying efforts up to date.

We were even stopped legally when we tried to meet as a caucus without our director of education. When I first became the chairman, I tried to call a caucus meeting of trustees so that we could consolidate the various factions within the board, so that we could get our plan of action together and decide how we were going to operate as a board, and the director challenged us legally. He sought an opinion -- he does not have to pay for it personally, so he can do it -- from a big Toronto firm that stated that trustees did not have the right to meet without the director, ever, because one of his titles is secretary of the board and therefore he must always be present when we meet. So when you run into roadblocks like that, it is exceedingly difficult to carry out the will of the public.

There were five recommendations I made at that time that had to do with the kinds of information that should be mandated to be presented to trustees regularly. A board now is such a huge, complex organization that you cannot think of all the things you need to know. Sometimes you are on the board three or four years before you even realize that there are certain kinds of information you are not getting. The five that I identified, and this is by no means a complete list, were the five at that time that I felt were the most important:

The annual total staff complement reports: I do not know if this surprises you or not, but there are many trustees who are not terribly sure how many people are on staff; they do not know what the trends have been. I surprised our director of education one year, who insisted that the number of secretaries at the administrative level had decreased, and by accessing provincial data I was able to prove he was wrong. Even he did not know that the number of secretaries at the administrative level had increased substantially in spite of marked enrolment decreases.

Teacher absence from classroom reports: The service we pay for is the teaching of the children and the deliverer of that service is the teacher. Therefore, the prime economic factor of consideration is the teacher's presence in that classroom. Teachers are absent for many reasons, most of which are not documented. Sickness is only one.

Losses from damage and theft: I will go into that one in more detail. I think that when we spend many hundreds of millions of dollars on equipment and on materials, we really should know how much of it we are managing to keep from year to year.

Professional development and expense account reports: This is the kind of report that should be presented in full detail, regularly, by law, to all trustees. It is the area of the highest abuse. I do not believe that anyone who is paid as a civil servant in this province should ever be entertaining other civil servants at public expense. Why should our director of education take someone from the ministry out to lunch at the most expensive restaurant in Thunder Bay and expect me to pay for it? They are obviously not working on my behalf, they are working on their own behalf, yet they have expense accounts. They do use professional development funds in some rather obscene ways, and I think it is time the public had a full accounting of that.

Of course, one which we could probably spend a whole session on and which I hope you are fully aware of is the retirement gratuity debt, which is a largely unfunded liability carried by most of the boards in this province. Only a few boards have managed to get it out of their contracts. Only a few boards have begun to properly fund it. At our board the unfunded liability at the moment stands at approximately $23 million. Our total budget is somewhere over $100 million, so you can see the size of the debt. That debt is going to get bigger. It does not even peak until around the year 2000. To my mind, this is a horrible tragedy in Ontario, that we have allowed these enormous debts to pile up and have paid no attention to them whatsoever. We are leaving a legacy of debt and a burden of taxation to our children that we should not be leaving, so there must be government leadership in controlling this and in beginning to fund it.

Then came the three recommendations that have to do with audits.

Mr Cousens: Were these on your report?


Mrs Dodds: Yes, these are all through. This is the report I presented in 1989 and I just summarized the first seven recommendations, and now I want to get to the one on audits, because that is the reason we came today.

Audits, of their own accord, do not solve problems, but they do tend to inhibit abuses and they do tend to give valuable information to decision-makers for correcting problems and for controlling costs. I had three recommendations for improving the way in which audits are done. The first one was that the terms of reference of the annual financial statement audit should be expanded, the second was that boards should be required to establish audit committees, and the third was that there should be regular, random provincial audits of school boards for value for money.

Someone said to me the other day that this was just too much auditing; that we were going to spend all of our time auditing. I do not see it that way at all. These are not functions that duplicate or interfere with each other; these are functions that, if co-ordinated well, would complement each other and would make the rest of the work much easier.

I function on the rather naïve, I guess, assumption that a school system, funded with tax dollars, is nothing more than society's co-operative purchase of a common service. That is all it is. We, the people, decide that we do not wish to allow individual parents to be left to their own devices to provide for their children's education. We decide that it is to our common good that we should put our money into a pot from which all children can be educated, so it is the purchase of a service; we buy something. Just as any buyer of a product or a service is always in total control of what he buys and how much he pays for it so we, the public, are supposed to be totally in control of what we purchase as an educational service and how much we pay. We are supposed to be, but we are not. Instead we have created a bureaucratic empire that dictates to us what we will have, what we cannot have, and that then tells us how much we must pay, whether we like it or not. This situation must be broken. We can no longer even influence what our children are taught, how well they are taught and how much we pay our employees.

As a trustee, I remind myself on a daily basis that I represent the people who buy the service and that therefore no one who works within the board can tell me I must pay for something if I do not want to. The problem with trying to exercise that authority is that we really do not have the kind of feedback from the system that tells us how money is being spent, which is why we must have audits.

The financial statement audit, which is now conducted under legislation, is simply a balance sheet audit. I can only explain my understanding of it in layman's terms. All that audit now tells you is that the number of dollars administrators tell you they have spent have been spent. It does not tell you what they were spent on; it does not tell you whether they were well spent; it does not even tell you if those dollars were spent in accordance with the budget that you established as a trustee. It simply tells you, yes, they said they spent so many millions and that is correct; they said they raised so much money through taxation and that has been verified and there are receipts for the things they spent, but it does not tell you what those receipts are or if the nature of the expenditure is in accordance with the direction that was given by the board. That kind of financial audit is very inadequate.

At the very least, the annual audit conducted by the firms that we employ must be expanded, under law, to include a judgement as to how the money was spent relative to the way it was approved to be spent. If I said I was willing, as a trustee, to spend $25,000 to buy equipment for the special education department, it should not have been spent to send 15 teachers to France to study a special ed course. If I said it should be equipment, that is what it should be. If I was told there was going to be a certain amount of money spent to train our secretaries in the use of WordPerfect, I do not want to find out later that that money was transferred to something else. Actually, right now I would have no way of finding out. They could do just that and I would not know. But the annual financial statement audit should reference back to the budget documents and it should say, "Here's what you approved as an elected person and here's what they did."

Audit committees can be another piece of the puzzle to assist trustees. Very few trustees have a financial background. You show them a balance sheet and they are completely lost; you talk about operating versus capital expenditures and they do not know what you are talking about. Yet they can make rational decisions on behalf of the public if things are translated and interpreted for them in layman's terms. An audit committee, as I have put it in place at the Lakehead board -- and I believe it is the first of its kind in Ontario in a school board -- consists of three qualified external people who act as advisers to trustees. There are also three trustees on the board. After I go through the response to the provincial audit, if you want to know more about our audit committee after a year and a half's operation I would be very pleased to share with you more information on that. There are some glitches that we have discovered already that occur, one of them being that at every audit committee meeting the audit committee members are vastly outnumbered by administration and it is very difficult to tell who has the right to vote and who does not sometimes. You probably run into the same thing here a lot of the time; I do not know.

Mr Cousens: No, we all wear blue suits and white shirts.

Mrs Dodds: That is how you tell the voters, the blue suits? I must go home and change.

The Chair: He is speaking for himself, of course.

Mrs Dodds: There is also, I think, a need for internal auditors, and I have been giving this one a lot of thought. We did finally get a half-time position of internal auditor. He reports to the director of education. I have no idea what he is doing, and that has just not been satisfactory, from my point of view. This is not written anywhere, but an idea I had was that if all of these controlling and monitoring functions were to be tied together, it seems to me that the position of school board internal auditor should be an extension of the Provincial Auditor's office. These are people who should have their duties clearly spelled out and be accountable to the Office of the Provincial Auditor: work within the boards but work in a co-ordinated fashion across the province. They have to be accountable to someone, and if they are accountable to the administration within the board, the entire purpose is defeated. But that is one idea that maybe we can toss around on how to tie this together in a civilized way.

The six trustees who presented the response to you, which is the smaller document I presented to you -- and I will get to that, because I do not know what your timing is like today and I am perfectly willing to answer questions on any of the matters I have just briefly touched on, but the main reason we are here today is the response to the provincial audit.

Mr Cousens: Did you give us your documents?

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

Mr Cousens: I have only been given one.

Mrs Dodds: I did not realize there were going to be so many of you. If someone could make additional copies later of the ones I was short -- I apologize. There is this one here.

The Chair: The other documents are being Xeroxed for those. I am not withholding it from you.

Mrs Dodds: It is just that I have to photocopy these things myself and I did not realize there would be so many of you.

The six trustees are the ones who have been trying to reform the system, and we are a minority on the board, obviously: six out of 15. Generally we felt that while it was an historic breakthrough that such an audit was conducted, we were in a way disappointed that the Provincial Auditor had not as much power as we thought he would have. We had hoped that the mandate of the Provincial Auditor would be to make value judgements, to explore very deeply how things are done at the board and strictly from the viewpoint of the taxpayers. I cannot stress this enough. We have no one else to turn to. There is virtually no one else who acts as the public watchdog. We must have someone who is outside of the system who is determined to act on behalf of the taxpayer and who has the full power and authority to look at anything and to make value judgements on what is seen and to make extensive recommendations for changes that need to be made. In other words, we need someone who has the authority and the power to be far more critical than we thought this audit was.


We recognize the limitations. We also recognize that the auditors who came to Thunder Bay went out of their way to be very courteous and gracious and to accommodate the staff and not upset anyone. I can see why that was necessary -- I expect the police in Ontario to be polite to the people they arrest, for heaven's sake. So I was pleased they took this point of view, but I did get the feeling, as did my colleagues, that perhaps their powers were not extensive enough; that they had to stop short. However, what is here is excellent. It is a good beginning and hopefully from this will come a determined effort by this government to increase the scope of the Provincial Auditor's powers.

We believe, number one, that the ministry should have a follow-up audit. It does no good whatsoever to say that these things were wrong or needed improvement and then no one ever goes back in and checks. We have no way of checking. I do not have the skills to go in and audit a follow-up. I can ask administration what it is doing, but I will give you some examples as we go through that many times I have been told it is doing things that turned out not to be so at all. So we need someone who will come in a year later and say: "All right, last year we were here and we told you these things needed fixing. Have you done them?"

We believe that supervisory officers on school boards should be monitored by an ethics committee. The thing that struck us as we went through this was that there is virtually no consequence to anyone who works for a school board for non-compliance. The only way that I as an elected trustee can exercise the will of the public is through the passing of policies. The policy is the only instrument of authority I have, and it is a law within the board, just as the legislation that you pass at the provincial level is a law within the province. Now surely to goodness there must be a consequence for not following a policy, and there does not seem to be any.

As an example, and this one comes up through several of the other recommendations as well, several months before the Provincial Auditor came to the Lakehead board I raised at the audit committee the suggestion that we should hire a firm to come in and do a comprehensive audit of our purchasing policy. I had heard many, many complaints from members of the public, from small-business people, that our purchasing department was behaving in a sometimes less than fair and in an arbitrary fashion. I will not go any further with the kinds of accusations I heard because I am unable to document them. Most people were also very much afraid of having their names brought forward because they felt that if they made their complaints publicly known they would stop getting contracts from the board, and you must appreciate that in a city the size of ours the board wields a mighty economic influence. There are many businesses in Thunder Bay that would be devastated if they stopped getting board contracts, so it is difficult to get these people to speak up.

I raised it at the audit committee. The director launched a huge objection to my suggestion. He persuaded the audit committee that rather than simply passing this motion, which would then have gone to the board for ratification we should inform ourselves better, and he arranged for the purchasing department to come and make a presentation to the audit committee. The head of our administrative services is our director's brother, Tom McCuaig, so I will try to differentiate between the two Mr McCuaigs so you know which one I am talking about at any given time.

Tom McCuaig came to the audit committee and gave us a two-hour-long presentation on how purchasing is accomplished at the board, and it was a wonderful presentation. He cited the policy; he held up documents that showed us how tenders had been called and how lists were kept and how things were filed. It was most impressive, and the assumption all through it and the understanding that was derived by the audit committee all through this presentation was, "We follow the policy." We were told clearly by the director of education, Jim McCuaig, that if we had complaints about how purchasing was accomplished, the only thing we could do as trustees was change the policy; that we could not challenge the behaviour of individual staff members; that we could not question how procedures were carried out at the board; that our only role as trustees was to change the policy and it was up to him to carry out the policy. So away we went.

I was going to continue to insist that we have an external examination of our purchasing department when we received news that the Provincial Auditor's team was going to come, which was greeted with great laughter and cheers by some of us. And so we said, "Well, we can back off now on this," because obviously the purchasing is one thing the Provincial Auditor will look at, which he did. You will note in the auditor's report that he has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that the purchasing policy was not being followed by our staff a substantial amount of the time, in a substantial number of cases. As a follow-up to that and as probably the best illustration I can give you of just how far gone the thinking of some of these people is, our administration, our then acting superintendent of business, after the Provincial Auditor's report came out, wrote us a memo that was called Initiatives Resulting from the Provincial Audit. One of the statements he made was that they were going to come to the board and ask for the purchasing policy to be changed, but in the interim what would solve it all, you see, was that when exemptions from the policy were required the director of education's approval would be needed. The director of education was going to approve exemptions to the policy.

But the policy is our law. We represent the public. Our policy says, "Thou shalt do things this way." The director of education is not an elected person. Why did they think they had the power to overrule an elected body's policy? Yet their thinking is so far gone, their respect for the elected body is so gone, that they actually believed that this was okay; that everything was going to be all right as long as the director of education approved the exemptions. I fired back a memo saying, "Please quote me the section of the legislation that gives the director the authority to overrule the board." And I never, of course, got a response. But that to my mind is just the clearest example of just how backwards the thinking on school boards has become.

What consequence is there for people who do not follow the policy of a board? We think there should be an ethics committee; that people who hold supervisory officer certificates should be brought before ethics committees when they violate policies or when they behave in other unethical manners. There should be some provision that could cause them to lose their certificates if they violate the direction of an elected board. Is that not their job? Is that not why they are there, to do what we say? Are we, the purchasers of the service, not in charge, and are they not the employees who are supposed to carry out our bidding? I thought, as a rather naïve taxpayer, that that was the way it was supposed to be. So that is a recommendation, of course, that was greeted with not a lot of welcome in administrative circles, but it is one that I feel very strongly needs to be addressed. We think there should be a regular way and we put in here that the ministry should institute a program of random inspection audits of boards for the purpose of determining degree of compliance with budget decisions as expressed in the documents used by trustees.

There could be a number of ways in which that could be accomplished. That could be the Provincial Auditor on a random basis; that could be internal auditors accountable to the Provincial Auditor who rotate their inspections within the boards and report back on an annual basis to the Provincial Auditor. It could be external people brought in, such as auditing firms, accounting firms. There are several ways in which that could be accomplished but I think that is a key. We must know when we make a budget decision that the intention of it is complied with, not just that the number of dollars we approve actually get spent. That is not enough. The position of internal auditor I have referred to. Again, there are several ways in which that could be accomplished but there should be someone who does not feel part of administration; who does not feel that he has to cover up or he has to look the other way.


Capital projects have to be redefined. As I understand it, and I am sure that Mr Peall and Mr Archer will correct me if I am wrong, the provincial audit necessarily defined "capital projects" as those that receive capital funding from the ministry. However, there are many things that are done within a board that really should be called capital projects but that may not receive funding, and I think they should be separated out. For instance, the director's office budget this year in total shows an increase of only 5%, but the operating portion of it is really a 14% increase. He has added to his staff in his office once again, and the reason that the total appears to only be a 5% increase is that last year he bought a whole pile of equipment that this year he is not buying. These things should be separated out.

There should be a lot done in the area of capital projects. I am a little tired of going into budget in February and March and finding out that a lot of the items I am asked to vote on have already been done. There was one year that I found out about one only by accident. We were asked to sit there and go through the motion of approving $30,000 to renovate the cafeteria at a high school. By coincidence it happened to be my daughter's high school and I knew that that cafeteria construction had been completed two months before. We had not even approved it. What if we had said no? And then the administrators say to us, "Oh, you had no choice." Well, if we have no choice, then what are we doing sitting here? If I have no choice, then I guess we might as well just sign a blank cheque and go home.

The example I used at our budget meeting last week was that my dishwasher broke down two years ago. I did not replace it. If that were the school board, they would say: "It broke. You have to replace it." No, in the real world you only spend what you have. If you do not have the money for it, you do without.

The Chair: Mrs Dodds, I do not mean to interrupt but I am advised by the clerk that we only have this morning. This afternoon the room we are in is not serviced by Hansard. So I think there are probably people here who would like to ask you questions, and your brief was fairly extensive.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, I would not expect you to read that.

The Chair: I wonder if perhaps, with the concurrence of committee, we could do that.

Mrs Dodds: Okay. Could I just refer to one more that I think is important?

The Chair: Sure.

Mrs Dodds: We are not allowed under the existing legislation to change our external auditor. Most trustees never lay eyes on their annual external auditor. They have no idea who he is. They never talk to him. We never get to talk to him privately. In fact, even at our audit committee, when we tried to have the audit committee privately with the external auditor, our director of education kicked up an awful fuss because he insisted that he should not be excluded from any meeting. I think that as boards we should have the right to call for proposals on a competitive basis from various accounting firms and to change our auditing firms if we wish. Right now, we are prohibited by law from doing that, and the plain reality of human nature is that once these people come year after year after year and they know they cannot ever be fired, they become part of your administration.

Thank you. I would be very pleased to take questions, obviously. I could talk for three days.

The Chair: Just before the questions are asked, was this brief that you presented to us circulated to the director of education? The one dated 26 September 1989.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, that was presented to the select committee. That was circulated to the board. There have been about 300 copies distributed across the province.

The Chair: So your board of trustees has seen this, as well as the director of education.

Mrs Dodds: Oh, yes. They do not approve of it.

The Chair: I can understand that they might not, but I just wanted to know if they had seen it.

Mr Miclash: Mrs Dodds, I would like to welcome you to Toronto. We shared the same flight actually last evening, believe it or not. A student, I guess from Lakehead board, got on the flight and suggested that you were on it as well. I did not know you until this morning.

The Chair: Is this the one the engine went on?

Mr Miclash: No, no, this is the one after the engine. I had a scary experience on the way back, actually, but we will leave that. Anyway, you started off by saying that our standards are extremely low in terms of education and I wonder if you could maybe expand on that. Are you talking about the quality of education?

Mrs Dodds: Our students are not learning nearly as much as they could or should. One of the reasons is that the current faddish psychology of education has completely ignored the fact that learning often takes place through sheer hard work. The current philosophy now says that you sort of learn accidentally while you are doing other pleasant things. You therefore surround the children with choices of activities and when the children are so inclined they will stumble across some activity that accidentally contains the knowledge they need to learn.

Most learning is accomplished through hard work and we are not making our children work hard enough. We are not instilling in them a self-discipline and a concern for accuracy and for retention of memory. They are learning virtually no history, which is an exceedingly dangerous situation in a democratic country. Far too many of our people who are being graduated through pass out of grade 8 with a report card that says they are fine, and they are functionally illiterate. Furthermore, they do not even care that they are. They somehow think it does not matter that they are inaccurate in the language.

Our graduates do not have enough command of mathematics. One of the reasons for that is not only the lack of drill and repetition and practice at the elementary level, but another factor is that at the high school level we are now into semestering, so they can take math for three months here and only a little portion of a math curriculum and then they do not do math again for another 13 months and then they may do another little bit. That is not the way in which one becomes competent in mathematics or in science. One becomes competent through daily practice and study and repetition and doing things again and again and pressing the brain to learn more.

We have treated our high school system now as a smorgasbord, that if we only make it pleasant enough we will prevent children from hanging around on street corners and indulging in drugs, and that is absolute nonsense. Most of our students who are dropping out of school are doing so because they know there is absolutely no worth to staying there.

The interesting thing is that in spite of our now being an embarrassingly mediocre nation in terms of knowledge and skill, we spend the second highest amount per capita on elementary and secondary education in Ontario. There are many, many reasons that the costs have gone up with no attendant increase in knowledge, and one of them is that the decentralization of the control of education has caused the proliferation of numerous committees. For instance, curriculum is independently derived on every single one of the boards. The ministry no longer says, "This is what an Ontario student should learn." Instead, the ministry guidelines refer to sort of esoteric psychological attributes which are then supposed to be the goal, though how on earth can you tell if someone has become creative or a thinker? My goodness, it defies logic.

The second reason, though, is that the methodologies that are now being promoted by professional educators only work if you have one student and one teacher. Group teaching methods are no longer considered pedagogically sound and yet we cannot afford to provide a teacher for every student and therefore the amount of attention that each child receives has gone down. But if you examine all of these new approaches -- the whole language, the activities-based learning, the play techniques that are being touted for the primary grades -- they only work if you have at the very most three or four students per teacher.

This is a very self-serving pedagogy for teachers to espouse, is it not? Because if you say that the only way a child can learn is through these techniques, then you turn around and say: "Well, there aren't enough of us. We have to have more teachers because we cannot teach unless we have smaller classes." The pressure is on to reduce class size. I ask you to remember that our generation was rather well educated and became rocket scientists and everything else and we came from classes that had 45 and 50 kids in them. My husband, who accompanied me today, came from a one-room school that had as many as 50 in it and managed to become a scientist, so if you apply logic to the theories that you hear touted by educators today you will see that they quickly fall apart.

Mr Miclash: The other thing I would like to ask about is the audit committee that was established at Lakehead board. I believe you were chair at the time.

Mrs Dodds: That is right.

Mr Miclash: Could you expand on how and when it was established?


Mrs Dodds: I took the book that was produced by Clarkson Gordon on audit committees and I took the ideas from it and adapted them to the school board situation. The problem as I saw it was that most trustees do not understand financial documents, that they needed assistance to understand what was put in front of them and they needed someone to ask probing questions on their behalf. We therefore found three people from the community who were either bankers or accountants or auditors who were not connected to the board to sit on this committee, and we appointed three trustees to sit on it as well. We expanded the mandate from that usually held by the audit committee function -- there are many boards that say they have an audit committee but they do not -- from one of simply reviewing the annual financial statement and passing it on to actually probing the management systems, to questioning how figures were derived and what controls were in place; following up, for instance, the suggestions of the external auditor in the management letter that he produces.

It works fairly well and it is a big assistance because a smaller expert group like that can make more headway in examining the system than can a group of 15 laymen who may or may not be interested. So that is an advantage. The disadvantage is that the motivation from the committee at the moment is lacking; that when people first come on to the committee they are not sure what they are supposed to do so they look outside for direction and, of course, the prime players in that committee room, as everywhere else at the board, are administrators. In fact, the orientation of the new audit committee members was conducted by administration. Administrators will take them out for lunch and talk to them. I cannot afford to do that. I do not have time, either, but they do.

There needs to be a clear duty associated with being an external member on an audit committee: "It is your duty to question, to do this, this, this." There has to be a provincial link so that people who sit on the audit committee of a Windsor board could talk to the people who sit on the audit committee at the Lakehead board and compare notes. They should see themselves, and be constantly reminded through some vehicle, as outsiders. They must never come to see themselves as part of the system. They must be reminded constantly that they are part of the public; that they are the purchasers of the service and they are examining the service they are buying. It is very difficult in an isolated circumstance to maintain that stance. You find you get just so tired of saying: "Now, wait a minute here. We are the public, Mr Superintendent or Mr Director. You be quiet for a minute. We want to talk to each other about what we want to get from you," because you are constantly interrupted.

There is a lot of work needed before the audit committees could become a really important part of the monitoring of school boards and I would like to work towards that. But there has to be, again, a central direction and there has to be a link so they talk to each other and they feel that they are part of something different from the board.

Mr Cousens: I appreciate your presentation. I have been on two school boards: the Penetanguishene Protestant Separate School Board for two years and then on the York Region Board of Education for eight years, and I have some sense of identification with the frustrations you have gone through and you feel. I think you have expressed the view of many, many people in your presentation today. I think that as a committee we are in a position to really look at it and appreciate it and deal with certain parts of it.

The problem we have -- and I think we will be getting our own report and doing our own study -- is that there are areas in your presentation that really are out of the purview of our committee. I would like to go into them further, but I think that when you are dealing with this supervisory officer and the ethics committee, that is not something where I see ourselves in a position to deal specifically with that. Maybe other members of the committee will feel we can. There may be certain recommendations we can make. Your expectations of this committee may be higher than what I have of it, not taking away from that --

The Chair: Thank you, Mr Cousens.

Mrs Dodds: It has to tie together, though, you see.

Mr Cousens: I know it does, but I want to raise a couple of points. The one has to do with the presentation we had yesterday by the people from your board. It said they could "be audited into inaction." That was the kind of reference structure they began with, and I just wonder, is your group and some of the other concerns through your own internal audit committee causing other members of the board to feel, "Well, we'll never get on with -- "? There is no doubt that there are two points of view, and what we have are is diametrically opposed positions on that. Could you just comment on that?

Mrs Dodds: I think an example would probably illustrate the difference between my way of thinking and the way of thinking of the current chairman of the board, for instance, whom you met yesterday. When I first became a trustee and realized that staff could transfer funds from one budget item to another without referencing anyone, without getting anyone's approval, I suggested at a committee meeting that there should be a policy limiting the discretionary powers of administrators to transfer funds from one budget item to another.

My opponents on the board yelled very loud that I was displaying a shameful lack of trust and that I was impugning the integrity of administrators; that a board functioned on trust, that our job was to make decisions in the boardroom and what happened after that we were supposed to trust. I do not distrust or dislike the people who work for the board; I simply recognize human nature for what it is and know that people are more inclined to behave consistently with the direction given if they know there is a likely consequence for not complying. This cry of "trust" is one I find difficult to take.

The reaction of the board when the provincial audit was announced -- I told you that some of us were leaping up and down for joy; not everyone was. The then superintendent of business was very upset, saw it as an intrusion on his power and even spoke to a meeting of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association in which he presented an overhead that stated this: that the government had made all sorts of demands on boards, had increased our costs against our will, had reduced our funding, and now they were going to audit us to death, as if this was a bad thing.

I thought that was a rather contradictory statement, because it seems to me that if you have a good audit then the government would find out what it was doing wrong and would be more likely to change its direction. But it was very much viewed as an intrusion, as impinging on their power. You are looking at a power struggle here of the highest order.

Mr Cousens: That is the problem we are always going to have. I would like to get the auditor to comment, and maybe you to comment back if we could, on the point you made about value judgements to be made by the auditor. To some degree we are looking for value-for-money audits, but the kind of value judgements that were referred to by Mrs Dodds, could you comment back on that? I would not mind some dialogue on it because maybe we are missing something in the responsibility you should be having that we have not talked about.

Mr Archer: Just a couple of points. The inspection audit clause that we operate under is very limited. It essentially limits us to looking at financial matters. The first board we went into was Lakehead. We had been through universities and hospitals and we had been held to the line by legal opinion as to what we could look at and what we could not, and we tended to keep within those parameters when we got to the board just to try and limit the impediments that might be put in our way.

I think the comment Mrs Dodds makes is that we did not go as far as maybe she expected we would. I do not know as we would ever have gone that far, because we might question value in some areas but nothing that touched on policy. But we would certainly question value with regard to economies and efficiencies of running the organization, possibly draw some comparisons between boards, between schools within boards relative to staff ratios and that type of thing, which we did not get into at Lakehead.


Having gone through two school board audits, we found out there was not the resistance to provincial audit that we had experienced in the past, that we could push the parameters out, and we are doing so. We are doing six boards this year, and we are going a little further than we have in the past. We are not going as far as we would like because we do not want to go whole hog because I think we do not have the mandate to do this.

That is why we came to the committee last fall and asked for its support for us to get a change in our Audit Act to give us a value-for-money mandate on all transfer payment audits, in other words, to give us the same audit authority that we have when we go out to a government ministry or a government agency. That, in effect, allows us to look at virtually anything, as Mrs Dodds mentioned. There should not be anything that we should not be able to look at. Where the control or limitation comes in, there are some things that maybe we should not comment on, and this is where the policy aspects come in.

Mrs Dodds: If I might respond, I think the Provincial Auditor should comment as a taxpayer would, looking at how his money had been spent, that you should not be limited. For instance, we have a program called Partners in Action, or we did. You would see it on the budget. It is supposed to increase the use of libraries. We are in the business of teaching children; therefore, the only measure of success of such a program would be, "Have children actually started reading more?" A lot of money, committees, time out of class, all sorts of things spent on that. Do you know that no one bothered to count the before and after of how many books children were reading, or how many children even went into the library? They just conducted this expensive program and had absolutely no measure of its effectiveness. You should have commented --

The Chair: Mrs Dodds, perhaps in defence of the auditor and what I understand he is saying is that the scope of his investigatory powers is not to spill over into what is a policy field. You say that he should comment as a taxpayer.

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

The Chair: I as a taxpayer may comment that a particular budget was terrible. That includes policy, plus, I guess, the right to be upset about it, but the auditor, and I think the committee would agree, does not have that authority, at least at the moment anyway.

Mrs Dodds: I think he should. That is my point.

The Chair: That may well be the case but I think, as Mr Cousens said, a lot of the frustrations you have expressed and that appear in the article, which I think is very interesting -- at the end of this document as to the lack of powers of trustees is probably something that should be examined in another way.

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

The Chair: But, really, our position is one that is limited to a degree in terms of what the auditor can do and cannot do. I just simply say that the auditor is confined within the terms of his powers.

Mrs Dodds: May I ask you, Mr Chairman, if it is within the mandate of this committee to recommend that the powers of the Provincial Auditor be expanded?

The Chair: We can do that. I cannot speak for the entire committee, but I would think we would not want to put him into a policy field. I think that is unfair to any person who is, in fact, in the service of the government as opposed to being an elected representative.

Mr Charlton: Mr Chair, could I raise a supplementary on this issue of policy?

The Chair: Sure. Mr Cousens.

Mr Cousens: I am glad to hear from Brian. The only point I was making is that we are often dialoguing with the auditor on his powers and how we can be looking at them. To me it is worth while that you raised it and we will be reviewing it. But I do not think we have the perfect answer and I do not know where it is yet. We will be --

Mr Archer: Just to help clarify that point: All we are looking for in the transfer payment area is the same authority that we have when we audit a government ministry and a government agency. We comment on a lot of things there but we stop short of making value judgements on a government policy. Now, what constitutes a government policy and what does not is very often open to question. We have been accused in some areas, particularly in the area of health, of going over that line. But we try to avoid criticizing or making value judgements on government policy. I think the same thing would hold true if we were auditing a school board: We would stop short of criticizing the ministry's policy that is being applied by the board.

Mrs Dodds: I respect you for having taken that position in the past, although I think we are now entering a new era, that the time has come to criticize and criticize strongly, because if we do not expose all the flaws the public is going to revolt. The tax burden has become excessive. People on the street no longer feel they are receiving value for the dollar they must pay by law for their taxes at all levels, and I think we are going to reach a point in this country that the public overthrows its own institutions. Obviously, we have had several elections that have begun to show us the --

The Chair: Yes, but they overthrow the politicians, not the people who are occupying a position such as the auditor.

Mr Charlton, your supplementary.

Mr Charlton: Just on this question of policy; I understand clearly what the auditor said in terms of commenting on the policy itself, in other words, making a value judgement about whether the board has taken an appropriate policy position. But there is the other aspect of what Mrs Dodds has raised and that is the question in an audit of commenting on whether the expenditures as they have occurred have implemented the direction the board gave. Is there anything in the present circumstance that stops you from making that kind of comment?

Mr Archer: None whatsoever. That would be perfectly within our realm.

Mr O'Connor: Thank you for coming down here today to join us. I think we are going to have a nice sunny day and maybe the temperature is going to warm up a little bit.

The Chair: I think it already has.

Mr O'Connor: Isn't that great? In this room anyway.

Mr Bradley: It is an election year.

Mr O'Connor: I guess that is maybe part of it.

You are a very eloquent speaker, unlike many of us new MPPs. Hopefully we can be a little bit more succinct in the delivery of some of our questions and maybe the answers can follow in a similar manner.

One of the things you had mentioned was the audit committee and how it is appointed. Maybe you could expand a little bit on your audit committee.

Mrs Dodds: Yes. We placed ads in the newspaper that called for people who had an accounting and/or business management and/or financial management background who did not have any pecuniary interest in the board to sit on this committee in a voluntary capacity. We then interviewed the people who applied and the board voted to select three of them. We were gratified at the level of response we received. There were some very competent, highly influential people who were willing to perform this service. I thought they should be paid an honorarium for attending, because if these people earn their livings giving financial advice to other institutions I felt it only right that they should receive something for doing this at the board level. But the board voted that down so they come for nothing.

Mr O'Connor: The mandate, then, of the committee as it was set up by your board -- did you make part of that the value for dollar that you have talked about?

Mrs Dodds: No. The committee can make recommendations to the full board. Only the board can ratify a recommendation that comes from the audit committee. I am sorry, I did not bring those documents but I can provide them later for you if you like.

The committee's mandate is to review all financial reports before they go to the board and to add comment or clarification, where needed; to follow up the recommendations from our annual audit, the management letter of recommendations; and to recommend to the board areas of the operation that should undergo periodic comprehensive audit. We are trying right now to get our professional development fund better explored. The director of education believed, because it was not included in the Provincial Auditor's report, that the Provincial Auditor had examined it and that there was virtually nothing wrong. So we had to overcome that objection. I had to point out to them that you had a limited budget as well; that the absence of something did not necessarily indicate its approval.


Mr O'Connor: Okay, and one other thing. The auditor had mentioned in his report the one-time funding in different areas, and I think you referred to that. The board in its presentation did not go on much with that. Maybe you would like to share some of that.

Mrs Dodds: Okay. The example I raised had to do with capital versus operating, and I think all capital expenditures should be separated so that you can track your increases in operating costs and you can then calculate them on a per-pupil basis. We did have, until two years ago, fluctuating enrolments, so it is your per-pupil costs that you need to track. Capital expenditures, such as the purchase of equipment or the renovation of buildings, whether they are paid by the ministry or not, should be treated as separate budget items, because they may be huge one year and small another and there would not likely be an inflationary progression in those, as there would be in operating costs.

However, the one-time expenditures that you are referring to are slightly different again, and that is not the difference between operating and capital but would be, for instance, where programs are funded temporarily as special programs by the ministry. What used to happen, which has now been changed -- that is one very positive result that I see coming out of our budget documents this year -- is that if the ministry, for instance, said, "We're going to give you a special grant to conduct a study of your employment equity" -- and that is not the exact phrasing of it, but this did happen -- that would be put into our budget, along with everything else. Now, the grant would run out and we would not know. The next year, the previous year's numbers were given to us as a base and then an inflationary amount added on. So what you voted for, thinking that it was a one-time thing -- "The ministry is giving us this special money, therefore we will do it but will reconsider it next year" -- you could not even find it next year in the budget. It was rolled into the base.

Mr O'Connor: Perhaps as the budget was placed, it should have been itemized a little bit further.

Mrs Dodds: Yes. Now that change has been accomplished. Those items are now removed, so that they are on separate pages, they are listed separately and we are able to see when they stop. When the grants stop, we can then make the conscious decision as to whether we want to continue it or not.

Mr O'Connor: One final thing: schools being underutilized. I think that goes back to Bill 30 and the changes that have taken place there. I can understand how the board had some problems and difficulties trying to decide which schools, and the political ramifications of closing a school in someone's neighbourhood. Perhaps you would like to share some of your opinions there.

Mrs Dodds: Oh, yes. I am afraid that part of the Provincial Auditor's report hit a sore spot with some of us, because, after all, an election had been fought and won on that issue.

I do not know of any reliable evidence that we save as many dollars as we think we do when we close elementary schools. I do know there is a substantial amount of evidence to the contrary. You have to remember that the biggest proportion of our cost is salaries and that the number of people we employ is all determined by ratio, so what difference does it make if your students are going to this building or that building? You are still likely to have roughly the same number of employees and that is at least 85% of your cost. So the savings in consolidating your schools or in making giant factory-like schools as opposed to the smaller neighbourhood schools are marginal, I think, at best at the elementary level.

At the secondary level, it is different, because you have very expensive courses that are more economically accomplished if you have larger numbers of people taking them. If you are going to equip a chemistry lab, it makes more sense to run that lab four periods a day than it does to run it one period a day. So there is a difference at the secondary level.

The particular issue that was referred to, we saw the auditor's comments there as a reflection of our own administration's persuasion. Our administration had recommended the closure of a particular high school. That decision had been reached by a bunch of principals who went off to a retreat and made that decision in the total absence of any data or statistics or analysis. The decision was actually made behind closed doors by administration before the public was even aware of it. Trustees began discussing that particular school and, indeed, the director signed a document with the Catholic board and the Ministry of Education well before the public even knew what school had been targeted. The closure of high schools is not only a financial decision.

Mr O'Connor In the financial report of your board that you approve as a board, I suppose you would have in that budget a breakdown of plant costs, operating costs and salaries. Has there been any change reflected in the budget?

Mrs Dodds: The past 22 schools that have been closed have resulted in no appreciable difference in the budgets that I have been able to pick out, and one of them was a large high school.

Our new superintendent of business, whose background is not in the educational field -- which I think is going to bring a refreshing new perspective to our board; I am delighted he is with us -- has come up with an idea for targeting the anticipated savings and for making sure that they do not just get rolled into increased operating costs. He is going to take the number of dollars that we expect we are saving from the closure of a high school and is going to budget for that money, but is going to place it into a special reserve fund for future capital projects, and it is a very good idea.

I do not know why those savings did not show up in the past. You would think there would be some from closing a school. Maybe not as many as we expect, but you would think there would be some. I cannot pick them out. The rate of increase of costs at the board has gone up at a rate far greater than inflation year after year after year after year, and 22 schools have been closed.

Mrs Cunningham: It is a pleasure to see you today. I would think that you suffer significantly for the stands you take on behalf of the public that you represent.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, I do.

Mrs Cunningham: I have been there too and decided that I would see how it worked from the other side, and I can assure you, in my view it is worse. So I think you should --

The Chair: You are not suffering here.

Mrs Cunningham: Yes, I am. Not for what I do or say. I think I am treated very fairly, because I think I am fair and I love what I do, Mr Chairman, and I also am given complete rein to do my work, which I really very much appreciate. That is the one thing that is different.

Mr Ruprecht: Because you have got a fair Chairman.

Mrs Cunningham: I am very fond of the Chairman of this committee. He has always been a fair Chairman. I embarrass him when I say it and I enjoy saying it whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

Mrs Dodds: He seems pleased.

Mrs Cunningham: Yes. But I really admire what you do and how you do it, and some people may not agree with either of us. I am sorry that you have to do it the way you do.

Mrs Dodds: So am I.

Mrs Cunningham: I am sure you are too. In my experience, after some 15 years of being an elected school board trustee on a board where I feel that we did work very well with our administration -- and from time to time, depending on the board and depending on the people, we did better in some years than others -- I will say for the London Board of Education, we use our budget process as an audit process, in that it is so open and it goes on for such a long period of time and the computer printouts, line by line, are examined in public. People would not agree that that would be an audit process, but you can see every single transfer that takes place and the date it is made, and it is basically turned into an audit process. It is just a different way of doing it, and I think different boards do have different ways of doing it, but I think your complaint and my complaint would be that most do not do it well at all.

I just would like to say that I share your views with regard to some administrators across this province of what I would call a blatant abuse of authority and total lack of respect for the boards that serve the public. But I also blame the trustees, and I blame them because we have been given the authority and the power as elected persons to be in control if we want to be. I think politics gets in the way.

When I opened it up and said it was worse here, it is worse here because ministries, obviously, do not have elected school boards to scrutinize the expense of public dollars. This committee does the best it can, given the time frame we have and given the experience we have through time here, to be able to ask the right questions. It is very, very difficult for provincial politicians, in my view, to be on top of things.


Mrs Dodds: It has become too big.

Mrs Cunningham: It is much too big. If we were to spend our time really wisely, we would count on people such as yourself to do your job in your own school board and to have help from time to time, which I believe the auditor has given in his ventures into school board auditing, which I approve of. I would also ask you about three questions. Feel free to say whatever you like, too, with regard to what I have said.

Mrs Dodds: I was just going to make a comment about the reaction of trustees. I think you are right that the boards could exercise more authority than they do, but I think they need help to do so because there are numerous factors that operate against us and most people just simply become lost within it. Not everyone is as stubborn as I am, and I am lucky that I now have a team with me.

But just as an example of how deluded people can be because it is so much more comfortable to be part of the team, the Provincial Auditor went out of his way to be very courteous in the report, and he was requested at a meeting that was held with the board before the report was released to say something positive, and he did. He said that by and large things were found to be fairly adequate and that everyone had co-operated well at the board. It was a very gracious thing to say and it was correct. Meanwhile, out of the six areas reported on, four of them showed flaws and problems that, to my mind as a business person, were absolutely awful and needed to be corrected immediately. But do you know what -- I will call them -- the old guard trustees, one of whom you met yesterday, stated publicly? "The board has received an A in the provincial audit. There is absolutely no evidence of mismanagement or inefficiency." And that is what was printed in the newspaper.

Mrs Cunningham: If I can interject --

Mrs Dodds: They could not even read.

Mr Bradley: We cannot fight the board battles here.

Mrs Cunningham: Yes. I think basically --

The Chair: Your enthusiasm is appreciated, but I think the way we have called the witnesses has not given the people who appeared yesterday an opportunity really to defend themselves. I think maybe we will perhaps avoid that type of --

Mrs Dodds: Certainly.

Mrs Cunningham: Mr Chairman, on that point, we ask witnesses to come here and give us the best advice. What we are seeing here is the best advice of an elected trustee who has been asked to come before the committee, using her own style, which --

The Chair: I agree, but Mrs Cunningham, in light of the fact that she has come after the other witnesses, I think maybe we should try to --

Mrs Dodds: I would not characterize it as "come after."

Mrs Cunningham: I was not here yesterday. I read the report and I have some questions to ask you about this report. I think you are right on the weak accountability for budget transfers. It was highlighted in the audit report.

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

Mrs Cunningham: The numerous budget transfers, the excessive numbers, raised questions as to the accuracy. Those are just two examples.

Mrs Dodds: Yes. We were successful in getting a budget variance policy drawn up. It was originally developed by the audit committee and it has now been approved by the board. We are finding in the first months of the implementation of that policy that it has a fatal flaw, and that is, we are advised of budget variances after the fact.

Mrs Cunningham: But you see, from my point of view, you are raising a question here publicly -- and we all know we have a lot of school boards across the province where these kinds of things are happening and where we are told it is policy problems. I think that, quite frankly, the Provincial Auditor was very kind. In the first place, I think he himself stated that this was the first school board he audited, and I think as time goes on he will probably be not nearly as kind.

Mrs Dodds: I think it was quite right the way it was done.

Mrs Cunningham: I also feel that the board was very kind in its response to one of the statements in the provincial audit report, and I am hoping that Mr Archer will get his pencil out and write this down now. On page 63 of the audit report on the underutilized schools, where the auditor was mentioning Ministry of Education guidelines, I just do not agree with that statement at all. I will be very specific. When we are talking about school closure policies, I would call them school accommodation policies, and I thought we made that very clear some 5 or 10 years ago. If I am out to lunch on this I hope your audit department will get back and tell me because I do not want to misrepresent what I feel are the directions from the Ministry of Education. Where we talk about identifying surplus schools, we use the word "underutilized." We do not talk about surplus any more. That one went out. These may not mean a lot, but they do mean a lot when you are talking about what I think the next key is. Transferring is highlighted, but we do not talk about sharing. So I think in the next report you should fix that one up, and if I am wrong I would appreciate being told about it.

But I think in the province of Ontario all areas that are responsible for the administration of public funds, whether they be local school boards or ministry departments, need thorough scrutiny by somebody. Our only hope right now is the Provincial Auditor, who, by the way, is not always treated with the kind of regard and respect he should be treated with. I do not say "he" meaning the person; I mean the role. We, as elected people right now, are searching for solutions and what you have done is raised the question: What is the solution? We are desperate for a solution around I think a lack of respect on behalf of people who are hired to give us the best advice they can, both in this building and in ministries across this province, and in school boards.

Mrs Dodds: First of all, my first brief has a mosaic of solutions that I think you will find interesting because they address the problem from many different directions at the same time. Second, in response to your points about school closures, there is no such thing as a school closure that is made strictly on economic grounds.

Mrs Cunningham: That is right.

Mrs Dodds: Schools are very emotional objects to the communities and you have to take into account the history of a school and the kind of community that it comes from and the role the school has played within the community. It would be nice if such decisions were strictly financial, but they are not. Every one is different, also. I would be very hard-pressed to come up with a rule on how to close schools, because every single situation is different.

But there is a point I want to make, Mr Chairman, that I think is extremely important. I know a lot of people find it uncomfortable to hear anyone referring specifically to someone else's behaviour, but there is no such thing as legislation in and of itself that creates a reality. Legislation is only --

The Chair: You are addressing my --

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

The Chair: No. That is not the point. The point is that these people are not here who were called ahead of you, and I think it is inappropriate that we refer to individuals since they cannot defend themselves afterwards. So all I was asking you to do was to stay within the parameters of telling us what you object to. We can read enough, I think, into what has been said thus far to make our own determination. We do not want to get into a contest. As Mr Bradley says, we do not want to go into your board of trustees and hear good and bad things and get into a fight ourselves. That is not our mandate.

Mrs Dodds: No, no, and I agree with you totally. I guess that has become my trademark, that I do tend to use personal examples as illustrations --

The Chair: All I am suggesting is that we would perhaps prefer not to have that.

Mrs Dodds: I will abide by that, Mr Chairman, but there is a point I wish to conclude because I think it is extremely important for people to recognize: the reason it is extremely important to somehow -- if not in this setting but in another -- examine how people behave in a given circumstance, not to judge the individuals but to see how they behave as a result of the structures and the legislation within which they operate. Legislation in and of itself does not create a reality. It simply causes people to change their behaviour. Sometimes you cannot predict how people's behaviour will adapt to any particular structure or legislation that is imposed.


When you are considering changing legislation, which I think is urgently needed at this time, however painful and confrontational some people may find it, it is important to look at how people have behaved, what they have said, what they have done, how they have viewed their roles, and what power structures they have formed. That way, you have a better chance of designing legislation that will elicit the behaviour you seek. That is my only point, and I will take your warning seriously.

The Chair: I think the committee is probably pretty clear on what you are trying to tell us. At least I believe that to be the case, anyway.

Mrs Cunningham: Just in conclusion, I am going to take away from this meeting that your great concern is about governance itself --

Mrs Dodds: Yes.

Mrs Cunningham: -- and that we need some assistance there.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, we do.

Mrs Cunningham: I would ask you: Did you happen to take a look at the remarks by the acting deputy minister to this committee?

Mrs Dodds: No.

Mrs Cunningham: Before you leave, I would appreciate it if Mrs Dodds could have a copy of that, Mr Chairman.

Mrs Dodds: Who is the acting deputy?

Mrs Cunningham: Dina Palozzi. I think you will find it very interesting, because there are some actions the ministry is taking with regard to transportation. Also, my last question: One of the statements is, "The matter of the teacher negotiation process may be addressed in a review of education finance," and you did not say anything about that.

Mrs Dodds: That is our biggest problem, is it not? Most of our costs are in wages, and we are in the position that our children can be held hostage at any time by what has become the most powerful federation of unions in this province. I have great respect for people who teach well and who work hard as teachers. However, I think the general public is beginning to feel now that we are blackmailed by this very powerful association, and that the amounts we are obliged to pay them and the number of them that we are obliged to employ are out of proportion to the benefit we derive as a society. We are no longer in control. I do not know how you are going to get around that, but I do think the right to strike should be removed. That is number one.

The Chair: That is not within our purview here, but --

Mrs Dodds: That is unfortunate. I hope it is within someone's purview some day.

The Chair: Mrs Cunningham, you have --

Mrs Cunningham: No, I was just wondering, I think you would be interested to note that it was, in my opinion, addressed for the first time that the ministry has ever addressed what I refer to as Bill 100.

Mrs Dodds: Five years ago I stated to another committee like this, I believe, that that bill has to be completely changed, and one is that the right to strike has to be removed. It is being abused.

Mrs Cunningham: I appreciate -- Mr Chairman, I am sure you do as well -- the recommendations. You have given them some thought and you have left our committee with something to work on, and that is great, because coming out of every presentation like this there could be criticism, but there also has to be a sincere thank you, because we have something very specific to deal with now in our deliberations and I thank you for that.

Mrs Dodds: Thank you for having me.

The Chair: We appreciate that, Mrs Dodds. You see, by raising the question of Bill 100 I am sure there will be many questions of you on that issue, which really does not deal with the public accounts issue, but I am sure --

Mrs Dodds: I am pleased to answer them. We came close to a strike last spring.

The Chair: -- there would be members of the committee who are just itching to get at that.

Mrs Cunningham: I would not have raised it either, but the ministry did in specific remarks to our committee, and that is the only reason I thought Mrs Dodds should know about it.

Mrs Dodds: Thanks, I will look at that.

Mr Ruprecht: My question has already been effectively asked by Mr O'Connor, but I wanted to thank you very much, Mrs Dodds, for appearing in front of this committee and expressing your great enthusiasm for reform. Mr Chairman, if I might, just let me point out to Mrs Dodds and to the rest of the committee that you may wish to look at the Globe and Mail article of today entitled "A Request from the Bottom Rung" by Jim McMurtry, which outlines the fairly contradictory policies of education in Ontario.

The Chair: You will probably sell at least 20 more newspapers, I would think.

Mr Hope: I first of all want to thank you, and I am going to bite my tongue on some of the issues you brought forward because it does not deal with the public accounts issue. I guess one of the problems that deals with it is talking about the teachers. I was reading through all your report before I asked questions, and I notice you say that some of the teachers take four to five sick days off, and you are saying about the calculation or how it is being marked for teachers to take time off for absenteeism. That number that you have in your document you have presented to us, is that encompassing all sick days or just sick days that are reported?

Mrs Dodds: That was the average number of sick days reported in each of the panels that year in the Lakehead board, and it is a higher-than-average number of days.

Mr Hope: What is the average?

Mrs Dodds: Gee, I would have to think back. Not the average for all boards; I am talking about the average in other industries. I am sorry, I cannot remember what the figure was that was given to us for an industrial average that year, but teachers, by and large, do take more days off for purposes of sickness than do people in other employments. There are many other kinds of days they take off as well, and my concern is that we are supposed to teach the kids for only 185 days a year. I think we had better start putting a very high premium on those days and not allow absences for any purpose other than sickness.

Mr Hope: I have two children who are in the school system as of today. I am in full support of the lowering of the class size. When you started talking about how we used to do it in the years before I was even thought of, about how the class sizes ranged about 50 people in a classroom, just for your information, because you had made a comment saying we have created professors and everybody else out of that system, where I come from, from a workforce that represented working people, the majority of the time frame that you are talking about are the people I was dealing with in my previous job, trying to educate in the basics of reading and writing. You would be amazed at the amount of people from that time frame and that age group who do not have the ability to read or write, so I guess your --

Mrs Dodds: It would not surprise me at all. What age group?

Mr Charlton: Your age group.

Mr Hope: I was not going to say that.

The Chair: If you listen to the news you will find out how they read and write.

Mr Hope: So some of the comments that you dealt with on that issue, but I would like to move back to the role of the trustees. I guess you share a viewpoint on your area and your board's concerns, because the issues that you are putting forward are not necessarily issues I hear in my own riding. There is a good co-operation between the administrative section of the school boards and also the school board trustees. They have created a communication. I am trying to understand where you said you had no power. I guess my question would be to you: How many trustees who are elected by the general public have voting rights at the meetings? How many were sitting at that board as trustees and had voting powers yet you are telling me you had no power to override the administration?

Mrs Dodds: I think that the exercise of power --

The Chair: Could I just stop Mr Hope for a second, Mrs Dodds? Did you get a chance to read the last article that is attached to the material here? It is a newspaper article, actually. It sets out, certainly --

Mr Hope: I do not read everything I read in the news.

The Chair: Oh, no, but this is --

Mrs Dodds: That article is accurately portraying what happened.

The Chair: -- this is supposed to be legal opinions. I guess this was a seminar where you had a lawyer -- cannot trust those guys either.

Mrs Dodds: There were two of them, even.

The Chair: Two lawyers are worse than one, actually. I am sure I will be drummed out of the profession for that one.

Mr Hope: I guess I will read that and we will avoid that one question I asked. But I was sitting here listening to some of the comments that you put forward about the trustees, and I guess as I listen to more and more of your conversation I start to wonder, are we dealing with the auditor's report or are we dealing with a political stance for the next election? All politicians are good at comments.

The Chair: Mr Hope, this witness is not here under subpoena, she is here at our request, so I think we should not --

Mr Hope: But if I read through the report that is filed before us and try to get a grip on how we can be more accountable for public dollars that are being put into the boards and other avenues that we put money into -- and I am trying to get a good grasp, because I did read the report and I am trying to understand it.


Mrs Dodds: Let me summarize it for you. In order to get a good grasp on controlling finances at the school board level, which I believe it is your obligation to do, the first thing you have to do is to ensure that there are regular, consistent, analytical studies done across the system at all times, such as teacher absence, return for the dollar, and the other points I mentioned; regular reports that are done, so that you at least have a basis of comparison to use across the system.

The second thing you have to do is to very clearly spell out to trustees what they are there to do. You would be amazed how many trustees have no idea. I have reams, boxes full of correspondence back and forth between the succession of ministers of education we have had and various trustees and organizations across the province, where everyone is saying it is somebody else's job. I am saying that what you have to do as a government is to clearly spell out whose job is what and then make sure it is done. And that includes the trustee's job.

Mr Ruprecht: We agree.

The Chair: What were you muttering?

Mr Hope: I am trying to get a grasp. Looking at the auditor's report, where the board was here before us today talking about the auditor's report, talking about how they are trying to fix some of the problems to be more accountable, then I guess I look at your report; I have to do a comparison because I do not have the other panel sitting here to put that question to. I am trying to compare the report that you have filed with us, both these documents and this document here, to try to come up with an analysis of how we can make the school boards more accountable in a process that will make sure that the general public, the taxpayers out there, are being justified for their dollars. The unfortunate part is the other panel is not here to oppose their presentation. It is not too often we get in two opposition corners here.

Mrs Dodds: Invite them back. That is up to you. There is one aspect of the auditor's report that I had some difficulty with, and I can appreciate why it came out the way it did, but I think it will answer part of your question. There were several assurances made by administration to the auditor that certain things were being reviewed and were going to be changed. That was taken at face value by the auditing team.

I have been hearing those same assurances for years. I pointed out in 1985 in writing and in a letter to the auditor at that time -- I do not know if he remembers -- that for instance there were no controls on inventory at the schools, nobody was keeping track of the equipment that was purchased. I pointed it out then with three successive superintendents of business. I have said: "Look, you must start to write down what you have in those schools and at the end of the year each teacher should take that list and go into the classroom and make sure that what was there at the beginning is there at the end."

The Chair: That may be why Lakehead was looked into.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, so I do not accept an assurance that something is going to be looked at as reason to say: "Well now, everything is going to be fine. I can go home." I also do not accept the suggestion that is made constantly to us by administration that they cannot accomplish some of these better financial controls without a lot more computer capacity. You have to have data to put into the computer, and before you can put it into the computer you have to write it down. The computer is not going to know that there should be 27 typewriters in this classroom unless somebody goes around, counts them and writes it down first.

So until I see some evidence within the system -- which in all my five years as a trustee I have yet to see -- that someone is requiring that that manual work be done first, I am not even about to support an expenditure for more computer capacity because I think it will be used as another expensive toy.

Mr Hope: I take it you still sit on the board as of today.

Mrs Dodds: I am a trustee until the end of this term, yes.

Mr Hope: Okay. My question to you then: In their document yesterday, a full review of purchasing policies and procedures and the internal control will be undertaken in 1991. Has that occurred, and has that begun?

Mrs Dodds: Not to my knowledge.

Mr Hope: Okay, I am going to step aside. There are only 15 minutes; let somebody else ask questions.

The Chair: Mr Ferguson is next, and my last questioner as far as I can tell.

Mr Ferguson: Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I just want to thank you for coming out this morning. I certainly can identify, having had the opportunity to serve on municipal council, with many of the issues that you have raised. It has been a common complaint, I think, among many trustees who have served that upon entering the boardroom they do not feel they are making decisions; they feel that they are sitting there making suggestions, and it is very much the administrative staff who drive the agenda for the board, or drive the bus, and the trustees are merely along for the ride as passengers. But one --

Mr Ruprecht: Just like the backbenchers.

Mrs Cunningham: Not this backbencher, I will tell you.

Mr Bradley: Just like the cabinet ministers.

Mr Hope: Just like our opposition.

Mr Ferguson: One of the issues I would like to raise with you -- and I really do not think this issue of policy or the way you boards operate versus budgeting are mutually exclusive. It is the old question of having the responsibility but obviously very little authoritative power.

Most municipal councils operate very much in a political sense. They are much more political, I think, than boards, and I do not mean that in a partisan way. I think most municipal councillors see their prime responsibility as to not only levy taxes but to make decisions based on the priorities of the community. I have always viewed local boards of education as very much country club affairs, where it is much easier to be cosy and chummy with everybody -- certainly you do not challenge the status quo -- and let everybody get along and hope we can keep our heads low, and duck out of the way of any major issues that come our way because, for goodness' sakes, if in fact something major does happen it is the responsibility of the trustees and certainly not the staff to defend the current positions that are taken.

Could you tell me what the ministry could do or what this government could be doing in order to try to instil in the individual trustees that in fact they are performing a very important political function and they are not merely there to sit on the bus and go for a ride?

Mrs Dodds: First of all, as I have stated, the legislation must clearly spell out the duties and the powers of trustees, and individual trustees should be given more power of independent action, although anything that impacts on the whole system must be a majority decision, obviously.

Second, the orientation of trustees to their jobs should not be done by our administrations as it is now done. I would love to be able to say that it should be accomplished by the Ontario Public School Boards' Association, which one would expect to be an association of trustees, but as you know that association is also dominated by directors of education. In fact, the first executive director of the school boards' association was a former director of education. So there has to be a way of training new trustees to their responsibilities that is totally separate from the administrations of them. I would also love to be able to say that it should be the ministry that does it, but I believe those people are also in the same power structure as our own administrators, so we will have to develop an outside system for training new trustees. The legislation can assist a great deal.

Mr Ferguson: I think there is a real possibility that exists in order to do that. However, if individuals are not prepared to take it upon themselves and assume that responsibility and role under whatever guidelines are adopted --

Mrs Dodds: I do not think it is within the mandate of this committee, but there are several things that should be done. Boards should be smaller so that each person would have a higher profile within the community. As it is now, when people go to vote in Thunder Bay, for instance, in the municipal elections, there are over 100 names being promoted to them all at the same time, because you have all these people running for both boards, the municipal and the hydro commission and the French boards and so on. The average person has no idea who is who. Somebody could be dead, but if their name is familiar they get elected. So you would need to make it more accountable --

The Chair: Aardvark is the best name. I was thinking of changing my name to Aardvark --

Mrs Dodds: That is right.

The Chair: First on the ballot is good for about 20% of the vote, I understand.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, you are exactly right.

Interjection: What you want is, "none of the above."

The Chair: That is true, yes. My wife calls me Aardvark constantly.

Mrs Dodds: Yes, but that is another whole issue to be delved into. I think there is need there to be changing the structure as well, yes.

I guess what it boils down to is that we have to remember that we are not the slaves of the people we employ, we are supposed to be their masters. Something has gone terribly awry in the way this province is run.

Mr Ferguson: We have smaller boards now.

Mrs Dodds: Smaller boards.

The Chair: Thank you. Mr Ferguson may be Minister of Education one day, you never know.

Mr Ferguson: Anything is possible.

Mr Bradley: They won last time.

The Chair: That is right. That did happen, did it not?

Mr Bradley: And we won before that. So anything is possible.

The Chair: Are there any further questions from any members of the committee? That is not an invitation, that is simply -- we would like to thank you for coming down. I would ask you, and I am not sure if this is the committee's intent, but I would think as a matter of fairness we should do this. I gather you would have no objection if we were to send a copy of the Hansard to the previous presenters for their comments. I think that is a fair way of letting them at least have their -- I was going to say "kick at the cat" but that is not a good idea.

Mrs Dodds: I am looking forward to seeing the Hansard transcript of what they said and I hope that I will be able to also respond to it.

The Chair: We will see that you get a copy of the Hansard of both yourself and them.

Mrs Dodds: Thank you.

The Chair: We thank you and we wish you a safe trip back. Hopefully you will not get on the same plane that Mr Miclash was on which almost made an unintended stop in the --

Mr Miclash: In the middle of the air.

Mrs Dodds: In the tundra?

The Chair: That is right. Committee members, we are being moved from this room. As you can see, we are the masters of our own fate, as Mrs Dodds suggests. We are being moved to room 230 at 2 o'clock because of the constitutional committee. That meeting will be in camera so that means we will be doing it privately and the public will not be allowed into the room. I can see everyone back there, the public who is here with bated breath, is just overwhelmed by that fact.

Mrs Dodds: I want to thank the members of the committee for taking the time to hear me. I know it was not originally scheduled and I am extremely grateful you did. If there is any way that I can help in the future I hope that, either as individuals or as a committee, you will call on me, because I have given the finances of boards a great deal of thought over the years and would be more than happy to assist in any brainstorming or search for solutions that you may engage upon. So I want to thank you very much, and thank the Provincial Auditor for his work as well. It certainly made some of us very happy. Thank you.

The committee adjourned at 1152.