The Thames Valley District School Board has voted that Middlesex County will maintain its current number of trustees.
During a meeting of the board Tuesday evening, trustees voted unanimously to keep Middlesex County designated as a low population area.
Distribution of the 13 elected trustees will continue to consist of six rural trustees (two each in Elgin, Middlesex and Oxford counties), six City of London trustees and one First Nation Trustee. The school board was considering a shift in the number of seats to seven urban and five rural trustees, stripping Middlesex County of one trustee.
Under the Education Act, school boards across the province are required to determine the number of trustee positions needed, and distribute positions across the board’s area of jurisdiction before each municipal election.
“As trustees, we represent all students across Thames Valley. This decision shows our continued support for rural and urban priorities,” said TVDSB Board Chair Lori-Ann Pizzolato. “We remain committed to advancing the best possible learning environments for all students, no matter where they live.”
Following the vote, Thames Centre Deputy Mayor Kelly Elliott offered thanks to the board for keeping rural representation equal.
“The rural and urban divide is very real and felt by many families across the school board. This has been felt for decades and it’s not something that can be fixed overnight,” Elliott told LondonNewsToday.ca. “A lot the issues we have in rural communities are from provincial policy, so if we can advocate together to make these changes, that would be huge.”
However, Elliott’s hopes of reconciliation wavered after learning the Rural Education Task Force (RETF), an initiative aimed at dealing with challenges rural schools face, is being dissolved.
Following the distribution vote, a motion to allow the RETF committee to complete its work and present a report by June 2022 failed. The board previously reviewed a draft report and expressed concern, as administration claimed the draft lacked key components, key stakeholders, and impacted community groups.
“I have a lot of angry people messaging me,” Elliott said. “We are looking at creating a separate tri-county school board with elected officials who actually represent the needs of rural communities.”
On Wednesday, Middlesex County and the TVDSB will convene for their annual Community Planning and Facility Collaboration Opportunities meeting.
Read original story from London Ontario – BlackburnNews.com