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3rd-party team to review governance practices at Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board

The review was among the recommendations from a code of conduct report that validated some allegations of discrimination and racism from a former HWDSB student trustee. Don Mitchell / Global News

Four local consultants have been appointed to review the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s (HWDSB) policies and governance practices with a focus on anti-oppression and anti-racism.

The review was among the recommendations from a code of conduct report released in February, which validated some allegations of discrimination and racism from a former student trustee.

Trustees approved a motion to have an independent third party review the board’s governance practices in October 2020, before that report was released.

In a statement on Tuesday, the HWDSB said the review will “elevate equity, diversity, and inclusion and confront systemic barriers through anti-racism, anti-oppression, and anti-colonial lenses.”

It will be led by local consulting firm Wentworth Strategy Group with a team made up of four experts — lead consultant Catherine Raso and consultants Leo Nupolu Johnson, Troy Hill and Dr. Bonny Ibhawoh.

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Read more: Trustees sanctioned by Hamilton’s public school board, one asked to resign

Dawn Danko, chair of the HWDSB, said during Monday’s board meeting that she appreciates the level of anti-racism and anti-oppression expertise that each expert brings to the table.

“Those are all the key pieces that we’ve learned over this past year that we truly need to look at our practices or governance structures or policies more closely with respect to those frameworks.”

Vice-chair Cam Galindo called the review “groundbreaking” in terms of how other boards in Ontario might use it to review their own governance models.

“I think many boards will look to the work that we’re doing here to model themselves after. I’m happy with the direction, I’m happy with the consultants that we’ve selected.”

Read more: Former student says Hamilton school board treated her racism accusations as a ‘one-off’

Trustee and former board chair Alex Johnstone, who was sanctioned following the code of conduct review, said this review is something that no other boards in the province have done up until now.

“This is important work and timely work. And it’s unfortunate that it’s not work that had been done previously by any other board. But I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from some of these individuals.”

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The review will involve four phases throughout this year and next, which will include updating policy frameworks, revising the board of trustees handbook and engaging in “training and professional development opportunities” for trustees.

It is expected to get underway this month, with training scheduled to begin in September and a final report to be submitted in June 2022.

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