The Record’s view: Trustee should rethink her job
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Feb 16, 2017  |  Vote 0    0

The Record’s view: Trustee should rethink her job

Waterloo Region Record

Sooner or later, the time comes for almost everyone to say goodbye to their job — no matter how much they love it, no matter how much good they've done.

Veteran public school trustee Andrea Mitchell needs to ask herself if this time has arrived for her.

After developing what she describes as a "serious heart condition," Mitchell went on a medical leave that caused her to miss a year's worth of trustee meetings with the Waterloo Region District School Board.

She finally returned to a board meeting on Monday, but there was a catch.

Because she says her cardiologist has advised her against physically returning to the board office in Kitchener, she participated in this week's meeting by telephone.

While she hopes she can eventually go back to that office, there are no indications she will in the near future.

Mitchell clearly wants to continue serving her constituents in Cambridge and North Dumfries Township. Her loyalty and commitment are laudable. She deserves the public's sympathy for her health problems and the public's praise for her determination.

The issue is not her desire to work, however, but her ability to do so.

In our view, it's doubtful that Mitchell can participate in a board meeting as effectively by telephone and from a distance as she could if she were actually in the room.

Meetings can last for many hours and include complex questions, detailed answers, presentations from delegations and heated debates.

It's far more difficult to hear everything important being said, to understand the nuances of a spoken statement or to obtain clarification if all the communication takes place by telephone. But the problem isn't limited to Mitchell's inability to physically attend board meetings.

A trustee has other duties — such as dealing with public concerns or getting more information from staff at the board office. Once again, it's questionable that Mitchell can perform such tasks very well without actually going to the board office.

A telephone is a clumsy tool in making local democracies run.

As far as the school board goes, Mitchell can continue doing her job by phone. Ontario law says she can, too. We hope, however, Mitchell does some serious soul-searching. As a trustee for over a decade, she has served the public effectively.

Can she continue to do so with a serious and limiting health issue? Can she continue to do so if she believes her health problem resulted from a private, and in her view disturbing, conversation with another trustee? The board investigated this matter and cleared the other trustee after failing to determine what was said.

Can Mitchell do her job if she's convinced her workplace is no longer safe for her because of her issues with the other trustee? And is she giving the public full value for her annual trustee's pay of $15,700 — a third of which is tax-free?

Mitchell has already missed a year's worth of meetings. There are 20 months left in her current term of office.

We hope she will consider stepping down and making way for someone else.

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