Parents, students and teachers in Halton Hills-- dare we say in all of Halton-- will lose an invaluable voice this November with the announcement Wednesday that incumbent Halton District School Board Trustee Ethel Gardiner will not seek re-election. Gardiner has spent a lifetime in the education field-- first as a teacher for 39 years and then as a trustee for the past 11. The Halton board has been a cauldron of infighting, political game-playing and one-upsmanship for the better part of the past dozen years. In the past term alone there was a clear 6-5 split on many issues from the turfing of education director Dusty Papke to the departure of superintendents and senior personnel. The back-biting that occurred during these past three years even overshadowed the north-south Halton division on the board that was so evident in the early '90s. Gardiner didn't shy from the fights during this past term as she fought for causes she believed in and thought were critical for a better education system. It was no coincidence that the only period of relative calm the board enjoyed in recent memory came while Gardiner occupied the chair's seat from 1997-2003. We suspect she often played the role of referee at many a meeting. Perhaps Gardiner's success stemmed from her unflinching belief that the board should-- no must-- always do what was in the best interests of Halton's students. It was this principle that guided her and ensured Halton Hills issues weren't ignored or overshadowed by the larger board representation of south Halton municipalities. We wish her well as she now embarks on a more personal fight and thank her for her tireless efforts in giving Halton Hills residents and students a voice of reason-- and one that was heard-- at the school board table.