Trustees with the Halton District School Board have elected a rookie to lead them at the start of a new four-year term. First-year trustee Gillian Tuck Kutarna of Halton Hills defeated veteran board member Peggy Russell of Burlington for board chair for 2006-07, in a vote conducted during the inaugural meeting and swearing in of the new board last week. The results of the balloting by the 11 trustees were not made public, as is the board's custom. The position of board vice-chair went to second-term Burlington trustee Janie Hames, who was acclaimed. Tuck Kutarna would not comment on whether she was surprised to beat out the experienced Russell but did say that all trustees discussed the process previously and that she knew she would be going up against Russell for the chair's job. "Seven out of the 11 trustees are new, so we'll be relying on the veteran members of the board to help us settle in," said Tuck Katarna. "It's a great new group with a lot of enthusiasm and a wide array of experience and I'm very excited because everyone on the board has expressed a commitment to working together." A family and special education lawyer in Georgetown, Tuck Kutarna said in the past she handled clients connected to the Halton school board. The potential for conflict of interest means she will not handle such cases in her current role with the board. "I expect to carry a reduced caseload," she said. Married to Jim Kutarna and a mother of four children in Grades 3-9 in the Halton public school system, the 44-year-old Tuck Kutarna stressed teamwork and accountability in her inaugural address to the board and the public audience. "We're in the service industry. Our clients are children and their parents. Our only job is to meet their need for an excellent education.
"Excellence can be measured, and not by how many times we repeat the phrase. I think that the only measuring stick that really matters is how often we hear it back from our clients, from our families." Tuck Kutarna asked for patience from board staff and the public as the first-time trustees learn on the job. The new board members will attend a trustee training conference Dec. 18 in Toronto. "I have, in the past two weeks, felt inspired by my new colleagues and friends around the table, by your honesty and excitement for what lies ahead. Some of you have shown great courage, put yourself on the line to heal old wounds. Others have taken the lead in building new bridges." The latter remark appears to be directed at the impression by some that the previous board of trustees was split into two ideological factions. Tuck Kutarna said she doesn't believe one exists. "Quite the opposite. There is a real comfort among the trustees to work together and to move forward with a common goal." Tuck Kutarna is carrying on a tradition of north Halton trustees as board chair. She succeeds Milton's Paul Tate. Prior to that Halton Hills' Ethel Gardiner had a long run in the position. "She kindly called to congratulate me," Tuck Kutarna said of the ailing Gardiner. "It's nice to keep Halton Hills and north Halton on the radar." Tuck Kutarna has a vast educational and volunteer resume. She has an honours BA in political studies, a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor of laws degree, all from Queen's University. In terms of volunteer work, she has served on several boards of directors including Georgetown District Memorial Hospital, Bennett Health Care Centre, Halton Community Legal Services and the Big Sisters Association. She was also vice-chair of the William Osler Health Centre Board and a member of the Halton Health Care Services transition team. Tuck Kutarna added she wouldn't identify specific projects or goals that she wants to accomplish during her term until the strategic planning process and four-year implementation period are discussed amongst the trustees beginning next month. The next meeting of the Halton District School Board will be the regularly scheduled Board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007. The upcoming meeting schedule for the Halton board is available at www.hdsb.ca.
Halton Hills Wards 3 & 4 Trustee Gillian Tuck Kutarna was elected chair of the Halton District School Board in a vote among her peers last week. Tuck Kutarna was elected to the board in the Nov. 13 municipal election.