Term limits would be tremendously helpful for Public School Boards and Municipal Councils

I’m a strong believer in leadership succession.

I’m a firm believer in growth and renewal, in any line of work, in any endeavour that one can think of.

I’ve been thinking about that when reading an Oct. 23, 2017 Toronto Star article, entitled: “Why you won’t see my name on the ballot one year from now: McMahon.”

There was a good discussion about the topic of term limits on Toronto CBC Radio on the afternoon of Oct. 23, 2017.

I heard recently a reference to a CBC interview with Mary-Margaret McMahon. Maybe it was the same interview that she had on Oct. 23. The comment, that I heard, was that Mary-Margaret McMahon explained that, in her view, serving as a Councillor is a public service, that a person can engage in – but she opposes the practice of treating it as a career.

I recently attended a meeting at which a Trustee with the Peel District School Board made a brief presentation. I’ve been retired from teaching with the PDSB for eleven years. The Trustee who spoke was a Trustee during the years I was teaching with the Board. I imagine she may still be there a decade, even several decades, from now. Re-elected, election after election.

I’m also aware of Trustees with the Toronto Public School Board who’ve been there for several decades. I remember meeting a TDSB Trustee in the late 1970s, who was interested in what I knew about Special Education programs at the Toronto Board. At that time there was a concern, in some quarters, that Special Education was turning into an ever-expanding empire within the Board.

The Trustee was doing good work – and yet, even a few years ago, as I noticed, she was still a Trustee, with the same Board. Re-elected, election after election.

Not surprisingly, people who are getting re-elected in some cases like things just as they are. They may not be likely, except in rare and inspiring circumstances, to have any qualms about the situation, in which they find themselves.

Oh, my.

In volunteer associations I’ve been involved with, in leadership positions over the past 25 years, we’ve found that term limits are the ideal way to ensure smooth leadership succession as the years go by.

I’m used to the transition, from being a leader one day, and an ordinary member the next.

It’s a positive and necessary experience.

Passing back and forth between roles – having some measure of authority one day, and having less authority and influence on the day that follows – is a tremendously valuable learning experience.

It’s the perfect way to ensure growth and renewal for any leader, and for any organization.

In the course of a lifetime, a person who enjoys leadership roles can readily move from one setting to another – from one leadership role to another, and getting better at the role of leadership as the years proceed.  A person does not need to play the same leadership role, literally for decades, in the same organization. Such a setup is not beneficial for the person in the leadership role, or for the organization.

Without term limits and an organizational culture, built up over the years, that supports leadership succession and offers opportunities for younger people (from inside or outside the organization) to move into leadership positions, the wheels fall off the bus.


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