LKDSB to act on nepotism claims

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By Blake Ellis
Local Journalism Initiative
The Petrolia Independent

Gary Girardi says the Lambton-Kent District School Board has to ‘eliminate’ nepotism and favouritism in its hiring practices.
This after a consultant found it was pervasive at the public school board. Girardi, the superintendent of education for human resources, presented the report to the board earlier this month.
“I think the report is in line of where we have been and where we want to go,” said Girardi. “We think there are real benefits to have an audit done. An equity audit is not mandated by the province.”
LKDSB had previously completed both a student and a staff census to gather demographic information about both groups in 2022. Girardi said the staff census showed the workforce at LKDSB is not a reflection of the demographic of the community with only two per cent identified as Indigenous, while three per cent identified as racialized, three per cent were 2SLGBTQ+ and seven per cent of staff were living with a disability.
But the equity report went further. The Turner Consulting Group found nepotism and favouritism is embedded in the hiring practices of the board. The stated goal of the report is to “increase diversity, develop equitable policies and practices and create a truly inclusive organization.”
Employees interviewed by the consultant said it was not uncommon to work beside the child of a senior administrator and they felt the board was only going through the motions to appear to be equitable and inclusive.
Employees also believe “nepotism and favouritism impact hiring and advancement at the LKDSB and that they are in fact pervasive in the organization’s culture.
“In addition, many shared their perception that the hiring process is unfair, difficult to navigate, and creates barriers to the hiring of candidates from Indigenous communities and the equity-seeking groups.
“Some felt the nepotism and favouritism was so embedded within the culture of the board that these employees believe ‘that’s what the board is known for.’”
Some employees also feel the current equity efforts by senior leadership have made little real change.
As he presented the report to the board, Girardi said the organization has to make sure it uses merit-based hiring practices and eliminate nepotism and favouritism.
The four priorities in the report are to diversify the workforce, create more equitable policies and procedures, create a more inclusive and welcoming work environment and strengthen equity infrastructure.
Girardi said the organization can’t tackle all 83 recommendations now, but the consultant gave a path for the LKDSB to move forward and created an action plan. In the end, LKDSB wants to improve student success, strengthen employee relations and “show ourselves as an employer of choice” within the community, said Girardi.
Trustee Jane Bryce suggested there be a professional development session for trustees to look at policy changes through an equity lens.
A workshop for trustees is being set up in January with a human rights lawyer.

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