Letter to the editor 2, September 25, 2015

Dear Editor,

The Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) has been making a lot of noise lately concerning the schoolboard reform plan of Education Minister François Blais. The ministry intends to keep school boards (councils?), but scrap school board elections, and put more democracy into our schools.

At the Pearson board Executive Committee meeting on Sept. 21, I managed to ask three questions about the QESBA, which I had submitted, in writing, to all commissioners before the meeting.

1 - Would the Board, via its QESBA representatives, provide this taxpayer an updated summary of the QESBA Budget;

2 - a list of all costs (travel, hotel, food) associated to bring in commissioners from across Canada to denounce the government's plans to democratize and modernize Quebec's school system, at a press conference, on Sept. 9, in Quebec City;

3 - all costs (stipends, travel expenses, hotels and food) surrounding the much heralded, but never officially requested 'Elections Panel' consultation and its 'Study Panel Report 2015.'"

That said, on the matter of consultation, as a grandfather of children who attend the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB), here is some knowledge gained from my children, on this controversy concerning the ditching of school board elections.

The EMSB community through its "2015 Parent Opinion Survey" garnered hundreds of views of parents, on many issues, "from all corners of the school board,” according to the Facebook page of its Central Parents' Committee (CPC). They even met during the summer; they embrace the government's plan.

However, at the Pearson board, the community at large, was never consulted, and I heard nothing of significance at the May, June, and September CPC meetings, which I attended.

Yet, it is reported, to the surprise of some, the Pearson community outright rejects the government's idea to democratize the public school system.

In fact, in a Montreal Gazette letter, on Sept. 18, LBPSB Commissioner, vice-chairman of the Executive Committee, Craig Berger, wrote “the Jennings (Panel) Report represents the view of the community at large (and) should not be questioned." Imagine.

Moreover, the QESBA said abolishing school board elections, "would destroy school democracy." Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The association is a master at using fear-mongering tactics. There will be more democracy.

The minority-language education rights will be respected. How can it not be?

There still will be elected Governing Boards, Parent Participation Organizations, Central Parents' Committees and so on - all English.

It's been my experience that citizens’ and taxpayers’ democratic rights are more respected by the Quebec government than those who claim to be the protector, and friend, of the English-speaking education community.

The idea of scrapping school board elections, as a first step, toward major school-board reform by the Couillard government, is indeed exciting news.

Education Minister Blais has repeatedly stated, "Our intention is not to abolish school boards ; it's to change democracy and give more power for parents.”

There will be no better democracy practiced, once the shackles to Quebec's school boards are broken, and principals, teachers and parents will have the freedom to decide what's best for the children in the school.

Chris Eustace


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