Letter to the editor, Jan. 28, 2016

Dear Editor,

If there is any doubt how out of touch elected school boards are concerning the education needs of the communities, which they claim to serve so well, look no further, as an example, at the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB).

Its value following the Major School Change poorly thought-out decisions that involved closing, merging, and rezoning schools, became apparent with a massive public outcry from Vaudreuil to Verdun.

Fortunately, though, the draft school board reform Bill 86 includes parents and community members in all decision-making and at all levels of our public school system.

That said, there were over 200 people who attended the regular Pearson board Council meeting on January 25. They were there primarily to find out whether the board would reconsider the closing of Lakeside Academy and Riverview Elementary School (by merging) at the end of this school year.

The board voted to delay the closures by giving parents the opportunity to prove by December 2016, that the schools are, indeed, viable by following up on ideas to keep the schools open.

Commissioners Craig Berger, Daniel Olivenstein, Martin Sherman , led by Chairperson Suanne Stein Day, had no confidence that parents and the community could follow-up and voted against giving the English schools a second chance.

Instead, they cited Quebec's restrictive language laws (Bill 101) and budget cuts as the cause for the problem. Madame Stein Day even took swipes at forward-looking Bill 86.

Interestingly, it was mentioned by the administration that there are French schools in the Pearson territory, in which 40 per cent of the students, are eligible for English-schooling.

Equally thought-provoking was the announcement of a "Budget 2016-2017 Consultation" as called for by Article 275 of the Education Act. Governing Boards and Central Parents' Committee will have until March 31 to submit their views on how our school tax money is spent.

The history of the LBPSB’s 'Budget Consultations' has never been reassuring for the taxpayer. For years, parents, the community has complained they really don't know where all the tax money goes.

Consider: Long-time vice-chair and former candidate for LBPSB chairman Angela Nolet, in the Nov. 2014 school board elections said: "...the school board budget is not even that transparent to the commissioners!"

Now, picture this: Following the passing of the above resolutions to keep the two schools open, most people left. In fact, I was the only "public" for the last half hour, which included the second Question Period.

Again, I was not allowed to ask any questions or make any comments because I had asked sensitive questions about 'Budget ' matters and other issues over two years ago.

At last month's "Major School Change" meeting, same thing. Even though I was the only individual who submitted a MSC brief, I was not permitted to participate in the democratic process as called for in Article 168.

Worse, my attempt to participate, Chairperson Stein Day's refusal, and complaint made by a citizen about this treatment was all erased from the December 2015 webcast.

Bring on Bill 86!

Chris Eustace