Letter to the editor 2, June 2, 2016

Dear Editor,

For the past year, the battle cry of the Quebec English School Boards Association against the government was that we needed school board elections for democracy's sake.

The Association won but what did the citizenry win?

Moments after Premier Couillard told the Liberal Party, at their convention, in Drummondville, that Bill 86 was ditched and the English school board system is the model to follow, I was meeting Education Minister Sébastien Proulx.

The meeting was held in reaction to my protest, at the convention centre, which consisted of me holding up two small signs: one read "ANGLO," and the other "BILL 86" with a check mark beside it.

Present at the May 15 meeting were Mr. Proulx's assistant who took notes, a translator, the Nelligan riding president and the Sûreté du Québec.

I informed the Minister I was the only Anglophone individual who submitted a brief to the National Assembly in support of school- board reform Bill 86.

Citing reasons dealing with abuse of power, intimidation, financial matters, and ethical issues, I emphasized the English school board system is not necessarily the way to go. Commissioners of elected school boards have very little to do with student achievement.

Stating the demise of Bill 86 was a lost opportunity to improve our public school system, I offered the following recommendations in the hope they would be included in the new education plan to be revealed June 10:

- The Minister must have the power to overlook and issue directives regarding the administration, operation, actions and budgetary rules of school boards. The government must be the court of last resort. Simply put: the government is boss.

- Scrap the executive committee. This committee is a menace to democracy as it breeds school-board secrecy.

- The employer of the Ethics Commissioner should be the government, not the school board.

- Since Bill 86 is scrapped, there will be school board elections. They should be managed entirely by the government, not by those directly involved or running for election.

- School boards must follow the laws of the Education Act, which deal with Public Question Periods (Article 168). If there is a dispute, it should be publicly dealt with.

- Make clear the rules concerning the actions of departing commissioners doing business with the board according to Art. 175.1 (4).

- School tax and/or school fee money should never be used to pay lobby groups to support positions that benefit commissioners and elected school boards.

Our education dollars should be going to schools where parents, teachers, principals and support staff are major decision-makers. After all, they are the ones who have the greatest influence and impact on student learning.

On the democracy front, consider these stories:

On May 24, I attended the LBPSB Executive Committee meeting. At Public Question Period time, being the only ‘public’ I stood up to talk my meeting with the Minister.

They refused to listen. Led by Chairperson Suanne Stein Day, they walked out.

There were two Question Periods at the regular Council Meeting on May 30.

At the second Question Period, I approached the microphone with a sign in my hand.

The 20-second appearance was not filmed.

The sign said: "Democracy Please!!!”

Chris Eustace

Pierrefonds

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