Letter to the editor 3, Dec. 7, 2017
School board democracy
School board democracy concerns all Quebecers.
Last week the Lester. B. Pearson (LBPSB) and English Montreal (EMSB) school boards held Council of Commissioners' meetings.
The EMSB Council consists of 11 commissioners, which includes three opposition commissioners. Part way through the meeting, one of them (a 10-year veteran) was evicted from council for the duration of the meeting because there was a disagreement with the chairperson.
The LBPSB Council has 13 commissioners. Not one is an opposition commissioner. This means, there is no one to really hold them accountable to the public by asking hard questions - especially on matters dealing with ethics and its $300 million annual budget.
There are, however, two 3-minute public Question Periods per citizen, which allow by law (Article 168) for questions and commentary. I have used this provision of the law for almost 20 years - and, more often than not, I am the only ‘public’ in attendance.
The November 27, LBPSB Council meeting was the first meeting that newly appointed chairman Noel Burke presided. Unexpectedly, a few hours before the meeting, he sent me an email, copied to all commissioners, the director-general and two school board lawyers.
It concluded with these words: "... if your behaviour or language escalates at this evening’s or any further meeting – I will immediately suspend the meeting until you have exited the room and will set into motion an official banning of your presence from council meetings of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.” It is easy to see where this is heading.
That said, on February 22, 2014, former Education Minister Michelle Courchesne gave an inspirational talk at the Pearson board, promoting the upcoming school board elections later that year.
Her most telling remark was that, "…school boards should accept criticism," and should listen because it is a "sign of respect."
Considering the recent ethics scandal of the Pearson board involving its past chairperson, Chairman Burke should heed the advice of the former minister of education.