Letter to the editor 2, Feb. 22, 2018

LBPSB jerks parents around

Dear Editor,

Since 1997, Education Ministers Pauline Marois, François Legault through Michelle Courchesne, and François Blais called for a strong presence of parents, and parent commissioners in our public education system.

Recall Bill 86 which called for "parents' presence within each school board's decision-making body." This school board reform bill was considered anathema by the Quebec English School Boards Association, who went to great lengths to see this parent-friendly bill buried.

Nevertheless, Parent Commissioners still have the right to vote, and, by law, must be consulted on various issues.

One recent example involved Article 199 of the Act Respecting School Elections. It clearly states that parents must be "consulted" if there is a vacant commissioner seat with less than a year remaining before the next election.

Unfortunately, the word "consulted" is often toyed around with. Anything from a text message to a very long written report could be considered a consultation.

Consider this latest example of a consultation with parents by the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

Last November, the LBPSB and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) were required to fill a vacant commissioner seat. The SWLSB did everything in a transparent and open manner. They put advertisements in newspapers and Facebook announcing the vacant seat, and then the candidates presented themselves at a Laurier Parents' Committee meeting. Case closed.

However, the LBPSB is another story. Things were done in secrecy, which caused conflict not only between parents, who expressed "contempt," but also in newspapers. Under the leadership of Chairman Noel Burke, he and the Director General wrote a letter to a newspaper criticizing the reporter and his reporting of the December 13, 2017, Parents’ Committee contentious meeting. Interesting to note that neither of them attended the meeting, yet had the temerity to write about “journalistic integrity."

The following month, Chairman Burke led the entire Council of Commissioners to pass a unanimous resolution to write a complaint letter to the Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ). It seems they changed their mind after realizing how silly the resolution was.

The idea over the past two months was to find a satisfactory way to pick a candidate to fill a vacant commissioner seat. Of course, the simplest and cleanest way is to follow Laurier's example. But it was decided to settle the matter at an upcoming Governance and Ethics Committee meeting in February.

At the LBPSB Executive Committee meeting February 19, I asked what the outcome was, since they had a February 5 meeting. There was no answer as they decided to have another meeting... What a waste of precious school tax dollars!

The LBPSB has a budget of about $300M - Citizens should keep this in mind during the possible November 4, 2018, school board elections.

Meanwhile, I wrote to Education Minister Sébastien Proulx and Premier Philippe Couillard requesting that the "consultation" mentioned in Article 199 must include the presence of candidates at a Parents' Committee meeting.

To do anything else would suggest that ’a fix was in' and that is a shame for all of us.

Chris Eustace

Pierrefonds

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