• editor834

Letter to the editor 2, Oct. 8, 2020

Why QESBA must go

Dear Editor,

Twice acclaimed school commissioner Danny Olivenstein doesn't like to read too much.

This became apparent in his letter ‘QESBA is not a 'menace',’ (The Journal, October 1). Actually, it helped boost the thrust made in my letter of September 24, ‘QESBA is a menace to educational reform and should be ditched.’

I was reminded of an article in the Globe & Mail, April 23, 2017, ‘The jig is up for Canada's school boards.’

Of all the school boards in Canada, “the English-language Lester B. Pearson School Board in suburban Montreal,” was singled out. “...they, too, have been plagued by the same apparent inability of grown adults to act their age.”

The story was about the previous chairperson, who was also vice-president of the QESBA, found guilty of breaking the rules of the board's Code of Ethics and Quebec's Education Act. One of Suanne Stein Day's staunchest supporters was Mr. Olivenstein.

A comprehensive telling of the account was reported in the December 1, 2016 issue of The Journal: “LBPSB Ethics scandal riles council meeting attendees.”

Senior administrators of the board were so disgusted in the way things were handled; they were compelled to write to the commissioners, which was widely reported. They wrote about, “the lack of trust, transparency and respect,” and “members had lost confidence in council’s actions... (which) have cast a shadow over the organization and caused damage to the reputation of our members.”

The aforementioned letter was also sent to the retired former president of the Pearson Teachers Union, Jim Wilson, and I because neither of us is known to be shy in criticizing the board when it does wrong.

Let's compare the preceding to Olivenstein's criticisms. Putting aside his confusion of the chronology of events, it is understandable for him to take his position. It means money – precious education tax dollars.

For that he needs the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), which is presently spending around $500,000 in the courts to justify its existence – and that is to take care of its ‘valued clients: school commissioners and school boards.”

Olivenstein talks about my ban for running for school election for four years. True. However, he fails to mention the reason which was a technical oversight. I could have appealed but didn't bother because the Liberals were pushing to scrap school boards and their commissioners with their excellent school board reform Bill 86.

Moreover, in May 2018, Bill 185 was adopted. Prompted by the QESBA, it called for the postponement of elections, which I strongly opposed. Read our briefs to the National Assembly ( assnat.qc.ca ). QESBA will say and do anything to keep receiving tens of thousands of tax dollars without facing the electorate.

Olivenstein says I am being hypocritical running for chair of LBPSB when I was supporting Bill 40 and the idea of School Service Centers governed by Boards of Directors. In January, the boards hired returning officers and put up all the rules on their sites for the community to run as candidates. I pounced at the idea; my forms were filled in but then the pandemic struck, followed by court rulings.

The main point was that for the November 1, 2020 elections, candidates now would run for Councils of Commissioners rather than Boards of Directors. Contrary to what QESBA claims, school boards were not being abolished; they were being transformed.

Finally, Mr. Olivenstein asserts I said, “…both Bill 86 and Bill 40 were designed to give greater powers to parents, teachers and administrators,” and that was only my opinion. Not so.

The LBPSB Central Parents' Committee agreed with draft Bill 86 to do away with commissioners. It's in their posted brief to the National Assembly which was, ironically, promoted by Liberal MNAs like Geoffrey Kelley. Now, he heads APPELE-Québec, an organization created by QESBA to promote the status quo. Talk about hypocrisy - par excellence.

Lastly, in 2014, in my bid for chair, 3645 of the electorate voted for me. They wanted basically what the government is offering today. I am a 'Friend of the Court' not a friend of the CAQ, per se.

I am recognized as being someone who knows something about the English school board system having participated at Public Question Periods of the Pearson board for over 22 years.

The LBPSB is a co-appellant at the Bill 40 hearings. In a sense, I am the ‘public.’

I informed the Quebec Superior Court and the Court of Appeal, in writing and orally, that the QESBA has thwarted any attempt by any government to bring the elected school board system into the age of high-tech communications.

Moreover, the QESBA considers the school board superior to a school's governing board; the commissioner superior to the parent – and that is a disgrace.

Chris Eustace