On school boards and democracy

www.thesuburban.com

Disappointing does not begin to describe the Aug.13 letter penned by fellow-candidate for chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board: “What are legitimate questions in education?”

The letter raises other pertinent questions.

It is partly forgivable that Madame Nolet, who has been vice-chair at Pearson for several years, chose to defend the style of governance at the board. She writes: “It is best to get one’s facts right before misinforming the public what the English School Boards are responsible for.”

Let’s review.

In my Aug. 6 letter complimenting The Suburban reporters for their coverage of the upcoming Nov. 2 school board elections, I made a passing reference to an old history exam and suggested that newly-elected commissioners, use their influence and help the government “to improve the teaching of history in our schools.”

I did not expect a lesson on the “Québécois,” and nationhood. Suffice it to say, that grade 10 optional history exam, independently created by four English boards, led by Pearson, and intended for English schools, received an overwhelmingly negative reaction from the public. Moreover, teachers indicated that they found the terms used in the exam to be well beyond the understanding of most 16-year-olds, or as Anglela Nolet refers to them as “our clientele.”

Most revealing, however, were the minutes of the LBPSB Education Committee , which “reviewed the events leading to the controversy of the Sec. 4 history exam. Discussion on the events and actions to be taken were discussed” and so on. Clearly, Madame Nolet defends the indefensible. Is this the kind of leadership, supporting the status quo, she proposes to continue if elected as Board Chairman?

More important though, vice-chair Nolet is absolutely correct when she states that “the mandate of the Council of Commissioners is to oversee the budget.”

It is equally true the Quebec Education Act grants the democratic right for the taxpaying public to ask questions about the budget without any restrictions.

In 2012, I was denied the right to ask questions and the matter went to the Ethics Commissioner. My written questions to Budget 2013 were dismissed; and since November 2013, I have been barred from asking any questions unless I agreed to many conditions, restrictions and limitations, which were imposed based on falsehoods.

According to a letter to the editor of The Suburban, Dec. 11, 2013, written by Chairperson Suanne Stein Day, titled: “Critic silenced at LBPSB,” she states that “no commissioner had a dissenting opinion” to bar me from asking questions at Council. Mrs. Stein Day wrote it was “not me”, referring to herself. I believe this incident made a mockery of democracy.

School boards should have as an abiding principle Article 177.1 of the Education Act, reproduced on LBPSB’s website, which states that Commissioners “…. must also act with honesty and loyalty and in the interest of the school board and the population served by the school board.”

That’s the democratic way.

Chris Eustace
Pierrefonds

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