By Robert Frank
LBPSB Chair Suanne Stein Day faced an angry standing-room-only crowd, June 8, at a special meeting to appoint a new director general, Michael Chechile, to succeed Robert Mills who is retiring.
Nearly 200 people packed LBPSB council chamber to protest staff cuts two weeks ago, in the wake of deeper Education Ministry budget cuts than the school board had expected. More will follow, Stein Day warned.
She apologized for the uncaring way that the school board notified the 25 support staff it intends to shed, including 18 part-time documentation technicians who serve 37 elementary school libraries.
“I didn’t see the letter until after the fact,” she explained to the angry crowd. “I agree it was cold and not what I would like to have seen.”
Cut from the top instead
She told Hudson resident Jonathan Penney that the firings will save the school board $400,000.
Penney condemned the bottom-up cuts, suggesting that the real problem is that school boards are top-heavy and need to save money on overhead.
“You found librarians the least valuable in the education process,” he observed.
“That’s not how the decision was made,” Stein Day replied.
“Of course it is,” Penney retorted. “Why not merge with another school board?”
After the cuts, LBPSB will still employ two full-time staff in elementary school libraries, as well as a full-time person in each of its 12 high school libraries, Stein Day said.
“Once we get the finalized budget rules from the Education Ministry, some other positions could be abolished,” she acknowledged. “We’re looking at all levels of management as well.”
Stein Day wondered aloud whether the educrats in Quebec City have an inkling of the disruption the changes that they are imposing will entail.
“There are [almost] no pedagogues left in the [Education] Ministry,” she noted. “The only one left is assistant deputy minister Chantal Beaulieu. Do they really understand the impact of these changes?”
To help fill the void left in elementary school libraries, LBPSB plans to rely more heavily on parents who volunteer there.
“[The remaining full-time documentation technicians] could also provide services to the schools that are losing them,” Stein Day said. “It might be [reduced to] one day every two weeks.”
Independent Association of Support Staff president Anita Nenadovich regretted that the school board has put parents at odds with the interests of LBPSB’s qualified library technicians.
“These are not 20th century librarians who stamped your loan card,” the support staff union leader explained in an interview. “Students now have to do research online from a very early age.”
“Library technicians are at the heart of integrating 21st century education technology with the curriculum,” Nenadovich emphasized. “Electronic books; book club blogs; purchasing and tracking systems; and collect and research material for literacy programs.”
To train volunteer parents to do that could be “to replace our library staff with free labour.”
The support staff’s collective agreement stipulates that the school board can’t use volunteers or trainees if that would entail the layoff, demotion or reduction in working hours or abolishment of an employee’s position.
“The government is devastating support to students and teachers by placing the burden of their austerity measures on the backs of our children’s education,” Nenadovich concluded. “Where is this going to end?”
“Any one of the bureaucrats at [the Quebec Education Ministry] gets paid more than my entire council,” added Stein Day. “The compensation for my council is $110,000 a year. No benefits. When you add in the value of their pension, I don’t think that a single person working at the [the Quebec Education Ministry] gets paid less than that.”
LBPSB submitted its budget proposal to the Education Ministry June 1. Following Monday’s council meeting, The Suburban asked Stein Day whether LBPSB will have the information that it needs from Quebec City to pass its austerity budget at LBPSB’s next council meeting, June 29.
“It might not be before the end of the summer,” she replied.
Note: Following publication online of an earlier version of this report, Anita Nenadovich noted that the fifth-to-last paragraph ought to have read “To train volunteer parents…” and not “To train volunteer students…” That paragraph was immediately corrected but the error inadvertently again found its way into the print edition. She had also clarified her statement in the third-to-last paragraph, explaining that documentary technicians who work in LBPSB libraries provide “support” to teachers and not “guidance”, which the print edition of the newspaper also ought to have reflected. We sincerely regret the errors.