International program gets light, heat
By Joel Ceausu
Last week’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) council meeting was a long affair.
Recruiting students from abroad has become popular with Quebec’s budget-slashed school boards, eager to fill dwindling coffers with yuan and rupees from Asian families keen on giving their kids a leg up, while using hard cash from the developing world to buttress Canadian students’ educations.
Last month, SWLSB piggybacked on a trip to India and China scheduled by Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB)—an old hand at recruiting foreign students. As previously reported in The Suburban, the trip earned outrage from some commissioners because it was never officially announced at a public council meeting, and chairman Nick Milas went to India courtesy of private Toronto-based consulting firm Edu-Edge, which the public board has partnered with to recruit clients, and gone into business with a health program.
Director-general Stephanie Vucko said the trip’s efforts will help the board earn more than $640,000 in profit this year, but a private firm funding the chairman’s trip rattled commissioner Mike Pizzola, who suggested Milas or the board reimburse them.
The issue saw no debate, as commissioner Emilio Migliozzi moved to “postpone it indefinitely,” swiftly supported by a majority and effectively—given council’s expiration this month—burying the issue for now.
Council might not be looking at it, but the board’s own ethics commissioner apparently is.
Vucko maintained it was important for the chairperson to be there. “Seeing the chairman there on the ground, that is something that is respected,” she said. “It helps with the buy-in.”
The board also launched a public-private business partnership with Edu-Edge and the Pearson board to operate a Health Centre with programs in pharmacy assistance, health assistance and nursing, a booming sector says Vucko, given that “homecare is the number one” vocational program in China for targeted clientele.
The ten-year business partnership with Edu-Edge was not open to tender, as it was a new business arrangement and not like a purchase from a supplier, said Vucko. “This is not a service, this is an investment.”
Vucko and Milas offered gratitude to LBPSB and its chair Suanne Stein Day for their generosity in allowing SWLSB to accompany them on their trip and for offering the Laval board the learning experience it needs to make money off foreign students.
Its Laval arrangement now gives it a presence on three distinct school board territories, including its own in the West Island and a downtown operation in English Montreal School Board territory, raising the hackles of that board for what it deems an intrusion onto its exclusive territory.