Maccarone: “Parents need more choice”

Maccarone: “Parents need more choice”

SWLSB shortchanged on school taxes

By Robert Frank

Jennifer Maccarone wants to give schools newer technology, introduce accelerated learning facilities and bolster programs for special needs students.

“I very much want to see Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board [SWLSB) establish an alternative school,” Maccarone, who is running to chair SWLSB in the Nov. 2 election, told The Suburban. “We’re seeing an exodus of students to Montreal when they start high school, because they want to attend schools that challenge them like Royal West Academy. We know that parents would rather have more choice so their children could remain within our school board.”

“It would also provide an opportunity to serve surrounding communities in St. Eustache, Rosemere and Deux Montagnes,” she said in an interview.

“Technology is one of our top budget priorities, together with special needs,” she added. “SWLSB’s 35,000 territory is the size of Belgium. To put in fibre optics to reach some communities is hugely expensive and we don’t receive those subsidies.”

Maccarone, who is leading the EducACTION ticket in the campaign against her opponent Steve Bletas’ Students First ticket, called for tax equity for English school boards.

“Make taxes equal. Make them fair,” she asserted. “It shouldn’t cost more to have an English education. My neighbour pays about 45 per cent less taxes than I do. That’s a gigantic discrepancy. It should not cost more [than French school board taxpayers pay.]”

Besides paying much higher taxes, Maccarone said that English students are being shortchanged because the election authority isn’t ensuring that homeowners with children who attend SWLSB schools pay their taxes to SWLSB. The much lower taxes for French ratepayers discourages them from asking to have their taxes redirected to support English schools, she explained.

Councilor Vasilios Karidogiannis, who represents Abord à Plouffe on Laval city council, corroborated Maccarone’s complaint.

“Just got my voter card. And guess what? On the French list!” he told The Suburban via Facebook.

“Funny, I pay my school taxes to SWLSB and my kids go to one of their schools! How is it in my best interest to vote in the French system?” Karidogiannis asked.

Maccarone also questioned recent provincial government education cutbacks.

“Administration consumes only 3.5 per cent of our operating budget. That’s beyond lean. In private industry, if that figure is 10 per cent, you are considered incredibly efficient,” said Maccarone, who worked in the pulp and paper industry before opening her own advertising and investor relations firm.

She vowed to bring a more harmonious atmosphere to SWLSB council if she is elected.

“The tone will change.” she said, underscoring her seven years service on SWLSB’s Central Parents’ Committee, which she has chaired for the last two years. “I’m prepared to hit the ground running in terms of building more positive relationships.”

“I have also served on the special education advisory committee for the past four years, which I have chaired for the past two years as well,” added Maccarone, who is the mother of two autistic children. “One of the reason that I have become so involved in education is that kids with special needs give you a unique perspective on life. They educate me. They’ve given me a unique perspective on life and how you can give back, for which I am grateful. Things that once seemed important to me don’t seem as important any longer.”

So where will the money come from to fund these programs?

“We’re looking forward to help from SWLSB’s international school program, which we expect to earn just shy of $700,000 in profit this year,” she said, “a figure that will continue to grow.”

The vocational program that SWLSB announced last month enlists students from third-world countries like India and China who pay to come to Laval to study health-care related occupations.

“The Laurier Foundation [charity] has also raised close to $600,000 since its inception,” Maccarone added. “Adult education is growing. Our agenda is to found more such programs which furthers the educational opportunities for our student and helps to raise money for the school board that we can inject to support our students.”

She concluded by urging voters to show up at polling stations to cast their ballot, Nov. 2.

“This is your voice,” she implored. “Protect your educational system. Elections cost a lot of money. If you don’t vote, [the Quebec government] could say ‘We’ll reinject hat money back into your schools and put someone else in charge. That someone can’t be a person sitting in a 10 x 10 room somewhere in Quebec City.”
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Jennifer Maccarone (left), who is running to lead Sir Wilfred Laurier School Board, met Quebec Family Minister and Minister for Laval, Francine Charbonneau, Sept. 29.

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