Immersion debate continues to percolate at LBPSB

By Robert Frank

Revelations that French-immersion classes are being taught in English gained pace last week, while school administration and staff seethed at being scapegoated.

“Move on,” Lester B. Pearson School Board chair Day urged, in declining to appear again on CBC Daybreak, Friday morning to discuss the debacle. She suggested that there are more important issues to discuss in the leadup to the Nov. 2 school board election.

Day pinned blame for the mess on Macdonald High School administration. Principal Jad Deegan, in turn, claimed that he did not know that French-immersion teachers were conducting their classes in English. The only person to be punished following the immersion revelations is the 12-year-old boy who helped bring the deception to public attention by recording the class.

Deegan suspended the boy last week for allegedly breaking an LBPSB policy that’s designed to protect children. His school board boss, Steven Colpitts, defended the blot on the boy’s otherwise unblemished behaviour record. Colpitts said that it’s important that teachers feel “comfortable” in class.

This week, Stein Day continued to claim credit for LBPSB’s success in turning out bilingual graduates—a central plank in her election platform. Her opponents fretted that there will not be enough time to determine the depth of the immersion problem before voters go to the advance poll this Sunday, Oct. 26, and the main ballot, Nov. 2.

“The principal was left to hang out to dry,” reproached candidate Chris Eustace. “[Stein Day] should be completely up-front as to whether every school can or cannot teach in French.”

Outgoing LBPSB vice-chair Angela Nolet also admonished Stein Day for not taking responsibility for the mess.

“There is no resolve in delegating blame,” she said during the Oct. 20 candidates debate, webcast on

During a similar debate at Greendale school last week, Stein Day disclosed that the inability to deliver immersion courses in French pervades LBPSB—and could worsen.

She explained that LBPSB is stuck with legacy staff who aren’t fluent enough to teach in French. Stein Day added that LBPSB is caught in a bind. She said that the problem will be exacerbated by declining enrolment, which will force LBPSB to trim its teaching staff by 17.

Union seniority rules dictate that the most recently hired, bilingual teachers will be the first to go, while longtime LBPSB veterans keep their jobs.

Meantime, the parents and siblings of the 12-year-old whistleblower told The Suburban that they fear further reprisals by vindictive school officials.

“Parents feel intimidated when they approach the board and many employees feel that they’re not [as] appreciated as they should be,” Nolet observed.
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