English school commissioners in Verdun and LaSalle

By Tracey Arial


Voters in Verdun and LaSalle have to choose between two and four school-board commissioner candidates, depending on where they live.

People living in Lester B. Pearson’s ward 1, which includes Nun’s Island and mainland Verdun plus the Bronx in LaSalle, will choose from among Sergio Borja, Jim Bytheway, Mary Ann Davis and Bob Dubois for local commissioner. They will cast ballots at either Allion School in LaSalle or Riverview School in Verdun.

Voters in ward 2, which covers the rest of LaSalle, have to choose between two current councillors, Frank di Bello, who has already served for four terms and Ruben Fazio, who has served for the last two terms. Voters will cast ballots at St. Lawrence Academy Senior.

Di Bello and Fazio are counting on experience to get them votes, but the candidates competing in ward 1 have vastly different styles of campaigning. Like di Bello and Fazio, Borja has been a commissioner for the past 11 years and is counting on his experience and links to local groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, to carry votes. Bytheway and Dubois have governing board, foundation and school-board committee experience and are tapping into parent and staff acquaintances for votes. Davis is a newcomer to the school board system, but she’s using her municipal election experience to encourage people who’ve never voted for school board commissioners before to go out and vote now.

The fact that I am basically a newcomer gives me an advantage, for me it’s a clean slate and bringing change would be much easier for me,” said Davis. “I believe I will bring a fresh progressive analysis to the school board because I am not bogged down by years of service and apathy. You know me as a dynamic hard working person who is not afraid to demand change, and I can guarantee you, I will demand change.”

She also sees a potential battle with the provincial government brewing.

“I think in the coming months-years fighting austerity measures imposed on school boards by a government who chooses to cut without taking into account the needs of the communities is definitely going to take up a good part of our time. Chances are in Verdun we will be fighting once again for the survival of one of our elementary schools. We will have to mobilize the community to fight that ongoing battle.”

Dubois claims to be the front-runner and says his experience and understanding of school culture will ensure he does a good job.

I want to use my experience to put moneys in the classroom, improve communications and reduce commissioner attendance at out-of-town conferences,” said Dubois, who lists five planks in his platform at the board level and another five at the school level.

“Commissioners should also have a say in the appointments of principals and vice-principals.”

He also says that current commissioner Borja tried to intimidate him at an early candidate’s meeting. He filed a police report into the issue, which is being investigated. Borja hasn’t yet responded to questions about the incident.

All the Verdun and LaSalle candidates, even those who have served many terms as commissioners, include openness to the community in their platforms. They all want accountability, safe schools, successful students and transparency in their administration.

For the bios, websites and contact information for all six councillors, refer to:


Also, to help with the choice of chair, watch debates between chair candidates Chris Eustace, Angela Nolet and Suanne Stein Day, at:


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