Maccarone: “English schools essential community hubs”
By Robert Frank
Faced with the prospect of a $1.7 million budget cut by Quebec City, Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB) chair Jennifer Maccarone told The Suburban that it might have to cut back on support staff for special needs students.
Education Minister François Blais has tightened school budget strictures. He’s given the provinces school boards until June 1 to propose a way to meet their obligations with less money.
“It’s already had tangible effects,” Maccarone said in an interview. “We had no choice but to cut our spiritual animator, for instance. We’ve gone through a staffing reorganization that not only better distributes our services but also meets the expectations of the Minister.”
“That saved us $650,000,” she continued, meaning that SWLSB is still short more than $1 million after all its cutbacks so far.
“We’re less than barebones,” she added. “We need to find a solution, because we don’t want to affect any of the services to our students, especially those who are most at risk.
Maccarone said that she was dismayed that bureaucrats in Quebec City “have come to see education as a cost, rather than as an investment.”
She underscored that SWLSB has already pared its administrative overhead to 3.5 per cent of its budget.
“That’s less than barebones,” she said. “We’re running an extremely lean organization.”
The struggle to cope with the budget crunch therefore imperils some 270 support staff. They include the people who supply additional resources, help handicapped children and other special need students function in regular classes, provide educational technology expertise, psychological counseling and monitor attendance.
“They could be at risk, absolutely,” Maccarone confirmed. “Absolutely. That’s potentially the only place we have to cut with respect to the services to our students but clearly that’s not the direction [SWLSB] council wants to go in. We’re going to work very hard to find a way so that that is not the case. We’re going the explain to the [Education] Minister that it’s important that we work together and that he understands the potential impact that the [ministry’s new] budget rules will have on our population.”
“Elected commissioners are there to protect those schools,” Maccarone explained. “Without them, there is no one to get in the way of government when they come in and say that’s not efficient, so we’re going to save some money by closing schools.”
Maccarone emphasized that by restricting access to English schools, Bill 101 has given Quebec even greater responsibility to protect its English minority.
“Now, as a minority group, it’s important that they take care of us,” she insisted. “They’re now responsible for us. I expect them to be responsible for us.”
“English schools are much more than educational centres for our communities,” she concluded. “They are hubs that deliver health care, social, sporting and many other forms of community support. Commissioners are elected to protect those services in their regions.”