Menace to Democracy

School boards should accept criticism… it is a sign of respect.”  

In February 2014, the Quebec English School Boards Association, invited former Education Minister Michelle Courchesne to one of its “Commissioner Readiness” events promoting the school board elections slated for Nov. 2014.

Creator of Bill 88, in 2008, which basically modernized school boards, Madame Courchesne made the aforementioned remark in her talk, and concluded, by sayng : “Parents are the authority.”

That said, the LBPSB does not accept criticism.  It is disrespectful to anyone that opposes its views. Part of the problem lies in the fact that there is no real opposition at Council , as there are at other democratic institutions. The chairman rules.

The Pearson board, in essence, is run like a fiefdom. It is an autocratic, not a true democratic institution.  

For the better part of 16 years, strictly as a volunteer,  I have been “the public” at Council meetings. More often than not, I would submit my questions, comments and suggestions prior to the meeting to commissioners, directorate , Central Parents Committee, local MNAs  and the Minister of Education. This would give the board the opportunity, the time,  to seek and prepare an answer.

Twice I have been barred from asking questions and making comments at the Public Question Period.

The first time was on April 12, 2010, under the chairmanship of Marcus Tabachnick.  It was a special Council meeting; the  press was invited.

The meeting was to announce that the board finally found land for a new off-island English elementary school. By this time, it was acknowledged that the  board had failed to do its homework regarding the acquisition of land, for the fastest growing English community in Quebec. For over two years there were conflicts between Pearson and the local MNAs, mayors, governing boards and the public, in general. (In June 2009, CBC Montreal News, characterised the situation as a “multi-million dollar mess.”)

The second reason was to complain about Bill 104, the access to English schools matter.  It was a faint-hearted complaint, keeping in mind that the Pearson board did nothing of significance regarding the issue when other groups such as the Home and School Association spoke out and asked for help.

Furthermore, recall the Dec. 15, 2008, Supreme Court hearing on Bill 104, when lawyer Brent Tyler informed the Justices that the Quebec English School Boards Association was of no help for his clients seeking access to English schools. (Mr. Tabachnick had been the president of the QESBA, since its inception.)

I was at the Supreme Court hearing. Also, as a member of the QFHSA, I had been pushing for parental choice.  

Anyway, as I approached the podium at Question Period time, without any warning,  I was lambasted and informed by the chair that I could no longer ask questions.

Pictures and story are below.

So what is the real reason Mr. Tabachnick would suddenly deny me the right to ask questions.

Answer:  Following a very low voter turnout in the Nov. 2007, school board elections,  a motion by the opposition to topple the govt. on the question of elected school boards, failed. Consequently school-boards, in early 2008, were requested by the Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne  to submit briefs to justify their existence – their raison d’être.

The briefs were headed “Démocratie et Gouvernance des commissions scolaires,”  a.k.a. “The Future of School Boards.” This was a perfect opportunity for boards, especially the English ones, to push their concerns to support their community.

The English Montreal School Board did; here is an excerpt from its brief in the pdf below:

In order to be able to respond to the employment needs of the English community we recommend that English school boards be given the opportunity to expand their vocational education program that it offers to the population.

The Lester B. Pearson school board  could not be bothered to submit a paper as requested.

This was my “ Question for the LBPSB ‘Special Meeting’ on April 13, 2010:

Why didn’t the Pearson board submit a brief , present a case for the English community, and provide comments on the four themes (role, democracy, transparency, finances), and make recommendations for the Minister of Education?”

No answer. It is this arrogance and negligence combined with a culture of self-entitlement that has not helped the English community.

That is why a major change is needed at Lester B.

(Following the above piece, there are three comments. One is from Suanne Stein Day, Mr. Tabachnick’s staunchest supporter, and presently chairperson of LBPSB.

Note that Madame Stein Day makes reference to the Pearson Educational Foundation, when she was its president.

Unfortunately, it was under SSD’s presidency the name of the PEF was sullied because of a sneaky action taken, which angered many people. Take a glance:

“Dollar debacle shows lack of clear direction” – Sept. 27, 2007