School Board reform – a hot topic in West Quebec

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Deborah Powell

SHAWVILLE – The first of three Town Hall meetings to explain and discuss Bill 86, “An act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and to ensure parents’ presence with each school board’s decision-making body,” was held at Pontiac High School,
January 18.

Deborah Powell

SHAWVILLE – The first of three Town Hall meetings to explain and discuss Bill 86, “An act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and to ensure parents’ presence with each school board’s decision-making body,” was held at Pontiac High School,
January 18.
PHS principal, Eldon Keon, welcomed participants and introduced the head table: Paul Lamoureux, Director General of the West Quebec School Board (WQSB), James Shea, WQSB Chair, and Rhonda Boucher, Chair of the Parents’ Committee and President of the English Parents Committee Association (EPCA). Pontiac MNA André Fortin was also
introduced.
It took Lamoureux over an hour to summarize the Bill, which was presented in the National Assembly in December, and answer questions. He began by saying
the Bill is now in consultation and the public can
have input through the National Assembly website
(www.assnat.qc.ca). A PowerPoint presentation
summarizing the new legislation is available at www.wqsb.qc.ca.
In essence, Bill 86 would abolish the Act respecting School Elections, the Council of Commissioners, and the Executive Committee. The new governing body, called School Council, would be made up of six parents, at least one of whom has a child with special needs, two school principals, one teacher, one non-teaching professional and six community representatives.
Parents on the new School Council are elected by
the Parents’ Committee and must have at least one
year’s experience on a governing board, school board
committee or council.
The Parents’ Committee may also designate the six community representatives following a public call for
candidates. “However, the school board must consult with its 7,000 parents to ask if they want a broader
election to choose the community reps. The minister has suggested that if 15% of parents want an election, we must go that route,” said Lamoureux, adding that an electronic option would be available in order to make it easier for parents to have a say. “If a broader election is chosen, those on the electoral list will have voting rights,” he added.
The Bill also gives more power to individual school governing boards, including the right to advise the school board on the principal’s work performance for the purpose of annual evaluation.
The Ministry of Education is given the power to involve itself in the workings of school boards, including the right to modify territories and remove director generals.
With evident frustration, Boucher outlined recommendations from the English School Boards Election Systems Study Panel that she had taken part in. “Twelve weeks of work went into that report and the minister just dismissed it,” she said. “Parent reps need the right to vote, but we also stand by universal
suffrage for the election of
community representatives. Another problem is that
parent reps have to resign from their local school body in order to sit on the new School Council. It’s already difficult enough to keep people who have experience,” she added.
Fortin acknowledged
concerns expressed by participants about the lack of
guarantees in the new bill for rural representation, but said he believed minority rights were still protected. He reminded participants there is still time for input and that the Bill could be amended before it comes up for debate.
Eleven days of consultations for Bill 86 will start at the end of January. Organizations speaking for the minority Anglophone population
will include the Regional Association of West Quebecers (RAWQ), the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), the EPCA, the Association of Administrators of English School Boards, and the Quebec Community Group Network.