After years of public complaints about the Western Quebec School Board’s communications weaknesses, the recently-elected school board’s council is in the process of a 180 degree revamp. On January 28, the new Chairman, James Shea, and Director-General Paul Lamoureux chaired an open meeting at the board offices in Aylmer to respond to questions pertaining to the Board’s 2013-2014 Annual Report and the Board’s future directions.
“During the (Board’s) election campaign it became evident that
communications with the media, our clientele, and
our parents must be a
significant component of what we do. It’s a challenge in this day of instant communications,” said Shea.
Mr. Lamoureux presented the WQSB’s annual report, approved by the Board’s Council of Commissioners, January 27. “Our annual report outlines the results from our
partnership agreements, our financial statements, report on ethics […],” said Lamoureux. The annual report is a summary of school board operations over the school year.
A partnership agreement with the Ministry of Education sets out five goals: increase graduation and qualification rates of students, improve the
quality of French second language training and the quality of English language arts, improve academic
success within a certain group of students, improve the health and safety
environment in schools, and increase the number of
students in vocational training. “We’ve met the majority of our objectives,”
concluded Mr Lamoureux.
The annual report includes other initiatives and programs of the school board over the last school year such as the
new teacher mentorship
program. This is “our program for the evaluation and supervision of new teachers. It’s a rigid but supportive supervision program that assists new teachers to grow as professionals within the board,” said Lamoureux.
Quebec cuts schools budget
The report also covers the continuing provincial budget cuts. For several years the board was forced to cut its public notices and advertising, training and travel expenses, and general operating expenses. “Bill 100 mainly applies to school board offices; therefore we have significantly reduced our manpower at the board’s offices over the last few years. For every two administrative positions lost, we could only replace one,” Lamoureux noted.
The number of WQSB commissioners was cut last year from 22 to 11. To accommodate these restrictions, council will focus on education and eliminate its standing committees. “All education issues now come to the full council, and council itself will deal with them, plus other issues,” said Shea. The council will now create ad-hoc committees for specific issues and they will disband once the issue is resolved. The board will keep its legally-required committees: audit, human resources, transport, plus an ethics and governance
In the first test of this new approach January 27, Council created an ad-hoc committee to study having student representation on the board. “This is
something I endorse,” added Chariman Shea.
The board also struck a communication committee, chaired by Arlene Brunke. “It’s our responsibility to inform the community, in a variety of ways, starting with building a good relationship with the media,” said Shea. The board’s original
communications plan did not materialize because it lost a human resource officer and the new budget did not fund a communications officer. “Not to impact the classroom, certain measures were taken and that was one,” explained Mr Shea.