Townships’ School Boards deplore lack of vision
All four French and English language school boards in the Townships’ have joined together to deplore the absence of a real vision toward academic success in Bill 86, particularly for students in the region. The Quebec government is currently consulting on the draft Bill “An Act to modify the organization and governance of school boards to give schools a greater say in decision-making and ensure parents’ presence within each school board’s decision-making body”. The Townships’ felt challenged by the introduction of this bill, and was heard in consultation on March 24 in Quebec City.
The Townships’ school boards believe that Bill 86 dilutes the efforts that should be made to support student success and raises questions. How to ensure student success? Who are likely to be open to working in partnership within a model of pedagogical, administrative and elective governance in order to achieve this goal? The Townships’ school boards are therefore concerned with the importance given to academic achievement and of the role of each player whether from an urban or a rural area. Improvements to keep
From the outset, the school boards in the Townships’ have been favourable towards some elements of the bill. They are supportive of the fact that the strategic plan of a school board becomes the commitment-to-success plan. They are also in agreement with the idea of a resource allocation committee, which would be beneficial to each community and in particular to the rural regions.
However, the chairmen wish to maintain school board democracy. “For the Commission scolaire des Sommets, it is especially important that real efforts are made to increase the rate of participation in school elections, emphasizes Chairman Jean -Philippe Bachand. Abolishing school board democracy is depriving each citizen of his control over education. We propose to hold school elections simultaneously with municipal elections and change the election date to the first Sunday in October. We believe that these actions will allow us to reach more voters. "The importance of the parents’ role
The Townships’ school boards are in agreement with Bill 86 regarding the fact that parents’ presence be greater. Their number has even increased significantly since the last election. However, they are questioning the way the minister wishes to obtain their presence. “The current bill with its proposed structural changes does nothing to increase the role of parents due to the centralization of authority to the ministry. Furthermore, abolishing democratically elected commissioners merely removes governance by the community at large to governance by users, effectively substituting representation by the entire community for governance by a minority, therefore diminishing the collective voice of the Anglophone community,” expressed the Chairman of the Eastern Townships School Board, Michael Murray.
"Elected representatives reside in their constituencies, they receive feedback from their fellow citizens and know the reality of the students, explains Patricia Sévigny, Vice-Chairman of the Commission scolaire des Hauts–Cantons. School representatives are also able to create partnerships that support student success and improvements to the infrastructure. The importance of this close contact, this vector of development, does not seem to have been taken into account in Bill 86."
In addition, Townships’ school boards believe that the Minister lacks understanding as to the involvement of elected school officials within the communities. "With the presence of a large number of private schools in the Sherbrooke area, elected school officials play a key role
in the promotion and enhancement of public education in their territory. In addition, a detailed knowledge of our environment allows us to understand the message of the 23 % of immigrants who are among our clientele, to ensure an equitable distribution of resources and that all students have access to the same quality of service. We build partnerships that are necessary to answer the needs of students," maintains Mr. Gilles Normand, Chairman of the Commission scolaire de la Région-de-Sherbrooke.
In short, the school boards in the Townships’ believe that Bill 86 is on the wrong track. They believe that the current structure of school boards is already responsive to the wishes expressed by Bill 86 on representativeness and effectiveness. Does this mean that a deeper reflection on our educational system is useless? Obviously not, but it should be done taking into perspective the educational success of students. The largest concern for their success mentioned by the government should lead to an Estates General on education and the production of a province wide policy on academic success and perseverance that would provide guidance and clear benchmarks.