Chairperson’s Report to Council
for November 2021
by Judy Kelley, Chairperson, LBPSB
The Lester B. Pearson students are our raison d’être. Sitting with us at our table of the Council of Commissioners, are Annika Heron and Emily Raynor, the two student commissioners elected by their peers to represent the students on this council. I want you to know that we are proud of your commitment to education, like that of your predecessors. We recognize your contributions to the Central Students Committee, to your schools and to your peers, your powerful voices, your engagement, your leadership and your passion for the work you do. You impress us.
Students of the LBPSB, please know that your views, your opinions, your ideas, your convictions, your input, your involvement, your determination, your caring, your learning, your teaching us, your being part of this school board’s vision for excellence in education is very much appreciated by us all.
Many of us had an opportunity to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11th. Thanks to the organization and commitment of a truly dedicated LBPSB spiritual animator, Beverly Landry, a number of school board representatives were invited to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony at Heroes Park in Beaconsfield. Along with Major Richard Graton leading the ceremony, in attendance that day were a number of officials from various levels of government and local community organizations, and, please note, LBPSB students from Christmas Park, John Rennie and Beaconsfield High School who joined hands with elementary students from Centre de services, Marguerite Bourgeoys, École St. Remi. The students listened (we could have heard a pin drop) read passages, read poems and played ceremonial music, moving us all with their tender recognition and remembrance of Canadian War Veterans. The sun shone brightly while our community stood together.
During the following week, our high school students were given the green light to remove their medical masks in classrooms, worn as we all know, to help to protect them from spreading or catching the Covid-19 virus. The general LBPSB message to students on this government shift was that students would not be compelled to remove their masks but had an option to do so. Although anecdotal, it seems that a majority of students made a choice to continue wearing their masks. They made informed choices. Students used their critical thinking skills. The made their own decisions. Although I never doubted students might keep the status quo for the time being, I wondered about on the 15th of November, what the mask removal might look like across our classrooms and how the school communities might be feeling. We have all learned that the COVID-19 virus and its variants keep us standing on shaky ground.
De-masking faded into the background of my mind, though, on the same day, as LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School became the face of a difficult situation regarding a well-publicized disciplinary incident. As we all tried to understand the details as they unfolded, at the same time, a strong and vibrant school community had to work through their feelings and reactions to these circumstances. To the students of LCCHS, we recognize the stress you have endured, and the disruption to your learning that might have occurred as you dealt with the impact of this incident on your school life. I hope it helps you to know that the staff of LCCHS care about you very much, that they have worked hard toward building an excellent school for you, that they are caring and empathetic and are committed to ensuring you learn to the best of your abilities in an environment of respect and dignity.
It was heart-warming to learn about compassionate and proactive students at another LaSalle school, as well. Children’s World Academy elementary school, under the leadership of two determined grade 5 students, spear-headed a book drive for the Montreal Children’s Foundation in order to bring the joy of reading to patients at the hospital. To see the enthusiasm and the energy in an interview on CTV with such articulate and impressive students, symbolized to me that positive action to help others builds up everyone’s spirits.
Our students have endured more than we can imagine since March 2020. We need to recognize their resilience but also the strain on the mental health and well-being of our youth that has surfaced, that will surface or for some may remain internalized, but not without consequence. Our students, go about the day-to-day of striving to be their best when they don’t always feel their best. I am wondering if we could all look out for the signs of struggle. That we reach out. That we stay away from negativity and harsh criticism of others, especially on social media – that is criticism of our school administrators, teachers, support staff, professionals, all who work with our students, and that we strive, instead to find positive, caring and constructive messages for each other.
Before I wrap up my report, I reach out, with deep sympathy, to the families, loved ones and friends of 16-year-olds, Jannai Dopwell Bailey and Thomas Trudel, whose funerals took place recently, their lives lost, tragically, due to violence. I also reach out to Deion Pearce and Joseph Ashoona, the remarkable students at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, who through a mature beyond years and brave national appeal, told their story about organizing a peaceful protest march regarding the lack of mental health resources in their community where despair and youth suicide is prevalent. Theirs is a heartfelt cry for help.
Why, you may be thinking, am I speaking about youth outside of the LBPSB? Because every student matters. And their stories could be our stories. We are listening.
I conclude by thanking everyone across the school board who is making a difference for our students, our raison d’être. I hope you won’t get tired of my restating that I would like us to promote KINDNESS in every corner of our board. A daily act of kindness does not cost a cent. A society without pervasive kindness costs us all. We must make a positive difference. We need to lead by example. Bringing out the goodness in all of us, using this endless resource, will enhance and enrich the fact that we are the best school board in the Province.
Chairperson, LBPSB Council of Commissioners