Chairperson’s Report to Council for February 2022
by Judy Kelley, Chairperson, LBPSB
I had originally planned that in my opening remarks tonight that I would focus on what we normally associate the month of February with in education: Black History Month, Teacher Appreciation and Staff appreciation weeks, Hooked on School week, as well as activities based on the Quebec Winter Carnival, Valentine’s Day and in some years, such as this one, the Winter Olympics. I certainly still want to acknowledge all the work that has been done in classrooms across the Board this month to enrich and enhance student learning. I would also like to recognize all school board employees who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support their communities in a myriad of ways.
Instead, I am opening my remarks with a refrain from my closing words at recent meetings. I am asking everyone to promote KINDNESS in everything you do. A society, a community, 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 our community, which is now struggling with how to cope with the violent death of Lucas Gaudet, a 16-year-old student, one of our Lester B. Pearson School Board children.
What makes me feel particularly sad, is that tonight, I have selected most of my words for this report by taking passages from my Chair’s reports since this council resumed sitting in October. As I was struggling with what to say, and to acknowledge the pain so many are feeling, as best I can, I remembered that I had already said what I was trying to find the words to express. I apologize, I had hoped my message for you tonight would be much different.
I first must reach out, with deep sympathy, to the family and loved ones and friends of 16-year-old, Lucas Gaudet, who lost his life, tragically and violently, as had other young victims in Montreal, only a few months ago. This brings and brought forth profound soul searching as we grapple with such violence, as we try to process the absolutely senseless death of young people, in the middle of the afternoon, in places where they should have been safe and secure. I had recently spoken specifically about students outside of the LBPSB who had been victims of youth violence and of personal despair. Because every student matters. Because their stories could be our stories. That we were listening. And, this is where we are today.
I wrote that our students have endured more than we can imagine since March 2020. That 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. I wondered 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 also includes 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. I have been touched by the messages I have received in the last 2 weeks, some from people I know, from some who I don’t know, from an MP, an MNA, from community workers and of course, commissioners, who have offered to help, as a collective, to embrace our youth as we try to understand the underlying societal issues and personal issues that could be the reason for some of the unrest. After all, our school communities, as microcosms, reflect our society’s positives and negatives.
I ask our community, again, as I had in the past, to work together to do what is best for all our students, with respect and civility. To care about each other. To mourn the loss of a young student with grace and resolve and compassion. Could we please take action, on a daily basis, to contribute to changing the tone and to help us all to find solutions to what at times seems out of our control. What are the examples of such actions that come to your mind? Let us all work together to make a difference for our students, our raison d’être. Let’s be kind, let’s be patient, let’s be the best we can be. Let’s do this in memory of and to honour Lucas Gaudet.