Chairperson’s Report to Council for May 2023
This is an extremely busy time of year for our school board as each school and centre celebrates its students and staff as the academic year is gradually coming to an end (with the exception of course, for many students in continuing education programs), while at the same time looking ahead to the next school year and all of the opportunities and challenges that a new school year brings. The number of incredible accomplishments and initiatives taken by school communities recently, in addition to ensuring curriculum is delivered and learning takes place in meaningful ways, make this school board one we should all be very proud of. Are there challenges and difficulties along the way? Yes there are. But, it is important to acknowledge the phenomenal work that is taking place in our schools and centres by dedicated (yet exhausted) staff throughout the board. A deep heartfelt thank you goes out to all.
As you will hear with the number of reports and resolutions that will be presented, discussed, adopted and approved this evening, the Council of Commissioners and the Administration of the school board have been working very hard to ensure the LBPSB is the best it can be. Commissioners are committed to their work at the governing board level, the committee level, the policy level, within our communities and to the work we do with the administration of the school board, who, under the exceptional direction of Dr. Cindy Finn, work tirelessly to ensure the best services and educational opportunities are available to our students.
However, recently, Bill 23, An Act to amend mainly the Education Act and to enact the Act respecting the Institut national d’excellence in education, will give the minister more powers, including the power to appoint directors general in school boards and school service centres and the power to reverse decisions made by those same employees. In essence, this law, this amendment, if adopted, will have DGs answer directly to the Minister of Education. This Bill contains elements which are in direct violation of the Supreme Court rulings of Section 23 of the Canadian Charter of rights and Freedoms which includes a right to a measure of management and control of minority language school boards – in Quebec, English language school boards. This amendment will directly diminish and modify the working relationship the Councils of Commissioners have with their Directors General, (and, as well, in the Centre de services scolaire). Removing the right to hire a DG at the local level, at the community level, could potentially affect the very nature of our English school boards which reflect our communities according to their unique populations and regions. We are not a one-size-fits-all. This is a terrible Bill for our school boards. We should all be angry and outraged by this proposed structural change.
In addition, recently, across the province, a directive came to us from the government, by the Minister of Education, banning prayer rooms in public schools. This directive was made during the end of the month of Ramadan, a move that was not only disrespectful to Muslim communities in its timing, but also absolutely unnecessary in its intent to abolish spaces that are used, as the Minister said “in fact and in appearance, for the purposes of religious practices such as open prayers or other similar practices.” At the LBPSB we had no choice but to implement the directive, even though it clashes with Quebec English School Boards’ culture of valuing and celebrating religious diversity. We, however, out of respect for the dignity and personal convictions of our students, will not abolish spaces intended for quiet reflection, time, or work where they, as individuals, have a right to reflect upon whatever they may choose.
I try to stay away from political topics in my reports, but these recent developments coming from the Ministry and Minister of Education do not align with our values at the LBPSB. In the coming days, we have been told by Judge Lussier, who is ruling on the merits of Bill 40 and its application to English school boards, that his judgement will take place before June 24th. It is critical that the English education community stand up for our Charter rights and to ensure that our students are given the opportunity to receive the best education we can provide in their culture and language.
In the meantime, I repeat, a heartfelt thank you to the LBPSB, and all it does for our students and our community in its excellence and leadership in education.
Please, be kind, civil and respectful toward one another as we work toward our common goals.