Chairperson’s Report to Council for September 2023
Just as the LBPSB was settling in to an exciting year of amazing educational projects, teaching, learning and celebrating not only 25 years of existence as a school board but also celebrating who each student is, by putting the learner first, some serious distractions have hit us.
In starting with our teachers, do know, that I am aware, that this council is well aware that every person who supports a student in their learning and overall school experience is valued and respected. But our teachers, our teachers are being completely disrespected by the current government in their contract negotiations. It is not okay for the government to be holding back in the ongoing public sector negotiations in the unions’ fundamental, reasonable and necessary demands so our teachers can continue to be the best they can be. This government must open its eyes to the critical role teachers play in this society and grant our teachers a respectful settlement for the work they do and the invaluable contributions they are making to this generation and will be making to future generations of students. Our teachers deserve to be recognized as the well-educated professionals they are and key to opening doors to knowledge and learning and excellent citizenship for our students and not thought of as just people standing in front of a classroom of students who can be replaced by “an adult” during teacher shortages. Congratulations to the public sector unions for organizing a highly visible and peaceful rally on Saturday, September 23rd, in Montreal, in order to send the government your powerful message of grave concerns and solidarity.
It is not okay that this government has taken it upon themselves to deposit a list of demands to the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (QPAT) and their French counterparts, on behalf of employers at a negotiation table the Treasury Board has created which has no representation from English school boards or French service centres, a long-standing tradition in the past. These issues are local issues and must be negotiated with local negotiators. The Treasury board must negotiate in good faith, and to borrow phrasing from one of our mentors, Dr. Merna Lashley, stay in their lane.
It is not okay that approximately 400 English-eligible students, possibly many more, are in a bureaucratic backlog waiting for acceptance to English schools in this province. Russell Copeman, Executive Director of the Quebec English School Boards Association, stated in a press release last week that school boards have developed an expertise on eligibility and the QESBA estimates that the majority of these admission cases are clear-cut and could be resolved rapidly, were it not for this backlog. The Ministry owes it to these students and their families to add the necessary resources to get the work done – yesterday!
The Quebec Government has filed an appeal to the carefully analysed and explained ruling on the merits of Bill 40, by respected Justice Sylvain Lussier, released in August of 2023, who concluded that English school boards in Quebec have the right to manage their own schools and that the bill went too far to try to abolish them. This recent appeal by the Quebec Government of the ruling and our section 23 Canadian Constitutional rights, along with Bill 23, an Act to amend the Education Act and to enact the Institut national d’excellence en education currently being studied in committee at the National Assembly, is once again going to immerse the English school board community in a fight for our right to exist and to manage and control our institutions. We have been placed in a David and Goliath situation by the Quebec government where their resources are unlimited compared to ours. This is not okay.
that is okay, though, is that the Lester B. Pearson School Board has a strong vision of Excellence for all, while valuing community, inclusion, innovation, integrity and respect. We are striving to ensure there are safe learning and work spaces for all of our students and staff. We are working on ensuring that we have inclusive policies and practices that embrace the dignity of all members of the LBPSB community. We are proud to be educational leaders and shakers and good listeners, one giant step at a time. We are proud of our commissioners representing students who will be joining us at our Council meetings this school year. We are grateful for a finance department that works tirelessly, constantly facing fiscal challenges, to ensure our school board is in strong financial hands. We are proud of the initiatives taken throughout the school board to recognize the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, but not just for one day, throughout the year. We are proud of the work that takes place at the LBPSB but also know there is always so much more to do while working within our means.
We will continue to remind our community to always be kind, patient and courteous to one another while we strive to be the best we can be. That’s okay.
Judith Kelley – Chairperson LBPSB