Media advisory - QESBA unveils school board elections information and awareness plan



    School access, curriculum and school board reform likely dominant issues
    in upcoming campaign

    MONTREAL, Sept. 19 /CNW Telbec/ - The following is a statement delivered
by Marcus Tabachnick, President, and Debbie Horrocks, Vice-President of the
Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) at a news conference in
Montreal this morning. The statement announces an information and awareness
plan on school board elections, to be held on Sunday, November 4th, 2007. Also
present at the news conference were the other members of the QESBA Executive
Committee: Carolyn Curiale, Frank Verrillo, John Ryan and, representing the
Chairs of the member Boards of QESBA: Michael Murray of Eastern Townships
School Board, Michael Chiasson of Western Quebec and Steve Bletas of
Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.

    "On Sunday, November 4th, 2007, Quebecers will be called to the polls to
vote in elections that have an important bearing on the future of our
children, on the future of the communities we serve. On that day, school board
commissioners will be elected across the province, at nine English school
boards as well as 60 French ones. Unfortunately, most Quebecers don't know
enough about these elections or about the essential role played by the school
boards that will be elected on that day.
    The Quebec English School Boards Association is here today to change
that. We are here to launch an awareness and information campaign on school
board elections that we hope will help attain three objectives:

    
    1. An engaging, informative and inclusive school board election campaign
       in English-speaking communities across Quebec
    2. Increased candidate and voter participation in those elections, and
    3. A growing and informed consensus on the essential role of elected
       English school boards in Quebec.

    At Quebec's nine English school boards, a total of 161 commissioners'
posts will be up for election. The Councils of Commissioners are responsible
for setting educational policy, allocating some $900 million in tax dollars
each year, and overseeing the general operations of 340 elementary and high
schools and adult centres serving 110,000 students each day. The individuals
elected on November 4th will shape English school board policies and
decision-making on such questions as access to English schools, curriculum
reform, major school change, French second-language programs and services to
students with special needs. Elected school boards are responsible to the
communities that elect them. Quebec's English school boards represent the only
level of government elected uniquely by those who identify themselves with
Quebec's English-speaking communities. That is an important and demanding
role. QESBA is determined to make sure voters get every chance to understand
how school boards work, what duties commissioners complete, and how each voter
can fully exercise his democratic right to participate in the over-all
process.
    We are here to announce that QESBA, in cooperation with the Ministry of
Education, Recreation and Sports, the Fédération des commissions scolaires du
Québec and the Directeur Général des élections as well as our nine member
school boards, has undertaken the following steps to promote participation in
and awareness of school board elections in the English-speaking communities we
serve:

    - Each of our member school boards is now in the process of circulating
      to parents, Governing Boards and local community groups the first two
      in a series of four pamphlets to facilitate involvement and
      participation in school board elections. The first two are now in
      circulation: a) How to get on the voters' list and b) How to run as a
      candidate.
    - Two more pamphlets, one, a candidates' campaign checklist and finally,
      a voting card to encourage voting turnout on Election Day, are about to
      be published.
    - Today, QESBA is launching its designated website on school board
      elections, with links to each of our nine boards and to the Directeur
      général des élections, at www.qesba.qc.ca.
    - This morning, we completed distribution to every English public school
      in Quebec of a poster promoting school board elections. You see a copy
      of the poster here, and a full-page reproduction of it appeared in The
      Gazette this morning.
    

    Each of these initiatives is designed to shed new light on the place of
elected school boards in Quebec, and to strengthen that place through enhanced
public participation on November 4th.
    QESBA is on the record as supporting a renewed and focused public
discussion on the roles and responsibilities of elected school boards.
Linguistic school boards have now been in place for a decade. We agree that
now is a good time to examine how we function, how we exercise our powers and
how we involve our parents and communities in important decisions on the
future of public education. What better time to focus such a discussion than
during an election campaign? The communications tools we outlined just now are
designed to encourage that discussion. How can English school boards best
address continuing questions of access to English schooling? Are we
representing our communities well on curriculum reform, on major school
change? Should there be modifications to the number of commissioners on school
boards, the remuneration of commissioners, the dates of elections? These are
all important questions. An engaged, well-covered and inclusive school board
election campaign can help ensure that those questions are on the public
agenda.
    Generally, school board elections have not garnered widespread public
interest in Quebec. In fact, turnout in elections for all levels of government
across the Western world is on a downward trend. Case in point: the low
turnout in this week's federal by-elections. Yes, there are many obstacles -
limited budgets, vast territories to cover, particularly at English boards in
the regions, circumscribed Board powers, tepid - and I'm being generous --
media interest, to name just a few. But, our English-speaking communities have
only so many institutions they can count on. School boards are surely among
the very key ones. And school board elections provide English-speaking
Quebecers with a unique opportunity to run for and elect community leadership.
It's a process we are determined to maximize on November 4th.

    Thank you.




For further information:

For further information: Kimberley Hamilton, Communications and Special
Projects Coordinator, (514) 849-5900, ext.: 225, Cell.: (514) 919-3894


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