Now is the time for a focused and inclusive dialogue on school board governance: QESBA

    MONTREAL, June 7 /CNW Telbec/ - School board elections should go ahead as
planned on November 4, 2007, the Quebec English School Boards Association
(QESBA) suggested in a statement released this morning. There has been recent
discussion of delaying those elections for a period of up to two years.
    "It is time to embrace a focused, public and accountable debate on how to
best improve the governance of public education, how to maximize community
interest and involvement, and ultimately, how to facilitate the best possible
quality of public schooling across Quebec," noted QESBA President Marcus
Tabachnick. "It's a particularly important discussion in English-speaking
Quebec, where the nine English school boards represent the only level of
government universally elected by and uniquely answerable to those who choose
to be identified with English-speaking communities across the province. School
board commissioners are the people who make decisions, amongst other issues,
on the delivery of school programs, French second-language instruction,
academic, professional and community services; they are the ones who preside
over the quality and character of the English public school network that
serves some 110,000 students in more than 325 elementary, high schools and
adult centres across Quebec.
    "November 4th, 2007 is the date set for school board elections. The
Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA) and its nine member boards
believe this date should be maintained. If school board commissioners are to
be fully accountable to their constituents, it is only normal that they
consult them at the regularly scheduled time in the most fundamental manner:
at the ballot box. There have been legitimate concerns about the level of
public awareness, the effectiveness of the electoral process and the level of
voter turnout in school board elections. There have even been questions raised
about the continued viability of our universally elected school boards. Those
questions are of fundamental importance and our communities need to be
involved in the discussion. The candidates need to be involved. So does the
media, so does the government.
    Extending the mandate of current school boards by delaying the elections
isn't the appropriate way of further democratizing the system, in our view.
There is a better way to ensure that a fruitful public debate on these
questions is undertaken and energized: by holding the discussion during an
election campaign, as scheduled for this Fall. The effective management of our
public school network is inextricably linked to the healthy and progressive
development of our children, the economic well-being of Quebec and the future
of our communities. Some $790 million of taxpayers' money is spent every year
in Quebec on English public education. What better place to talk about such
issues than in an election campaign?
    In addition to all the important local issues, QESBA has some subjects to
propose for discussion and debate as that election campaign, we trust,
approaches: What steps might be taken, by elected commissioners, by
legislators, by community leaders to help the public become more involved in
and better informed about the operations of their school boards?
    Is it time to re-examine the number of commissioners on each school
board? Should school board Chairs be elected by universal suffrage, rather
than by their fellow commissioners?
    Might there be advantages to a party system at the school board level?
    Should school board elections be twinned with those of municipalities? If
so, how could such a system work for English school boards, which often cover
the territory of dozens of municipalities?
    Is there a need for changes to enhance and identify the powers of school
boards to deliver locally-tailored educational leadership?
    Would there be merit in QESBA developing, perhaps in conjunction with a
local university, a formal training program in school governance for elected
    Should the government close the negative gap in remuneration between
commissioners and municipal councilors to help encourage individuals to run
for school board election?
    These are just a few of the considerations that are surely worthy of
meaningful discussion. One incontrovertible way of focusing that discussion is
by having it punctuated with an "X" on the ballot. This November is the time
to do it."
    The above statement was endorsed by the Chairs of eight English member
school boards of QESBA.

For further information:

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

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Quebec English School Boards Association

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