School elections participation up 20% - Promising turn-out is just Step One in revitalizing English school boards: QESBA

    MONTREAL, Nov. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - With voter turn-out up by more than
20 per cent and the number of total voters almost doubled, today's English
school elections offer an important opportunity to renew and revitalize school
board democracy. "There were more elections at our boards, more people turned
out in them and the message was clear," said Marcus Tabachnick, Quebec English
School Boards Association (QESBA) President: "The English community values its
only directly-elected level of government but wants more and better
communication from our boards." That is the key message in today's
province-wide vote.
    QESBA, with the support of its member boards, undertook an unprecedented
information and promotion campaign to encourage candidates to run and voters
to participate in these important elections for the commissioners who will
oversee the $900 million operation of Quebec's 350 English public schools
across the province. Elections were held in 58 of 159 wards across the nine
English boards, 25 per cent more than during the last campaign in 2003. Almost
25,000 eligible voters turned out at the polls, compared to 15,000 last time.
    The lead-up to the campaign at both English and French boards was marked
by wide-ranging public discussions on the role and future of
universally-elected school boards. "Linguistic school boards have only been in
place for a decade," Tabachnick noted.
    "We have said all along, and we reiterate tonight that the time is right
for a focused and open debate on how school boards can better interact with
parents and all taxpayers, how the English communities we serve can better
understand, and participate in, the operation of their public schools - and
how the Quebec government can better support this important level of
government. QESBA has already suggested examining such changes as reducing the
size of school boards, increasing the powers and responsibilities of Board
Chairs, considering the effects of creating a party system and improving
access to the English electoral lists, among others.
    In offering his congratulations to all candidates tonight, Tabachnick
underlined that each of those elected will bear an enhanced responsibility to
reach out to their community, in building greater awareness of and involvement
in our English public schools over the coming three-year mandate. "School
boards are in the public eye right now, and that is just fine. Democracy works
best when it functions under the brightest of light. Our English school boards
particularly have a special responsibility as the only directly elected
representatives of those who are part of the English-speaking community. Every
commissioner elected tonight should look forward to playing that important
role with the maximum of accountability and debate."
    QESBA reaffirmed tonight that it would actively participate in any and
all consultation consultations that might be established by the government to
examine potential school board reform. The nine member school boards of QESBA
serve more than 110,000 students in elementary and high schools and adult
centres across the province.

For further information:

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

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Quebec English School Boards Association

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