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Former SWLSB chair Steve Bletas remembered for strength and endurance

Maple planted at board HQ in Rosemère honours Bletas, who died last May

Friends, colleagues and members of the family of the late Steve Bletas gathered on the front lawn outside the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board’s headquarters in Rosemère on Sept. 23 to plant an ornamental maple tree in memory of the SWLSB’s founding chairman who passed away suddenly last May.

Members of Steve Bletas’s family are seen here outside SWLSB HQ in Rosemère during the ceremony during which a maple tree was planted in memory of the school board’s founding chairman. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

The board’s first chair

After the Quebec government decided to reform the province’s former faith-based public education system and create new secular school boards in 1998, Steve Bletas was the SWLSB’s first chairman, serving for 14 years until May 2012.

Before becoming the SWLSB’s chairman, Bletas had been a Parent Commissioner on a Provisional Council representing the English minority for their high schools at the Commission scolaire Chomedey-de-Laval, president of Laval Catholic High School’s Orientation Committee and president of Sacred Heart Middle School’s school committee.

Also coached handball

As well, Bletas was a handball coach for the boys’ teams at Terry Fox Elementary, Laval Catholic High School and at Sacred Heart Middle School. During his time as SWLSB chairman, Bletas was instrumental in board development, in negotiations for land grants and other agreements with municipal authorities and provincial officials.

He was also instrumental in acquiring funding for new schools in Rawdon, Blainville and Repentigny, as well as renovation grants for schools in Chomedey (John F. Kennedy Elementary) and Duvernay (Jules Verne Elementary).

Helped start Laurier Foundation

As one of the founding members of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Foundation, Bletas’s time in office saw highly successful fundraisers held for the benefit of students and schools on the SWLSB’s territory. He was regarded as a hands‐on chairman developing important and close ties with students, parents and municipal and provincial politicians.

“There’s never an easy way to speak about a friend who’s left us too soon,” said current SWLSB chairman Paolo Galati, who first met Steve in 2006 at the opening of St-Vincent Elementary School.

He dreamed big, said Galati

“Steve and I became friends almost instantly. We had many things in common. But the one thing that stands out the most is that both Steve and I dream big. Not only was Steve a dreamer, he was a doer. He walked the talk as we would say.”

‘Steve was a visionary and a passionate and fearless leader,’ said current SWLSB chairman Paolo Galati

Steve Bletas dedicated most of his life to English public education, Galati pointed out, and was involved in all aspects of education for many years in various capacities.

“Steve was a visionary and a passionate and fearless leader,” Galati added. “I have always had great respect for him and all that he has accomplished. The Education Ministers he worked with during his tenure knew him by his first name. He had their cell phone numbers on speed dial. I was always impressed by the many contacts Steve had. He knew everyone. And everyone knew him.

Also active with QESBA

“Steve was also a founding member of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier Foundation, created in 2004. He’s the one who actually introduced me to the foundation in 2012. He was part of the executive committee of the Quebec English School Boards Association and was a member of many different local and provincial education tables over the years.

“Despite the few bumps along the road, Steve has certainly left a legacy at the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. Eva-Marie and Michael, you can be proud of what your father has accomplished. Steve, may you rest in peace my friend.”

Strength and endurance

The SWLSB’s communications coordinator, Maxeen Jolin, said the board and employees decided a maple would be the most appropriate way to remember Steve. “This tree symbolizes strength and endurance and I think everyone who knew Steve can definitely agree these are characteristics that he had,” she said.

Bletas’s daughter, Eva-Marie, who is an elementary school teacher with the SWLSB, said her father loved being involved in public education issues. “He lived for this. It was a passion for him,” she said.

Martin C. Barry
Martin C. Barryhttp://www.lavalnews.ca
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for the Laval News. During his 23 years of covering political and community issues in the Montreal region, Marty has won numerous journalism awards from the Quebec Community Newspapers Association for written coverage as well as for photography. marty@newsfirst.ca

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