Parental freedom of choice in what schools children attend was up front at the November 28, 2018 Council of Commissioners meeting of Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board (SWLSB).
Theresa Andrusko, representing 189 parents whose support she exhibited in a signed petition, asked SWLSB to respect the right of parents to send their children to schools other than Laval Junior Academy/Laval Senior Academy.
“These schools are too big,” Andrusko stated, echoing a major concern of many that these schools have had problems since an imposed cost-cutting merger converted four manageable schools into two conglomerates much more difficult to administer.
In the process, say critics of the merger, two large institutions – Laval Junior Academy and Laval Senior Academy – arose from four smaller, more viable schools – Laurier Senior, Mother Teresa Junior, Laval Liberty, and Laval Junior – that were doing the job, and doing it well.
Andrusko told Council that SWLSB should provide transportation to underutilized Rosemere High, so that Laval children are not restricted to Laval Junior Academy/Laval Senior Academy. Asking Chairperson Paolo Galati if parents had the right to choose their children’s school, specifying that some commissioners sitting in Council were sending their own children to other boards or private schools. Galati acknowledged he was one of these commissioners. “My children attend Vincent Massey Collegiate of English Montreal School Board because of a program not yet offered here,” Galati explained.
“Why send kids to Vincent Massey or Royal West when Rosemere is at 85% capacity,” Andrusko wanted to know. “Isn’t it better to keep students in our board, and for you to subsidize transportation to Rosemere rather than lose students to Montreal. “It’s not just about programs, it’s also about having options,” Andrusko told Council.
Commissioner Guy Gagnon tried to cut off her off further questions, at which point Galati suggested a December/January town hall meeting, to get other opinions. “I think the town hall meeting is a good idea,” Andrusko told TLN, adding that it must be held in December, since 2019-2020 registrations take place in January.
Andrusko had filed 14 questions with the board two weeks before the meeting, asking in part, about declining SWLSB enrolment. “You’re losing students to other boards and private schools,” she stated at the microphone. “All we’re asking for is a choice of schools within Laurier Board.” To TLN Andrusko emphasized that “It’s an offer they can’t refuse, if they truly believe, as they must, that children come first.”
The right to know
Questions also arose about SWLSB’s involvement in the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), a lobby group portraying itself “a defender of the rights of English school boards.”
TLN asked what benefits Laurier’s 14,000 students will derive from $114,000 paid to QESBA for 2019, fees that have jumped from $89,000 in 2016 to $114,000. Commissioner Peter MacLaurin who sits on QESBA’s Board, publicly admitted that SWLSB’s QUESBA involvement is part of the English community’s opposition to Coalition Avenir Québec’s plan to abolish school boards. Since when did it become acceptable to ‘donate’ public funds to lobbyists for political reasons, TLN wanted to know.
Beneficial and ethical use of these funds might be to finance transportation for Laval students who want to attend Rosemere High.
Collective Bargaining Agreement
The meeting was also marked by an announcement by Human Resources Director Richard Greschner and Laurier Teachers Union president Stephanie McLellan that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between SWLSB and its teachers was now in force.