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Canada

Montreal city council calls on Quebec to preserve school boards

Montreal is asking the Quebec government to shelve its plan to abolish school boards, saying they are “an essential link” between parents, educators, communities and the provincial education department.

On Monday night, city council unanimously approved an opposition motion calling for the preservation of elected boards. The motion, proposed by Alan DeSousa, the borough mayor of St-Laurent, came on the eve of Tuesday’s public hearings into Bill 40 organized by the Alliance for the Promotion of Public English-language Education in Quebec (APPELE).

“I think it’s important that the city of Montreal spoke with a loud voice, with a unanimous voice,” DeSousa, a member of the Ensemble Montréal party, said in an interview.

DeSousa recalled that he started out in public life as a school commissioner for the former Ste. Croix School Board.

“It was an immensely useful period of time because it allowed me to better understand how the school system worked, not only in the context of pedagogy and education but also what were the elements that were necessary for schools to excel within a community,” he said.

As a municipal councillor and mayor, DeSousa said he has had occasion to work hand-in-hand with school commissioners on issues like road safety near schools, parks and playgrounds and the sharing of recreational facilities.

Montreal schools grapple with high levels of poverty, large numbers of children with special needs and the need to integrate newcomers, and boards are well placed to co-operate with the city on those issues, he said.

Abolishing elected boards goes against the principle of no taxation without representation, he added.

It’s regrettable that rather than attacking substantive issues like the dropout rate and poor literacy scores, the government is focusing on reshuffling institutional structures, DeSousa said.

As one of the levels of government that is closest to citizens, school boards “allow citizens to get involved, express themselves and make decisions based on the needs of their communities,” the motion says.

“The city of Montreal reiterates the importance of maintaining elected school commissioners who represent a given territory and are answerable to citizens for the guidelines and decisions made on public education,” it says.

mscott@postmedia.com

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