October 28, 2014

EMSB denies breach of voter privacy in school board election

  | Published Oct. 27, 2014 by Global News

MONTREAL – The English Montreal School Board is denying that it provided a confidential list of phone numbers to one of Angela Mancini‘s candidates.

The school board elections at the EMSB have been particularly hard fought this year.

Our own Global reporter, Domenic Fazioli says he got a call from a candidate on his private cell number.

If it came from a school list it would be a major breach of the political process.

“My phone number was given out when it shouldn’t have been given out,” he said.

Fazioli was shocked to get a phone call on Sunday asking for his support for an incumbent EMSB commissioner.

The problem is he says he only gave his cell number to his child’s school in case of emergency only.

“The man made it clear that there’s a list from the EMSB and they were calling probably other parents like myself on their work numbers on their cell numbers,” said Fazioli.

“I think that’s unacceptable.”

Read more: http://globalnews.ca/news/1638355/emsb-denies-breach-of-voter-privacy-in-school-board-election/

October 25, 2014

EMSB elections: One retired teachers union President questions another at NDG candidates meeting

By Jim Wilson

wilsonI attended the school board  candidates meeting in NDG this week. One of the candidates running on the Team Angela Mancini slate is former President of the Montreal Teachers Association (MTA) Ruth Rosenfield. Considering that she uses her union background as being a qualification to be a commissioner, I questioned  her  record of financial transparency as a union president.
I made following remarks at the public meeting. Firstly, that Ms Rosenfield used the union contingency funds to pay herself in one year $40,000 in overtime. Secondly, that she arranged for the same contingency fund to provide  a member of the executive with  an interest free loan. Ms. Rosenfield made no effort to deny these charges. Thirdly, despite some members demanding clarification of union spending, pointing out that documents provided [by the union] were incomplete, and amongst other things formally demanding to be given access to view the itemized Amex bills paid by the MTA dating back five years. Rosenfield’s view is that once the financial review is accepted at the annual general meeting, the books are closed and members are no longer entitled to access any information on previous years.
In a perverse manner, Rosenfield’s  actions mirrors those of  the school board, school taxes increase as enrollment falls , so as the number of teachers decreased, their dues increased to provide for higher  MTA staff salaries and benefits. However, would this similarity of practices be considered as  a good reason to elect her?
Jim Wilson
October 24, 2014

Montreal-area school board candidates denounce omissions from English voter list

By Linda Gyulai | Published Oct. 23, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Rival candidates in the English Montreal School Board election have denounced voting list irregularities as advance polling is set to begin on Sunday.

The revised voter list for the Nov. 2 election contains dozens of omissions of Montrealers who found themselves on the French voter list and who filed the appropriate forms at EMSB headquarters during the revision period to be transferred to the English list, Anne Lagacé Dowson, who is running for chairperson of the board, said at a news conference on Wednesday. She is leading a slate of school board commissioner candidates.

A voter must be on the English list to be eligible to cast a ballot in an English-language school board election in Quebec.

About 3,400 names were transferred to the English list to vote in the election of EMSB commissioners and chairperson, Team Lagacé Dowson said, but dozens more people who handed in their transfer forms have not been included on the list, it said.

Read more: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-area-school-board-candidates-denounce-omissions-from-english-voter-list

October 23, 2014

Parents who libelled teacher ordered to pay $1.02 million

Michelle Lalonde | Published Oct 15, 2014 by the Montreal Gazette

A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered a local couple who libelled their son’s teacher in 2008 to pay the teacher an additional $1.02 million, since it is now clear the effects of the slanderous public comments destroyed the woman’s career and her quality of life.

On March 25, 2008, Kathryn Rosenstein and Hagop Artinian dropped a lawsuit against their son’s grade school teacher at Roslyn School in Westmount, on the day the case was to go to court. The parents had alleged the teacher, Mary Kanavaros, had targeted and humiliated their son by, among other incidents, telling him in front of classmates that he should do his own homework, rather than have his mother do it.

The details of the out-of-court settlement were supposed to have been kept confidential. But when reporters asked them about the settlement, the parents implied they had proven Kanavaros had behaved unprofessionally. In fact, in the settlement, the English Montreal School Board had agreed to pay the couple $5,000 to drop the lawsuit with no admission of fault by either Kanavaros or the board.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Parents+libelled+teacher+ordered+million/10296418/story.html

October 21, 2014

School board election campaign heats up at EMSB

By MARIAN SCOTT | Published Oct. 19, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette


The rulings said Feldman breached ethical rules by tarnishing “the reputation of other EMSB’s (sic) commissioners” and making statements that harmed “the reputation of the director general.”

In an earlier ruling, Feldman was reprimanded for calling fellow commissioners “dinosaurs” and “secrecy-obsessed characters”.

Dowson said the accusations against Feldman were “bogus ethics complaints (…) made mainly by members of (Mancini’s) group and allies.”

“None of the complaints (against Feldman) actually deal with ethics in a substantive way, in particular, conflicts of interest, nepotism or abuse of power by a member of the school board, all of which have been problems on the board in recent years,” she said in the statement.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/School+board+election+campaign+heats+EMSB/10308876/story.html

October 15, 2014

Young Quebec teachers face feast or famine

By Kalina Laframboise | Published October 14 by The Montreal Gazette

The night before the first day of school, Erin Flynn had all but given up hope. The recent Bishop’s University graduate had still not signed a teaching contract and accepted she may not find relevant employment in the education sector for the upcoming year.

In what Flynn chalks up to chance, she was interviewed the following day for a position at Châteauguay Valley Regional High School and wound up in a classroom with her new students 20 minutes after the interview ended. She is an exception among her peers who crossed the stage after four years of exams, stress and internships, only to continue working summer jobs. Her contract is 80 per cent of a full-time workload, the subjects are not what she specializes in and she provides instruction in both English and French; yet she was fortunate to have found work at all.

“I lucked out,” said Flynn. “The majority of my peers did not find teaching jobs.”

This is not uncommon for new teachers and students completing degrees in education in Quebec — especially those who apply to the province’s struggling English system. The sector’s troubles go beyond a sluggish job market — English school boards face a decline in enrolment, extensive budget cuts, limitations on admission due to Bill 101, forced closures and merging of schools and a plunge in retirements.

A report from the Ministry of Education for the 2012-13 school year shows a drop in both the number of children eligible to attend English schools and the number of students who choose to exercise this right. More than 13,000 students who have the right to English instruction opted for French instead. Across the province, parents are sending their children to French schools more than ever before and as a result the English system is scrambling.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/your-business/Young+Quebec+teachers+face+feast+famine/10288013/story.html

October 8, 2014

Why the EMSB needs Anne Lagacé Dowson as its Chair

By Robert Green

Elections for school board commissioners are fast approaching. On November 2 citizens living within the EMSB’s territory will have the opportunity to choose between a slate of candidates lead by the EMSB Council of Commissioners’ incumbent Chair Angela Mancini and a slate of candidates lead by media commentator and parent Anne Lagacé Dowson.

Before discussing the candidates, its important to mention how one becomes eligible to vote in these elections. If you are a parent with a child in the English school system you should be automatically registered to vote in English school board elections. To verify call 1 (888) 353-2846. Otherwise you are likely to have been registered by default to vote in French school board elections and need to submit this form to the EMSB in order to be registered to vote in the EMSB elections. Don’t delay in submitting this form as the deadline to make this request is October 14.

There is no question that these are incredibly important elections. Given recent government threats to abolish school boards altogether, the stakes are extremely high. The very survival of these institutions may depend entirely on the quality of their elected leadership.

Those considering giving incumbent Chair Angela Mancini another term in office might want to take a trip down memory lane:

  • In 2008 Henry Aubin wrote a column in the Gazette entitled ‘School board’s secrecy cuts it off from the public‘. The column outlined the duplicitous political manoeuvring Ms. Mancini engaged in to initially win for herself the position of Chair. Aubin describes how this manoeuvring ensured that the culture of secrecy, block voting and entrenched loyalties won out over and against the public interest.
  • In 2009 the Gazette reported that the infighting amongst school board commissioners had gotten so bad under Mancini’s leadership that the Quebec government had to appoint a special mediator whose salary cost taxpayers upwards of $100,000
  • In 2011 the EMSB received a great deal of very negative press coverage over its move to close a number of schools. Particularly contentious was the case of Nesbitt elementary whose parents created a blog that is essential reading for anyone interested in learning what Ms Mancini’s leadership has meant for parents. Hour magazine published a scorching condemnation of the EMSB’s handling of the affair by two Nesbitt parents, describing its public consultation process as “a sham” and concluding with the question ” How could we be in worse hands than we are now?”
  • Also in 2011 the blog Citizens for Democratic and Autonomous Schools published a piece by commissioner Julien Feldman (running on Team Anne Lagacé Dowson) questioning Ms Mancini’s decision to include three elected commissioners on a junket to China.

annedowsonendorsementThough Ms Mancini’s record offers plenty to be wary of, I am not advocating that people vote for Ms. Lagacé Dowson simply as an alternative to Ms. Mancini. I am advocating that people vote for Ms Lagacé Dowson because she is intelligent, articulate, politically savvy and firmly committed to the public interest. In short, she is exactly the sort of person the EMSB needs to turn the page on the culture of secrecy, bitter partisanship and entitlement that has plagued the EMSB council of commissioners for far too long.

However it is not just that Anne has the skills and principled commitment to openness and transparency, she also has a clear vision for how the EMSB can deal with its most fundamental existential threat: declining enrolment. In response to reports that as many as 15 percent of those eligible to attend English Schools are instead registering in the French system, Anne wrote an op-ed in the Gazette arguing that the EMSB needs to bring those students back by improving its French language instruction.

Team Angela Mancini candidate Ruth Rosenfield responded with an op-ed of her own crassly characterizing Ms Lagacé Dowson’s thoughtful piece as a “broad attack on English-language schools and school boards” and suggesting that the EMSB already does a great job in French language instruction. In focusing only on the work the board is already doing Rosenfield seems to be suggesting that this is enough; that 15% of those eligible for English schools choosing the French system is an acceptable situation that does not warrant any additional action being taken. It would be interesting to know if Ms Mancini also thinks that despite the large numbers leaving, the status quo is just fine.

If there’s one thing that’s clear its that the status quo is not fine. The EMSB needs new leadership that is committed to people not partisanry; to democracy not demagoguery; to cutting bureaucracy instead of closing schools. The EMSB needs Anne Lagacé Dowson!

Here are a few video clips of Anne articulating her vision for the EMSB:

October 6, 2014

Canada’s education apartheid

By Robert Green | Published October 2 by Ricochet.media

Many Canadians are aware of the fact that Canada’s 1876 Indian Act, which stated that “The aborigines are to be kept in a condition of tutelage and treated as wards or children of the State”, was studied by South Africa’s apartheid regime and served as the inspiration for many of its policies.

Because the information gathering missions to Canada by South African officials occurred way back in the 1940’s, we can safely acknowledge and openly discuss this fact as a dark and shameful chapter of our history without having to look too closely at our present. Yes we served as a model for apartheid but that was a different time, we tell ourselves.

However an examination of Canada’s treatment of its First Nations reveals that parallels with apartheid era South Africa continue right up to present day. Nowhere is this more true than with respect to Canada’s policies regarding First Nations education.

In 1953 the apartheid regime passed one of its most overtly racist laws, entitled the Bantu Education Act. The act’s aim was to place all black schools, which had been run by the church, under the control of the state. As the government saw blacks as little more than “hewers of wood and drawers of water” it was quite open about the fact that education for blacks would be both separate and unequal. The injustices caused by this act would later be recognized as one of the principal causes of the Soweto uprising.

The education system created by the Bantu Education Act had three principal characteristics: 1) Massive gaps in funding between black and white schools; 2) Colonial control over curriculum and school management; 3) Significant differences in the level of training and experience of teachers in the black and white school systems.

Though Canada’s contemporary policies with respect to First Nations education do not go nearly as far as South Africa’s overtly racist policies, each of the above characteristics are clearly present. Continue reading

September 26, 2014

La Presse reports Liberals planning massive overhaul of education system

September 26, 2014

La Presse is reporting today that Couillard Liberals are planning a massive education reform that includes the abolition of school boards, reduction of private school subsidies by 50%, reduction in the number of ministry exams and the creation of a professional order by teachers.

Read more: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/education/201409/25/01-4803683-reforme-tous-azimuts-en-education.php

September 25, 2014

Candidates for EMSB Chair discuss school board cuts with CBC Daybreak

Candidates for EMSB Chair Angela Mancini and Anne Lagacé Dowson discuss school board cuts with CBC’s Mike Finnerty. Click here to listen.

Be sure to verify that you are eligible to vote in English school board elections by calling 1 (888) 353-2846

September 17, 2014

CJAD’s Gang of Four discusses cuts to parental leave

Anne Lagacé-Dowson, Robert Green and Trudy Mason discuss cuts to parental leave and the Couillard government’s austerity agenda.

Click here for the podcast.

September 11, 2014

Why Teachers Fear the Worst of Clark Government

Signs mount that union busting, privatized schooling are true agenda.

By Tom Kertes| Published September 10, 2014 by TheTyee.ca

Today, public school teachers in British Columbia will vote to end their job action if the government agrees to leave the issues of class size and class compensation to the courts. Both parties are almost on the same page when it comes to wages and contract length, but regardless the government continues to say the two are miles apart, and continues to refuse to participate in binding arbitration.

Why this government is so adamantly against making any deal with teachers, other than a deal that essentially amounts to the B.C. Teachers’ Federation giving up its court case, giving up on wages and giving up on any issue of importance to its members, is what everyone watching this dispute is asking.

The point of government is to work within a system of balanced power that supports the community as a whole. One way to do this is through public education, which provides schooling on an equal and equitable basis and with public oversight. Public education, in contrast to private education, is universally accessible. Every child in B.C. has a right to education, a right respected by government through the provision of schools supported by shared taxation. In contrast, a privatized system — like the system of private schools already in place for some students — starts with barriers to entry. Parents need to be able to afford it, or the child must be deemed worthy of entry, for example to receive a school scholarship.

A concern for all supporters of public education is that the BC Liberals will introduce either a charter system, where public dollars are diverted from a public system to one composed of publicly-funded, for-profit, special-interest or religious schools. If this government wants to use the strike as a wedge issue to pull support from the public schools or as a weapon to break the teachers’ union, then we may end up with the worst possible scenario, where our public system gets dumped for a private one. The government may do this because it opposes union influence over the school system, because its supporters are either seeking to profit or to proselytize through a new system, or simply because it wants to put its own stamp on the system.

Whatever the reason, B.C. cannot afford to lose the public benefits that only a public school system provides.

Read more: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/09/10/Teachers-Clark-Govt-Fear/

September 6, 2014

Hey, premiers, leave them teachers alone!

By Robert Green | Published Sept 1 2014 by Ricochet

The beginning of the school year should be a time of great optimism and excitement for teachers. We’re energized by seeing our colleagues again and excited to meet the students we’ll be teaching for the year. Our thoughts should be focused on making our classrooms more welcoming, our lessons more engaging and our contributions to our school community more meaningful.

Unfortunately, for too many teachers across Canada the positive feelings that normally accompany the beginning of the school year will be overshadowed by more negative sentiments: uncertainty, frustration, anger and above all the feeling of being profoundly disrespected.

British Columbia

Nowhere is this more true than in BC. The province’s teachers have been on the picket line since the spring as part of the latest chapter in an exasperating decades-long struggle with the province’s Liberal government. The bad faith demonstrated by the government over the course of this struggle boggles the mind. While the media wants to malign BC teachers as greedy, the heart of this dispute has always been about protecting quality of education for students by reducing class size. After teachers gave up salary concessions in the nineties in order to win class-size reductions (greedy bastards!) the BC Liberals went on to unilaterally remove these provisions from their contract in 2002. Continue reading

September 6, 2014

How English schools can survive

By By Anne Lagacé Dowson | Published September 5, 2014 by The Montreal Gazette

Don Macpherson doesn’t miss much. As the dean of Quebec political journalists, and a parent too, Macpherson sees the warning signs embedded in a report by the Quebec education ministry that was dropped into the silence of the summer.

The report is a devastating report card for our English-language school boards in Quebec. It demonstrates that they have failed to stay in touch with the new realities of language in Quebec. As the report mentions, a virtual cascade of parents who have the legal right to English-language schooling for their children are instead choosing schools in the French-language system.

More and more parents who could send their kids to English-language schools have decided that they do not have confidence in these schools. They are voting with their feet. They have decided that English-language schools are not equipping their kids with what it takes to thrive in the New Quebec.

Parents now realize that to be able to make a living in Quebec, and put down roots in this province, their children need to be able to speak the language of the majority — and speak it well.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/English+schools+survive/10174759/story.html

September 1, 2014

Why BC teachers can’t sign with E80 on the table.

Published August 31, 2014 by Voices for BC Education

Imagine a client hires you for a job. The pay isn’t great but the work is steady and you like the hours.

A little while later they come back and tell you that the scope of the job has grown substantially and they understand you can’t do it alone so they let you hire a team of 10 people. With 10, you can do the job, just. It’s more challenging but you agree.

As time goes by they stop paying some of your team. You find yourself with a skeleton crew. You go to head office and tell them what is happening. They tell the client they have to pay for the 10 people they agreed to hire.

The client comes back saying they won’t and tries to rewrite the terms of your agreement. You stop working. They stop paying.

They come back to you and say… we will hire you back, just you, not your team. The condition? They will hire you if and only if you agree to sign this document that says “Should head office decide more people are needed to complete the job, either party can tear up the contract.” and the client doesn’t have to hire more people.

Would you do the job?

 E80 is asking us to agree to let the government decide if they will abide by the court rulings.  It’s giving them the right to tear up our contract if they don’t like what the courts have to say. Would you agree to that? Would you go back to work?

Teachers want to be in the classroom. They want to be teaching but they can’t if E80 is part of the deal.