New school board guidelines to be issued July 1

Ken Schankler
Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph
June 3, 2009

How much will it cost? How will it be implemented? What are the ramifications?

The execution of Bill 88, mandating the direct election rather than the appointment of school board chairpersons starting in 2011, is a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Currently, school board members choose a president following elections.

Central Quebec English School Board Chairwoman Michelle Morin-Doyle said last week, however, that the board won’t know the specifics until July 1, when it receives guidelines from Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports Michelle Courchesne. Morin-Doyle said she had yet to receive any information regarding the nature of the guidelines.
“We’re not sure how it’s going forward,” Morin-Doyle said last week, adding that the board still doesn’t know whether the implementation will take place quickly or incrementally.

What is known are the objections raised by the Quebec English School Boards Association to the provision regarding the election of school board chair persons. In particular, critics have questioned the potential cost as well as the logistics of holding such elections.

QESBA President Debbie Horrocks said Monday that holding elections in territories like the Quebec City region could be a “logistical nightmare” due the sheer geographical size of the area.

In previous statements released to the public, Horrocks has also said she is not convinced the new law would represent a “more democratic” way of choosing school board chair persons. Horrocks has criticized the process of holding public elections, possibly combined with municipal elections, as “undemocratic.”

Horrocks has also publicly objected to the potential “twinning” of school and municipal elections, where both school board and municipal votes would be put before the voters simultaneously.

Monday Horrocks said she did support measures in the bill that could reduce the number of commissioners, reduce the number school board Commissioners and increase “transparency” and parent involvement.

Courchesne could not be reached for comment.

QESBA, with a total of 20 members from its nine districts, met last week at the Quebec City Hilton, but Bill 88 was not on the agenda.

QESBA represents Quebec’s nine English school boards. Its operating budget for 2008-2009 is $924,700, $853,000 of which comes from membership fees paid by the member boards. The membership fees are calculated at a rate of $7.90 per student.

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