Costly EMSB complaints irk parents and teachers; Commissioner infighting at board

Brenda Branswell. The Gazette. Montreal, Que
May 27, 2009

The heads of a parent group and teachers union expressed dismay yesterday at the large number of complaints against commissioners at the English Montreal School Board.

The school board, which has been dogged for years by political division on its Council of Commissioners, says it has spent about $32,000 to date for its ethics commissioner to examine complaints.

Thirteen complaints have been filed since the EMSB appointed lawyer Madeleine Lemieux as its first ethics commissioner in May 2007.

“It’s too many for any school board or any business or anything,” said Scott Day, chairperson of the board’s central parents committee.

Eleven of the complaints against commissioners were filed by their peers. Two were lodged by parents.

Board chairperson Angela Mancini has said “a high number” of complaints have to do with one commissioner.

Only three of the complaints have been dealt with so far.

The parents committee had been waiting to find out from the board how much was being spent on the complaints – “how much was being wasted,” Day said.

Positive things are happening at the school level at the EMSB, Day said. “It’s just at the commissioners’ table that it’s not functioning properly.”

The Education Department delegated an observer this winter to try to help ease the political gridlock at the school board. Day said he hopes lawyer Tom Nanci can “find out how they can get along better to work properly.”

Pointing out how many complaints were filed by commissioners, Ruth Rosenfield said it might be perceived a bit as “internecine warfare. They’re fighting amongst themselves,” said Rosenfield, head of the Montreal Teachers Association, which represents teachers at the board.

Commissioner Syd Wise, who was first elected in 1994, said it has been a difficult 21/2 years. “It has been more difficult than other mandates that I’ve experienced,” he said.

But Wise said he felt a large majority on council are determined to make sure it works effectively. “I do believe we’ve turned the corner.”

bbranswell@thegazette.canwest.com

Credit: Brenda Branswell; The Gazette

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