The importance of school board election readiness; voters head to the polls on November 3, 2024

joe ortona
Montreal - Tuesday, June 18, 2024

As the president of  the Quebec English School Boards Association and chair of the English Montreal School Board, I wish to emphasize the importance of   election readiness. Voting day for the chairs and elected commissioners of the nine English school boards in Quebec is November 3, 2024.

Indira Ghandi once said, “Winning or losing of an election is less important than strengthening the country.” School board elections are critical to the vitality of Quebec’s English-speaking community. The reality is that school boards are the last instance of government that belong to our community, and schools are often at the heart of our community life.

In June the QESBA  hosted a conference to provide information about the role and responsibilities of school board elected officials and the steps to becoming a candidate. We need talented and dedicated people to come forward who will continue to play an active role for the English community. Needless to say, we also need voters so we have integrated a section on voter requirements and process to make sure you are on the list.

Much has been written in recent years about our defence of our constitutional right to “manage and control” our school system and our legal challenges to Bills 21, 40 and 96.

Our court cases get the headlines but to be honest commissioners have a much bigger role than that. And that is what I would like to briefly focus on.

So let me please provide some context.

There  are  English-language schools in every administrative region of Quebec,  with  the exception of the Grand Nord. Our nine school boards serve roughly 100,000 students in 340 elementary schools, high schools,         and adult education and vocational training centres across Québec. Each Board has its unique demographics, orientations, and  history. All  of  them share a “made-in-English Québec” sensibility to delivering public education services, with equal regard for the needs and          wants of  all  students, parents, staff and communities.

Our made in Quebec perspective is centered on teaching the student rather than the subject, with an emphasis on critical thinking, team work, enquiry and citizenship. I should also emphasize that we place a high value on parent and community involvement.

I should also point out that our school boards and the schools they operate reflect our commitment to the English language and culture within  the context of providing our  students with the tools to live, thrive and contribute to Quebec. All of us want our children to have the French language skills to thrive in Quebec. We support the need to promote and protect the French language in Québec and indeed throughout Canada. Our English-speaking community invented French immersion in the sixties well before Bill 101, and our school boards across Quebec are committed to ensuring our children are able to live and work in French.

What distinguishes our school boards is our laser-like focus on student success. The English education network is very proud of the fact that at     87 percent, our student success rate surpasses by a full five percentage points the overall Quebec average of 81.8 percent.

At the heart of our success are our elected school board commissioners, who come from all walks of life. They are parents, grandparents, former educators and interested community members who are on the front lines of all decisions that will affect and ultimately benefit students.

School commissioners play a critical role as the interface with the broader community, ensuring that we innovate and deliver on our pedagogical promise and develop projects specific to the English network.

Our school boards are as strong as the community we represent. That is why we need talented people with different skill sets to come forward. Tonight, you will learn what is involved in becoming a candidate.

And then we need people to get on the electoral list and to vote. A high voter turn out will  show the broader community that we value our school boards and our school system. And to put it mildly the government does little to encourage voter turnout.  I hope  that on November 3, the polling stations will be busy.

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