Monthly Archives: September 2008

A sad start to the 2008/2009 school year

A terribly sad weekend for a family in my ward. My deepest condolences to Vincent’s family. As a father of a boy in the same grade and in many of Vincent’s classes, I simply cannot imagine the pain you are having to deal with. Again, my most heartfelt condolences to you and your family and friends.

Steve

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English Textbooks

English Textbooks

My kids are going through school during this reform. A lot of it makes sense to me and I hope that it results in a better education for all of our kids.

One thing that obviously doesn’t make sense is the lack of preparation at the Ministry level in order to get appropriate English language text books in our schools.

The current situation is ugly and it’s irresponsible.

The Ministry allows us to purchase books only on an approved list. This list of Quebec publishers. But it seems that many of the publishers are not interested in the “small market” of English Quebec. Ok – so – don’t be interested. There’s a whole world out there beyond Quebec and it’s a world that is chock full of English books.

This past council meeting, I read a proposed resolution. This resolution had been emailed out to all commissioners on May 2nd of this year, although it seems that some of them did not get. I had also touched on it at the Educational Services Committee last month, but regardless, the motion was immediately tabled because no one had the chance to look at it.

So – we have an email problem that needs to be addressed – let’s address is. And we seem to have a problem having a commissioner coming up with resolutions for council – let’s get used to it, and engage in some real public debate.

The text of the resolution is long – I point to the articles of the education act that promise books for our kids. Then I point to the fact that the Ministry has failed to provide books. And I call on our school board to buy whatever books we need.

The fact of the matter is, if the Government is unable to provide a list of English textbooks to choose from, then we as school boards need to be able to go outside that list and provide for our students.

It would be against the law of the Education Act – yes – but laws change for a reason, and when it can be demonstrated that a law is unjustly disadvantaging our students, it is time for that law to change.

Here is my resolution:

Whereas our students have a fundamental right to the best education that we can offer;

Whereas the Education Act states in Chapter 1, Division 1, Article 7: Students other than those enrolled in adult education have a right to the free use of textbooks and other instructional material required for the teaching of programs of studies until the last day of the school calendar of the school year in which they reach 18 years of age, or 21 years of age in the case of handicapped persons within the meaning of the Act to secure handicapped persons in the exercise of their rights with a view to achieving social, school and workplace integration (chapter E-20.1). Each student shall have the personal use of the textbook chosen pursuant to section 96.15 for each compulsory and elective subject in which the student receives instruction;

Whereas the Education Act states in Chapter 1, Division 1, Article 96.15: 96.15. The principal is responsible for approving, on the proposal of the teachers or, in the case of matters referred to in subparagraph 5, of the members of the staff concerned, 3) in accordance with this Act and in keeping with the school budget, the textbooks and instructional material required for the teaching of programs of studies; **** (items 1, 2, 4 & 5 of this article are not pertinent to this resolution);

Whereas the Education Act states in Chapter 1, Division 1, Article 230: Every school board shall ensure that only the textbooks, instructional material or class of instructional material approved by the Minister are used by schools for the teaching of any program of studies established by the Minister;

Whereas the Education Act states in Chapter 1, Division 9, Article 462. The Minister may draw up a list of textbooks, instructional material or classes of instructional material approved by him which may be selected for the teaching of the programs of studies established by him.

Whereas the Minister has failed to provide access for all of our students to approved textbooks in English;

Whereas our students are suffering academically because of this lack of available, “approved” textbooks;

Resolved that the Council of Commissioners of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board mandate our Directorate to choose and purchase the best available textbooks for our children to succeed academically and within the scope of Quebec’s educational reform, regardless of the province, state or country that these books may be found in, and that every effort be made to have these textbooks and supporting materials in place for the 2008/2009 school year.

Now, because this resolution has been tabled to the meeting in August, we can’t even have books in place for this coming year. BUT! That doesn’t mean that this does not need to be passed.

Someone has to stand up and say, “This is not right, and we will not abide by it.”

I hope our Council will be the ones to do so.

SM

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Committee meetings start

We had our Educational Services committee meeting last night. We’re trying a new format that I think is really going to help move things forward. Specific focus on “bigger issues” and far less day-to-day micro-management.

We expanded on the theme of our DG’s question to the education minister on CTV last week, with a question: What do we consider a “safe school”. How do we know? How do we measure?

For those of you who may not have seen the CTV interview with Director Generals from several English boards, click here:

http://montreal.ctv.ca/cfcf/video_popup?news_id=25095

Of interest might be the Education Minister’s answer. Or lack thereof.

In last night’s committee meeting, many actual answers were brought to the table. As well as means to recognize success and/or failure, along with concrete means to measure the success or failure of implementation. Real, actual measures; not the rudderless politicking we see from the Minister.

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All the crowing about textbooks, again mainly from our Minister, and what do we get in reality? A letter home talking about the fact that our kids cannot actually take these text books home because we don’t have enough for all of the students.

It makes me sick to see politicians feeding us falsehoods.

And when I brought this up at the committee meeting last night, every single commissioner seemed in the same place as me. Thank goodness we have a system where we can get frontline experience and actually work to fix things. A lot of good press on textbooks of late and yes, there has ben some movement. But the picture isn’t as rosy and our Minister would have you believe.

Truly,

Steve

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