Monthly Archives: September 2012

Best case against getting rid of school boards I have ever seen.

Over at the BBC, we have a 30 minute documentary on a major scam that has affected some schools in the UK.  It boils down to the decentralizing of some fairly major IT decision back to the school level and away from the professional IT people and their buyers.

Laptops worth 458 pds costing 3033 pds, copiers worth 1512 pds costing 42,000 pds, and multi function copiers worth 10,995 pds costing 174,787 pds.

Are the principals or head teachers placing these orders “stupid”?  Absolutely not.  But a professional director of IT and/or a professional purchasing agent would have known how to recognize and avoid this leasing scam.

Some services being centralized simply make sense.  A single professional is going to make a better purchasing decision than will individual principals whose profession is educational management, and not in purchasing IT – as it should be.

If you have a UK proxy, or a subscription to a BBC mobile app,. the show in question is here:




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An interesting debate over at

I follow a number of educational blogs. One political-educational local blog is  Though the politics centers around EMSB and LBPSB, a lot of it applies beyond those two boards.  Recently, they posted an interview with a CAQ candidate and the Chair of LBPSB.  Frankly, to my mind, the CAQ candidate, Paola Hawa, did a much better job of defending her position. So I felt I had to chime in.

Here is a link to the original radio interview.

Here are the rest of the posts to-date, first comment at the bottom and replies moving up from there.

  • “Band-ad status quo”?? Not what I am saying. That’s a silly comment.

    Leadership officials on loan from school boards? Yes, I agree – and worse still, MELS also brings in bucket loads of retired administration people.

    But – somehow, getting rid of commissioners is going to fix this? This is yet another problem that comes from MELS. We need change THERE as much or more than we need change in school boards.

    You mention “favouring one school over another” – please, tell me, how is our tiny school in Grenville going to fare under this new proposed system? This school loses us money. Think this school of 80 students is going to afford to have a Science consultant, French consultant, English consultant, Math consultant, Special Ed and so on? ONLY a centralized resource can meet their needs. Call it a regional centre or call it a school board – wow – that’s going to make a difference.

    Now – do I think we can do better with the management of our slate of consultants? YES. But at the same time, do you realize how much is dictated by unions and labour laws? How much is beyond the control of a school board, let alone how much MORE would be beyond the control of a school on its own?

    As for the comments on the $300 million – I am fully cognizant of the platform. The issue is that so many people seem to think that the problems will be solved by getting rid of commissioners and by moving “control” to schools.

    THIS IS NOT GOING TO WORK. So – I am looking for more. I am looking for real solutions. Guess what? Yup, a commissioner actually believes in MAJOR change.

    To suggest that school boards have had the “football in our hands” is to confirm that the identification of the real problem has not been made.

    I agree that we need a new government with the courage to make change. And I agree that we need major change at the MELS level, the school board (regional centre??) level and at the school level if we are to make real progress.

    But what is being put out there is simply not the solution.

    Sorry, but I am going to continue to fight for real, substantive change that is going to produce real, substantive results. Sorry if that doesn’t fit with the caricature of your typical commissioner – the caricature that is all too often sadly appropriate – but the fact of the matter is that there is a lot of *good* in these places too.



  • admin


    “I believe in more local, school level governance. BUT. It needs to be informed, and supported. IT’S GOING TO REQUIRE MORE RESOURCES. MORE MONEY.”

    Exactly. Bring the operating and capital money back into the schools and let them decide how they are going to spend it on the schools needs.

    Let a newly defined governing board of in-school administrators, teachers, parents, municipality reps and students deal directly with the needs of the school. Money is a great incentive and will generate interests and enthusiasm for all those involved.

    The current model of governing boards is basically to give input or approve board policy. We are sure that in the many years you have attended governing board meetings that great creative ideas came up to be only addressed by “We will bring it to the board” “Lets see if the board is willing to fund it” Plus before we forget to mention it, a high school governing board gets about $500 per year to operate. It makes a mockery of the raison d’etre of governing boards.

  • admin


    “But this kind of playing to the popular opinion of the moment is not going to get us anywhere.”

    Where have you been? “Popular opinion of the moment”

    This movement has been building up momentum over the past decade. Unfortunately, the school boards have been deaf to the requests of parents, deaf to the nearly invisible partipation rate in school board elections, the abolishing of school board position of the principal and vice principal association of the Francophone schools, the ADQ, the CAQ and many other signs that have been omni present throughout the last decade. Either school boards were deaf to the constituents they serve, just opted not to listen or throughout the decade were unable to address the need.

    That brings us to a very important point in our position. No private or public organization can redesign itself from inside. In private companies, usually outside third parties are brought in. In public school boards who do you bring in to create the necessary change? The MELS consisting of arm length school board employees? No!!! To redefine school boards , you need a new government with the courage to institute the necessary changes.
    School boards have had the school board change football in their hands but have dropped it on a continual basis.

  • admin


    “where *exactly* does the $300 million come from? It’s not going to come from getting rid of commissioners. And in fact, removing this level of governance is simply going to lead to more waste and higher costs.”

    If you were truly cognizant of the CAQ platform and had listened to what François Legault and Chantal Longpré had said, then you would be aware that the three hundred million dollars does not only refer to commissioners but school boards directorates as well. For example Do we really need those hundreds of educational consultants at school boards or would they be of better service at the school level.We certainly claim the latter, so does the CAQ and so do many teachers. In todays reality where information is a mere click away, the needs for board wide consultants is

    Lets see 1000 consultants x $75000 (avg) = $75 Million. Seventy five million dollars shifted from school boards to the local schools. In essence these 1000 consultants could go into the schools or 2000 new graduate teachers could be added to the classrooms for that amount of money.

  • admin


    “MELS is the biggest problem in this whole chain. Provincial level bureaucracy.”

    You realize of course that a great number of the leadership officials at MELS are actually on loan from the school boards or are ex employees of the school boards. This hand in hand relationship has existed for decades. It is a relationship that has stifled real change for as many years as the relationship has existed.

    In essence, the whole system is a top down hierarchy and at the very bottom of the chain are the educational professionals of the school. Teachers and in school administrators. When teachers and in school administrators want to create a change in their school, under the current model they have to obtain permission from the board officials and more than likely a plethora of meetings will have to be followed. Does it fall within the board policy? Does it favour one school over another etc. Suffice it to say that the decision making process has to come back to the local level.

  • Phil

    Steve, you appear incapable of thinking outside the box. Hey man, the patient is hemorrhaging, your band-aid status quo solution ain’t going work.

  • The “pile of bunk” refers to the empty statements made by the CAQ representative as relate to how we are going to fix the problems in education in Quebec today.

    If the sum total of the fix is to do what they are suggesting then we are destined to fail, and to waste another 10 years doing so.

    MELS is the biggest problem in this whole chain. Provincial level bureaucracy.

    Blinders? Sorry you think so. But this kind of playing to the popular opinion of the moment is not going to get us anywhere.

    So who’s really got the blinders on?



  • peter

    I always thought commissioners would be more open minded. Most state the system needs drastic change but they havent been able to produce. Maybe through the CAQ you might make change happen but not with the attitude of Wow- waht a pile of bunk. With those blinders on, no wonder school boards are a mess.

  • Wow – what a pile of bunk. The question is simple – where *exactly* does the $300 million come from? It’s not going to come from getting rid of commissioners. And in fact, removing this level of governance is simply going to lead to more waste and higher costs.

    I believe in more local, school level governance. BUT. It needs to be informed, and supported. IT’S GOING TO REQUIRE MORE RESOURCES. MORE MONEY.

    Have you been to a Governing Board meeting? I have been to hundreds. I used to Chair our Governing Board. Some GB’s are extremely well run and could potentially provide real governance. Many more are simply ill equipped to use the powers that they already have. The truth may hurt, but the truth remains the truth.

    Let me tell you – the needs of our schools are very well understood in our school board. Who has more leverage to push this abusive and wasteful provincial government to live up to its responsibilities, the school or the collectivity of the schools (the school board)?

    If *we* can’t get the government to provide enough money to pay to repair bathroom stalls, do you honestly think that a single school with 80 students can do it? And please tell me – who is going to respond to the request from the school? The regional center. And this is going to reduce costs how?

    Getting rid of commissioners and changing the name of school boards to regional centers and nothing more, which is basically what the CAQ rep said, is going to accomplish NOTHING more than more WASTE and less resources for our schools.

    And by the way – aside from the school board issue, which I am working to address within the CAQ, I support the party, am a card carrying member of CAQ and have voted for them already.

    I believe we need change. But not simply for the sake of change – we need intelligent, real change for the better. We need REAL solutions. Not this emotionally abusive pseudo-solution.


    Steve Mitchell
    Commissioner, SWLSB

    PA: the point was poorly responded to by the LBPSB Chair – the issue is that the amount of money that is paid to commissioners is minuscule and school boards already run at the lowest administrative cost of *any* comparable body. BY FAR. Getting rid of commissioners solves nothing more than pandering to the incorrect perception that this is the problem. Do we really want to make this change, miss the mark for another 10 years and then look back and say, “whoops – that didn’t fix it” or do we want to actually fix the problems?

  • Rick

    Kind of hard to be apolitical when one of the commissioners is the wife of an MNA.

  • PA

    Very telling that the main focus for LBPSB Chairperson is the lack of reserved parking for Commissioners…. Also, aren’t SB supposed to be “apolitical”? – why then the statement that they get less benefits than all other “politicians”?

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