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PROVINCE OF QUEBEC

MINUTES OF THE SPECIAL MEETING OF THE SIR WILFRID LAURIER SCHOOL BOARD HELD ON 1999-04-08

A Special meeting of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board was held in the Cafeteria of Rosemere High School, 530 Northcote, Rosemere, QC on Thursday, 1999-04-08 19:30 hours, at which were present:

Steve Bletas, Chairman; Natalie Auclair; Nazario Facchino, Walter Fogel, Pierre Garofano, Peter Haldimand, Steve Kmec, Peter MacLaurin, James McDougall, Nancy Rupnik, Morten Schrier, and Mary Svotelis, Commissioners; and Mario Gaulin and Pierre Niding, Parent Commissioners; and Dominic Martini, Director General.

Also present were: Robert Vallerand, Deputy Director General; George Paquette, Supervisor of Transportation Services; and Michael Stirrup, Director of Human Resources; and Jocelyne Thompson-Ness, Recording Secretary. Many other persons were also in the audience.

 

Absent: William Pollock, Vice-Chairman; Carolyn Curiale, Linda Gagnon, Glen Haines, Nick Milas, Grace Nesi, and Edward Turchyniak, Commissioners.

CALL TO ORDER:

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 19:35 hours.

 

The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting. He went on to remind those present that this meeting was called at the request of a group of parents who wished to have a review of the decisions taken by the Council of Commissioners on 1999-02-17 concerning the use of public transportation for secondary students in Laval and the rezoning of certain schools.

He noted that all questions that could be answered this evening would be and that any further questions that may arise are to be submitted in writing to the Council of Commissioners by 1999-04-14 and will be brought to the Council meeting of 1999-04-21.

 

 

Anita van der Ven, a parent whose children attend Lake of Two Mountains High School and Twin Oaks Elementary School, presented the Council with a series of information documents as contained in document #SWLSB-990408-001 for their review.

Ms. van der Ven introduced Julius Grey, lawyer, who is representing a specific group of parents who are not in agreement with the decisions taken by the Council on the use of public transportation by secondary students in Laval and the rezoning of certain schools, and asked him to speak on behalf of the group.

 

Mr. Grey thanked the Council of Commissioners for agreeing to meet with the parents so that they may voice their concerns on this issue again publicly. He also noted that it is hoped that the differences between the school board and the parents can be resolved in a reasonable manner in order to avoid any legal action.

 

Mr. Grey began by stating that he was seeking fair and adequate treatment for students and that he was not entering a legal plea at this time. He stated that he understood the budgetary pressures facing school boards and that some money could be saved in the transportation budget but that the decisions of the board were inconsistent with the Education Act (R.S.Q., chapter I-13.3) which requires that students,

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as far as possible, attend a school nearest their homes. He claimed that it was totally undesirable for a student to travel twenty (20) kilometres to school.

 

Mr. Grey advised the Council that the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board is contravening the Education Act (R.S.Q., chapter I-13.3) and the Quebec Civil Code by adopting resolutions that require students to take public transportation, thereby placing them in a precarious position that could well endanger their wellbeing, and inquired if the school board’s liability insurance would be able to support an unforeseen tragedy. He further stated that the knowledge that the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board has liability insurance is not reassuring to the parents. He stressed that the Quebec Civil Code required that all decisions must be made in the best interests of the child(ren).

 

He went on to suggest that the school board consider alternate means for raising the funds to cover the transportation deficit. He said that it was wrong to treat Laval as a separate unit and the use of public transportation was an error for younger children.

 

In closing, Mr. Grey asked that the Council of Commissioners consider modifying expenses in other areas in order to support the transportation deficit, consider status quo for transportation, and conduct a year long consultation on the transportation issue

 

The Chairman thanked Mr. Grey for his comments and inquired if there were any questions from the audience.

 

Maria Olivier, a parent from Sacred Heart Middle School, inquired as to why it is so important for the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board to have a zero deficit, while the French school boards carry substantial deficits in transportation. She indicated that, in her opinion, if the Ministère de l’Éducation were to decide to give boards additional funding for transportation, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board would lose out as it would have balanced its transportation budget.

 

In closing Ms. Olivier noted that public transportation is dangerous and that the Council should put the lives of students before funding issues.

 

Susan Bourque, a parent from Lake of Two Mountains High School, asked what the actual transportation deficit is and how much will be saved by using the Société de transport de la Ville de Laval (STL).

 

Dianne Skoda, a parent from Rosemere High School, advised the Council that due to budget cuts and the rezoning of students, Rosemere High School will no longer have a first class music program due to reduced enrolment, therefore, providing evidence that the decisions taken by the Council on rezoning have directly affected the students’ education.

 

In response to a question from Marcy Rowling as to why the Council requested that each person presenting questions be required to provide their name and the school their child attends, the Chairman indicated that the name of the student is being requested because the right to appeal in the Education Act (R.S.Q., chapter I-13.3) is given to students and their parents.

In response to a further question from Ms. Rowling, the Chairman advised that all presentations made to the Council have been studied and that no reports or comments received during the consultation process on the rezoning have been ignored.

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Eric Brown, a parent from Twin Oaks Elementary School, asked how the school board can consider sending students who are only twelve (12) years old on public transportation when there is a law that states that no child under that age can be left unattended. He further requested that the Council rethink the decisions that were taken on 1999-02-17.

 

Maria Valente, a parent with children in Sacred Heart Middle School and Laval Catholic High School, expressed her displeasure over the continuing increase in schools fees and inquired what the next fee increase will entail.

 

The Chairman inquired if there were any additional questions, then asked the Director General to respond to the questions presented this evening.

 

The Director General thanked Ms. van der Ven for the documents presented and noted that he and the Commissioners would study them, adding that as he had not had a chance to examine them, he could not respond at this time.

 

He went on to advise Mr. Grey that since he was not a lawyer, he could not at this time respond to the questions of law which had been raised.

 

Mr. Martini advised that Ms. Olivier’s position on the issue of the security and wellbeing of the students while using public transportation is one that has not been overlooked by the Council but that it will continue to study the issue.

 

In response to Mrs. Bourque’s questions concerning the actual deficit in transportation, Mr. Martini provided an actual accounting of revenues and expenses of the operating budget for transportation services. He also stated that the Ministère de l’Éducation is aware of the underfunding in transportation for school boards and that representations have been made asking the Ministère de l’Éducation to act to correct the situation. He noted that at this time no response has been received.

 

Mr. Martini further stated that although the rezoning will result in a reduction in the deficit for transportation, it will only reduce but not eliminate the deficit.

 

In response to Mrs. Skoda’s concerns about the music program at Rosemere High School, Mr. Martini noted that the issue needs to be addressed but reminded her that music programs also exist in the other high schools of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board.

 

In response to Mr. Brown’s concern about young children travelling on public transportation, Mr. Martini noted that the Council supports his concern but that public transportation is used in many urban areas for the transportation of high school students.

 

In response to a question from Mr. Grey on the lower cost of yellow buses in the French school boards, the Director General noted that there are historical costs to be considered and that the transportation routes in English school boards are usually longer, therefore, costing more. He also noted that there is much debate on the difference in costs at the Ministère de l’Éducation and a recognition of the particular situation of the English boards. He also noted that long travel time spent by students on the buses serving English schools was also an issue.

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In response to Ms. Valente’s concern over the continued downloading of costs to parents, Mr. Martini noted that no one is happy about additional costs and, although the school board has tried to keep the costs transferred to the parents as low as possible, it is not always possible because the budget allocations had been greatly reduced as part of the government’s decision to have a zero deficit budget.

 

He further noted that the Ministère de l’Éducation has been asked to identify the savings the merger of school boards generated, but to date the figure remains elusive.

 

Ms. van der Ven advised the Council that she was concerned that the Laval Police Department would no longer have a youth education unit and that there will be no police education programs in the schools of Laval.

 

A concerned grandparent reminded the Council that the job of the school board is to put children first and that everything else is secondary. She cited the extremely poor behaviour of students using public transportation as a further reason for not resorting to public transportation.

 

Mrs. Gadouri, a parent from Lake of Two Mountains, informed the Council that the safety of students who ride public transportation is put at risk due to the fighting that occurs on a daily basis between students from the French and English sectors.

 

Mr. Brown inquired if the school board had considered holding fund raisers to offset the transportation deficit or if it had considered asking the parents to contribute 150,00$ towards the use of yellow buses instead of public transportation.

 

Mr. Martini responded that the board had not considered fund raisers and that it would not be permitted by law to levy a general contribution from all parents for transportation.

 

In response to a question from Rosa Belanger concerning the number of STL buses that some students will be required to take to reach school, the Supervisor of Transportation noted that the agreement currently being negotiated with the STL will include the proviso that there be no more than one bus transfer per trip.

Pierre Garofano left the meeting. TIME: 20:26 hours

The Chairman advised those present that he has asked to meet with the Minister of Education to discuss various school board and parental issues and that the Minister has accepted his invitation.

Pierre Garofano returned to the meeting. TIME: 20:29 hours

 

In response to a request from Earl Buttle, a parent from Sacred Heart Middle School, to have a couple of parents accompany the Chairman to the meeting with the Minister, the Chairman advised that the Minister had agreed to meet with him alone and that all the arrangements were made via M. Legault’s political attaché.

 

Mrs. Deland, a parent from Rosemere High School, asked for a clarification of the amount of compensation to be paid to parents as it had been stated at a previous meeting that the cost of transportation was 500$ per student.

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The Director General advised Mrs. Deland that the cost of a bus pass for both parents and the school board was 15,25$ per month. He also explained that while the figure of 500$ was given as an average per student cost based on revenues for transportation of approximately 6 000 000$ for 12 000 students, the actual budget was not determined on a per capita basis and took into account distance, dispersion and other factors. He further noted that if the cost of a bus pass increases, so will the compensation.

 

Steve Pavelko, community member on the St-Jude Elementary School Governing Board, suggested that the Council consider overturning the decisions that were taken on 1999-02-17 in order to put the Council into a more powerful position with the Minisiter in that it would have the support of all the Governing Boards of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board in demanding additional funding for transportation.

 

He drew the Council’s attention to the fact that there are many anglophones who are still paying taxes to the French school boards and that the Council should be actively pursuing stray English taxpayers as well as assuring that the school board tax office makes the necessary changes as requested by the taxpayer.

 

In response to several questions concerning taxation, the Director General noted that this area always raises many questions and explained how the Ministère de l’Éducation determines the share of revenues which the tax base of the board should generate based on a maximum tax rate of 0,35$ per 100$. He explained that the difference between what the board is expected to raise and what the tax base actually generates is then given to the board as an equalization payment.

 

Mrs. Wheatly, a parent with children in Twin Oaks Elementary School and Rosemere High School, noted that many families of the board are single parent families and that the rezoning and increased fees have put a great strain on finances, therefore, possibly hampering the achievement of the student.

 

Ms. van der Ven advised the Council that many parents send their child(ren) to a specific school due to the educational program of the school and that to remove the child(ren) to another school is depriving the student and the parents of their rights.

She also stated that if everyone worked together, this entire issue could have a positive outcome.

 

Walter Fogel, Commissioner, noted that the Council is well aware of his position on the use of Société de transport de la Ville de Laval (STL) services because he feels that students will not be able to benefit from the safety and security provided by yellow buses and the board’s Emergency Preparedness Transportation Plan.

 

The Chairman, after conferring with the Chairman of the Executive Committee, invited all members of the Council of Commissioners to attend the next meeting of the Executive Committee to be held on Tuesday, 1999-04-13 to review what has been presented this evening.

 

Walter Fogel, Commissioner, presented a notice of motion which the Chairman ruled out of order due to the nature of the evening’s meeting and asked Mr. Fogel to present this motion at the next regular meeting of the Council of Commissioners.

 

 

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In response to a request from Ms. Olivier to attend the Executive Committee meeting, the Chairman explained that the meetings of the Executive Committee are closed to the public, but that all present would be more than welcome to attend the next regular meeting of the Council to be held on Wednesday, 1999-04-21.

 

Steve Kmec requested that the documents presented earlier in the evening by Ms. van der Ven be translated for the benefit of all Council members.

 

The Chairman advised those present that the Council would review the information presented this evening and that further discussion on the issue would be undertaken at the next Council of Commissioners meeting to be held on Wednesday, 1999-04-21 in the Library of Rosemere High School at 19:30 hours.

 

ADJOURNMENT OF MEETING:

 

Pierre Garofano MOVED adjournment of the meeting.

Carried unanimously

 

 

 

 

 

TIME: 21:20 hours

 

 

 

 

 

NEXT MEETING ð REGULAR ð 1999-04-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

______________________________

Robert Vallerand, Secretary General

__________________________

Steve Bletas, Chairman