By Lawrence Belanger
Local Journalism Initiative
The Eastern Townships School Board (ETSB) held its third regular meeting of the year on Tuesday of this week. Although the meeting was the first one after news broke about allegations of sexual misconduct at Massey-Vanier and the announcement of a provincial investigation into such issues province-wide, the topic was conspicuously absent from any of the meeting’s proceedings. “Nice to see so many of you joining us this evening,” said Murray towards the start.
No members of the public spoke during either public question period.
Commissioner Gary Holliday recognized students from Richmond Regional High School, who fundraised for a trip to Italy. Students fundraised to cover the cost, and “made every penny count.” The voyage in Italy ran from Feb. 23 to March 4, offering 36 students the opportunity to explore three Venetian Islands along with several Italian cities. “The trip was surely the highlight of their high school experience,” concluded Holliday.
Commissioner Frank MacGregor recognized the contributions of many ETSB students to The Point, an online youth edition recently launched by The Record. “Any English-speaking youth 25 years and younger are invited to send their submissions, ranging from poems [and] short stories, to historical narratives and current events.” The commissioner also noted how The Point created a contest to solicit entries for an official logo, and congratulated North Hatley Elementary School student Alistair Stafford’s winning submission. Alistair is also a regular contributor to the project, according to MacGregor.
Commissioner Claire Beaubien recognized an Alexander Galt student, who will soon be a published author. Her short story, Running with the Stars, was selected in the first round of judging by the National Student Writing Contest hosted by Polar Expressions Publishing. “The short story features a young Indigenous girl who is taken away to a residential school, and escapes on a horse reaching the refuge of a starry sky,” described Beaubien.
Commissioner Gordon Barnett praised student-athletes, who competed in this year’s Jeux du Quebec, held in Riviere de Loup, from March 3 to 11. “The Estrie region was superbly represented by Alexander Galt students and alumni who competed in gymnastics and curling events,” he said. Various students brought home 4th and 5th place prizes. “We salute you all and recognize your excellence,” concluded Barnet. Furthermore, an ETSB bus driver coached the women’s curling team.
Commissioner Richard Gagnon recognized the Brome-Missisquoi campus for hosting the Olympiades québécoises des métiers et des technologies, and Joshua Schnieder, a student who won the gold medal and will represent the region at the provincial competition for welding and fitting in May.
Éric Campbell, Secretary General, delivered the news that Commissioner Alice McCrory, Ward 4, had submitted her resignation. Campbell detailed some of the circumstances and described the steps to be taken. Commissioner McCrory’s last day will be April 1. A by-election will have to take place in the next four months following her final day.
According to Murray, McCrory has had to move out of Waterloo due to personal reasons, and will no longer be qualified to represent the ward. “It’s challenging to talk about a commissioner leaving council without making it sound like an obituary,” remarked Murray, however, he insisted it was “anything but.” According to him, McCrory has resigned for personal reasons that require her to relocate outside Board territory. “I’m certain that had she found a way to remain in Waterloo, she would still be serving the ETSB and local communities,” said the Chairman.
Murray thanked her for her service to the board and local communities, and her determination in her work as a commissioner, stating she took “every opportunity to broaden her understanding of education.”
The meeting then pivoted to reports and decision-making regarding the various committees. Of note, the Audit Advisory Committee brought forth a resolution to join CAG (Centre d’acquisitions gouvernementales) to be able to buy defibrillators and parts for their maintenance. “Apparently,” explained Joy Humenuik, “we’re having problems finding these things and we were hoping that by joining this group, we will be able to be more efficient and get them in in a more timely manner.”
The Transportation Committee brought a resolution to accept a bid to purchase electric school buses. Other resolutions were brought by the Audit Committee, as well as from the Governance Committee. All resolutions were adopted unanimously.
Holliday, Chair of the Transportation Committee, also spoke about Bus Safety Week, with drivers circulating throughout the mid-east sector. “I spoke with some parents who had children that participated in these and they were very, very taken back as to how well it was taken, and how well the students were receptive,” to the six bus drivers from the ETSB who took part in the week.
Reporting on the QESBA, Murray noted that legislation on both the Federal and Provincial level were of concern for English schools. There is still no news on Bill 40, the bill that would abolish the ETSB (and other English school boards). The province’s English school boards are also concerned about Bill 96’s implementations, as well as C-13, the bill which is working its way through the Federal government to amend the Languages Act.
“We have been in contact with our legal counsel to consider how we would cope [if] there are some of the provisions are adopted as they currently stand,” said Murray. Additionally, Murray expressed concern that the new regional student ombudsman, to be appointed by July 1, has no requirement to be able to hear complaints in English.
Without any questions or comments about the QESBA report, the meeting ended swiftly. The only commissioner question or comment was from Barnett, who shared a comment about developments in education policy at the Lennoxville & Galt governing boards. Without any comments or questions from the general public, Murray then adjourned the meeting.