Emergency EMSB meeting held over transfer of three schools

Tensions were high at the Monday night emergency meeting over the transfer of three English Montreal School Board's schools.

Parents, who showed up to the meeting in large numbers, are concerned that Education Minister Jean-François Roberge will take three of the EMSB schools, if they do not come up with solutions by the mid-June deadline.

Roberge's proposal is to swap control of Gerald McShane and General Vanier elementary schools, and John Paul I Junior High to a French school board, in an attempt to deal with over crowding.

"The courts are on our side," said EMSB Vice-Chair Joe Ortona, as he talked about how the EMSB can go a legal route and keep their schools. 

"These are our buildings, they're our students, and this is our future," Ortona added. "I feel that the fight that we’re going to have to go through is much bigger than those three schools. It’s not just about your children, it’s about the next generation, and the schools that are going to be around when your children’s children go to school."

Not everyone is convinced a court challenge is a great option.

"If our backs are against the wall, and the minister has the ability to take 3 facilities from us," said Sylvia Lo Bianco, Galileo’s school commissioner. She asked, "Do we want to gamble? Or do we want to suggest cohabitation?" 

After the third hour of the meeting, parents started getting riled up in the viewing area. Their chants echoed through the hallways and into the board's meeting room.
"Let us talk, let us talk, let us talk," they chanted.

Chair Angela Mancini asked for order, then allowed parents to walk in one-by-one and ask questions.

Antonio Zaruso is Parent Representative on the Governing Board of General Vanier.

He approached the podium, heated up, and said, "All though the majority (French Quebecers) has a right, guess what? Our minority English communities have the same rights."

He added that the board should say to Roberge, "you know what buddy? This is still Canada. We have rights."

"We've all been lip serviced," Zaruso told CJAD 800. "If you look at some of [the board's] responses, they're perfectly orchestrated cassette responses. Whereby, 'oh they brought up a question on whatever... let's play this tape for them.'"

Many parents asked why Roberge was only giving them until June 10 to come up with solutions to ease overcrowding at the French board, or risk having their own schools taken away.

"If there was such a need, why were no consultations done?" asked Giovanni Sardo. "Now it's like, 'Hey Parents, we're screwed.'"

Ortona said Roberge informed the EMSB of the overcrowding in January, and they proposed giving up the Galileo Adult Education Center and transferring high schools, but the Education Minister turned those ideas down.