EMSB chair and vice-chair look to lay blame for potential school loses

Faced with the potential loss of three of its schools, rather than showing a united front, the English Montreal School Board's Chairman and Vice-Chairman were taking shots at one another, trying to lay blame in the other's lap.

Speaking with CTV Montreal after receiving the bad news from Quebec's Education Minister, vice-chair Joe Ortona said there was a plan in place to avoid the situation from getting to this point. He said transferring the students at the Galileo Adult Education Centre could have worked, but it was sabotaged from within.

"We had a good pedagogical plan in place. It was sabotaged with misinformation by [Silvia] Lobianco with the consent of our chairman unfortunately," Ortona said. "[She] put the parents in a panic when she revealed [the proposed closure of Galileo] before we had a chance to explain anything to our parents."

"We have an administration that has a lot of experience with special needs. They knew exactly what they were doing when they were making the recommendations to move the Galileo students into the other building," Ortona said.

"This plan was sabotaged by Mrs. Lobianco with the chairman, and unfortunately that sabotage led the Minister to say Galileo is off the table in any circumstance, and they put our youth schools, which we were looking to protect, in jeopardy."

EMSB chair Angela Mancini spoke with CJAD800 prior to her scheduled press conference on Friday.

She said Mrs. Lobianco was doing her job by informing parents of the potential closure of the adult education centre. 

"I think it's disingenuous on the part of Mr. Ortona because he tried to stop the consultation to go forward with the vote of the council," Mancini said. "Then when the reaction came from the stakeholders he backtracked to try and then go out with the consultations."

"Now I find myself in a situation where the Minister has acted, gone towards Article 477 based on Joe Ortona's antagonizing comments and what seemed to be an unwillingness to be able to look for some solutions that were different than what the Galileo was."

Ortona had made several comments about Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge to reporters over the past month.

"He spoke about the Minister not knowing the law, the Minister knowing about Galileo way before and having played political games," Mancici said. "I think those are very antagonizing comments."

As it stands the Minister is looking to gather information about Gerald McShane Elementary, General Vanier Elementary and John Paul I Junior High School. The EMSB has until June 10 to send the Education Ministry information about the students at the school and the board's clientele in the three buildings.