Mr. Galati, you didn’t honour Steve Bletas, you simply danced between the raindrops

Reading the recent letter-to-the-editor submitted by my father’s and my friend Tom Mouhteros, entitled “Mr. Galati you are entitled to your opinion but not to your own facts”, stirred a few emotions inside of me.

Let me start by stating that Steve Bletas had a close-knit inner-circle of true friends towards the end of his days. Tom Mouhteros was one of those people and had been from the start of their friendship in the early days of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. One thing that I can tell you about Mr. Mouhteros, he tells it like it is and doesn’t back down from speaking his mind and providing factual information.

What I can take away from experiences over these many years of service my father sacrificed for the betterment of public education is how dedicated he was towards the goals that he envisioned for the future.

He never was one to care for the spotlight unless it had direct benefits for the school board and for the thousands of students attending schools in the Laurier Board. He lobbied for added support for special needs and autistic children in schools and later flipped his talents to help reduced mobility transportation for elderly people and handicapped individuals as a member of the Société de Transport de Laval (STL) Board of Directors. To the very end he was a man of the people, honest, caring, and selflessly driven.

Steve Bletas passed away this May 5th, amidst a world-wide pandemic, on what I can only describe as one of the worst days that I have ever lived as I not only lost my father but also my best friend and confidant. He guided me through many obstacles in my life and losing him so soon was devastating to our entire family.

Fortunately for me, my father’s inner circle of friends, whom he considered family, was there for me and my sister Eva-Marie while we were mourning, and Tom Moutheros was there every step of the way during the process. We received many calls and messages of sympathy from so many people that my father worked with, many I had never even met. His colleagues from the STL, former teachers from the school board, former students from the schools I attended.

But, to my dismay and disappointment not a single act of sympathy or condolence came from the school board. I thought that maybe some sign of respect would come, but alas there was nothing as days passed into weeks. Not a word, not from DirectorGeneral Gaëlle Absolonne, Chairman Galati, commissioners, or Communications Coordinator Maxeen Jolin.

The official first condolences we received was from SWLSB was at the-tree planting in late September, a ceremony that was quite rushed and not very well put together. A ceremony that I’m not sure would have happened had not another of my father’s friends taken it upon himself to call out the school board behind closed doors, something that I know to be one hundred percent factual.

The tree planting itself seemed more like a photo opportunity for the commissioners than for the actual purpose of honouring my father. The most genuine of the lot happened to be The Laval News photographer, Martin Barry, who shared kind words with my family of his dealings and interactions with my father over the years.

Reading Mr Moutheros’ letter to the editor sparked the realization of what the true motives seemed to be for a half-planned bush-planting ceremony that used my father’s death as grounds to gain some kind of political advantage in the next set of elections. Disingenuous is the kindest of words that come to mind.

But more damning is the fact the statements made by Paolo Galati at the ceremony, regarding his admiration and respect for, and close friendship with, my father are patently false. From the truth of what I and others know only too well, they were empty words, coming from someone who totally disregarded, ignored, and disrespected Steve Bletas, the founder and longest-serving chairman of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, a board Mr. Galati now chairs.

After my father took his leave after 2015, the school board, in both administrators and commissioners, showed no appreciation for the sacrifices he made in his 15 years at the helm, and for his 8 years of dedicated service as the major force behind the Laurier Foundation, the public-private initiative he founded in 2004, and which under his leadership raised close to $900,000 in support of schools and students of the school board.

Mr. Galati sat on council at the board and at the Foundation for nearly five years before my father’s death. For nearly two of those years he sat in the Chair of the Board following the departure of Jennifer Maccarone. In those years, Mr. Galati did nothing to make my father feel welcome, either at the school board or at the Foundation. By the way, neither did Ms. Maccarone. Shame on both of them and others who ignored this servant of the people.

Can you imagine? Steve Bletas, who devoted the best years of his life to fulfilling the needs of the most important members of society – the children – was deemed to be undeserving of any recognition, invited to no events conducted by the school board, and told that if he wanted to attend a Foundation fund-raiser he should buy a ticket.

If Steve Bletas was still alive today I would have pressured him into running for office again to try and bring back honour, respect, and responsibility to the governing boards of education, and set the right examples for the future and respect the past that laid the bricks for the present.

As for these subtle gestural insults surrounding a tree-planting that were either intentionally directed towards Steve Bletas or for the lack of a better term, unintentionally allowed to happen, Steve would have taken the high road. As famously said long ago “when they go low, you go high “.

But I, as his son, cannot let my father’s worth, dignity, and deserved recognition be misrepresented by people who ought to know better. The planting of a tree, as symbolic as it might be, was simply too little, too flimsy, too late.

But rest assured that in death and in memory, Steve Bletas, has an army of people that will defend his honour, his success, his accomplishments, and the ideals he held for the future of public education and the success of the English school boards.

And above all, although his record speaks for itself, he was a man of honour who wanted the best for parents, teachers, principals, staff, administrators, and students of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board family. For this, he was not only admired, he was, and still is, in fact, loved.

When all is said and done, we as a people must learn to squeeze the sly and destructive politics from the boards that are running schools our children grow up in. Ask the right questions, pressure elected officials and commissioners to give you the answers you seek and bring back the honor and relevance of the school boards for our future.

As a closing note, it’s not enough for representatives to shine in the limelight and pretend to “dance between the raindrops” and look good in front of the cameras, it is their job to be the “rain” and cause a storm in status quo of politics and that has to start at the foundation of our school boards.

Michael Stephen Bletas

Proud Son

1983 – Always