Council of Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board ready to weather a culture change

Town Hall meeting facilitated by outsourced Institut du Nouveau Monde

Renata Isopo

In the squeeze to meet spiraling demands by disgruntled parents and stakeholders who want freedom of choice in what schools their children attend, and to provide financed transportation to under-utilized Rosemere High, Council turned to outsourcing for support services, INM, for the January 21st Town Hall meeting at Laval Senior Academy.

According to critics, converting to an outside contractor is questionable at best since it hasn’t been a standard operating procedure at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, and the Council of Commissioners turning to support services clearly sheds negative perception from the community.  The concept, whether called outsourcing or insourcing sparks doubt from parents, employees, stakeholders on the function of the Council of Commissioners. Board members and school boards may be subject to political pressures, especially during these difficult times in education, as reported by another local newspaper.

Chairperson Paolo Galati explains

In a telephone conversation, TLN spoke with Chairperson Paolo Galati who stated, “that the goal of the outsourcing is to be open and objective, and, to have full transparency.”  He also stated, “ I believe that it’s  important for the parents and stakeholders that the Town Hall meeting is a place  to understand and know what to expect , and to hear diverse perspectives on the issue.”  Galati continued, “It’s important to note constructively coming into contact with opposing views, and not to be in a position of conflict of interest, therefore, an outside company has been hired to record the meeting.” Upon further questioning, Galati stated, “It’s important to establish neutral zones, but also critical to provide outlets for the interested parties to vent their concerns.”   The whole idea is to encourage communication between the administrative team and the stakeholders.  “From the perspective of Chairperson, dialogue is really important to the extent the stakeholders to let the Board know what their opinions are, and, mainly to get to the bottom of it. This is absolutely key to proactive planning when controversial incidents are stirring,” Galati stated firmly.  “The final consensus among Council and the Town Hall meeting was to plan ahead.  Council will adhere to the provisions of our zoning policies.  Parents are free to go to whichever school they wish, if there’s room, and they must provide their own transportation,” concluded Galati.

Who is INM?

TLN also contacted Sophie Seguin, Director of Communications of Institut du Nouveau Monde.  She informed TLN that this is an independent company called to represent citizens.   It is the first time that they work with SWLSB. Their presence at the Town Hall meeting is to collect, record and report the group discussions. In fact, the model is to inform, debate, and propose (urgent).  Two to three professionals are assigned to attend in public participation.  Sophie Seguin stated, “The objective is to collect an inventory of information from the participants, analyze their needs, and find the best solution.”  The format is “Word Coffee”—something in the tune of brain-storming in groups. Seguin  refused to divulge the cost of the event.  She referred TLN to the Board.

What are the questioned school numbers?

Following Sophie Seguin of INM, TLN contacted Maxeen Jolin of SWLSB who graciously confirmed that “transparency” was the motivation for hiring outsourcing.  TLN requested the cost for the outsourcing which, of course, was negated.  TLN was referred to the Secretary General, Stephanie Krenn.  Maxeen Jolin also stated that zoning and bussing procedures will be followed for school choices. When discussing school numbers and dwindling registrations at the SWLSB, Jolin confirmed that Rosemere High presently houses 1205 students and it has a capacity for 1450; Laval Senior Academy currently has 1550 students; and, Laval Junior Academy 924 students.

TLN will follow up in the next issue with the upcoming school board events.