Editor’s note: The scheduled Nov. 1 school board elections in the English school system are being postponed because of the pandemic, Premier François Legault announced Wednesday.
Two former teachers are vying to become the next chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.
But the comparisons end there for Judy Kelley and Chris Eustace, the candidates in the Nov. 1 school board election.
While Kelley is a strong proponent of the current school board structure, Eustace favours the Coalition Avenir Québec’s plan, under Bill 40, to scrap school boards and replace them with service centres.
Eustace, who taught at Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School for 34 years, also ran for the chair position in 2014 but lost to incumbent Suanne Stein Day , who later resigned under a cloud of controversy.
Eustace, a fixture at school board meetings, has been an outspoken critic of the LBPSB — and school boards in general — for many years. He was once banned from posing questions at board meetings.
“My major beef with how they’re running the school board is they’re spending money unnecessarily on things that have nothing to do with the classroom,” he said. “I’m talking about these excursions and trips they’re taking on professional days.”
Kelley said she decided to run after outgoing chair Noel Burke announced he was planning to retire.
“I am campaigning for all the good things we can do at the school boards,” she said. “ I wasn’t planning to campaign, additionally, against someone, but I have to because my opponent is anti-school board and has clearly shown that over the years with his opposition to what we do, with Bill 40 and so on.
“If I don’t win and Chris were to become chair, I would be so disappointed for my fellow commissioners. It would be the worst-case scenario.”
Kelley has an extensive background as an educator.
She served as a school commissioner with the LBPSB for nine years, from 2007-2014 and 2018-2020. She also served as chair of the John Abbott College board of governors and the John Abbott College Foundation. She taught for nearly four decades years in the high school, adult education and college sectors, and has worked at the Ministry of Education. She is currently on the board of the West Island Community Resource Centre.
“I believe in local democracy and giving a voice to the communities served by the LBPSB,” Kelley said. “The board serves a diverse population with differing needs and priorities. My experience and leadership skills will help guide me to bring people together with a common purpose: to offer the best possible education for all students. The LBPSB has an enviable school success record, and I plan to build on and secure that success.”
Her husband is Geoff Kelley, the former Quebec Minister Responsible for Native Affairs and MNA for the Jacques-Cartier riding. Her son, Greg Kelley, is the current MNA for the riding.
Eustace is aware he is up against a West Island political dynasty in trying to upset a Kelley at the polls.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle but I’m going to do it anyway,” said the 75-year-old Eustace, who wants to withdraw the LBPSB from Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA).
“They (QESBA) are for the anachronistic status quo . . . and I’m for giving more say to the parents and teachers within the schools.”
If elected, Eustace says he would promote “governing boards as policy-makers, and the school board as the service provider.”
Kelley is hoping voters will make it to the polls, despite the COVID-19 pandemic .
“It will be an enormous challenge to campaign during a pandemic, but I am confident that I will be able to reach as many electors as possible between now and the election on Nov. 1.”
While most LBPSB commissioners are acclaimed, elections will take place in Wards 2, 3 and 4.
In Ward 2, the candidates are Frank Di Bello and Ruben Fazio; the Ward 3 candidates are Norm Gharibian and Patrick Whitham; Ward 4 pits Allison Saunders against Gary Spiller.
Acclaimed commissioners include Lori Morrison (Ward 1), Malik Shaheed (Ward 5), Craig Berger (Ward 6), Jason Doan (Ward 7), Marilyne Boyer (Ward 8), Michel Besner (Ward 9), Eric Bender (Ward 10), Daniel Olivenstein (Ward 11), Angela Berryman (Ward 12).