Director General’s Message - September 6, 2022

Nick Katalifos
Montreal - Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Another school year is upon us.

Looking back a year ago at this time,  we had hoped to have seen the last of the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe restrictions we lived through, only to learn about the Delta and Omicron variants and the constantly changing directives from the government.

We adapted to the changing conditions, made sure our students – both in the youth and Adult Education and Vocational Services (AEVS) sectors – continued to learn, and displayed our customary strength and resilience through sometimes tragic circumstances.  Based upon the collective leadership, of our staff this is made abundantly clear when one considers that the EMSB continues to boast the highest success rate in graduation and qualification among public school boards on the island of Montreal, based on a seven-year cohort at 90.3 percent. Our board was also second in the province in the public network and among English boards. The province-wide success rate, which includes both public and private school results, remained stable at 81.8 percent in 2020.  We have a great deal to be proud of.

Now we are certainly living in interesting times in our province with the reality of Bill 96, and the constitutional challenges we have undertaken as a matter of principle.  Regardless of the rhetoric, we continue to hear surrounding the question of language, we remain very proud of the quality of French instruction offered in our schools.  This is but one simple example of the academic excellence we see in our schools every day.  And while this is what we strive for, we must remember that our mission as a board is to develop the leaders of tomorrow.  To accomplish this, we ourselves must always lead by example.  Last year, we embarked upon a campaign entitled “Celebrating Diversity and Inclusivity.”  It offered a glimpse into school life and many projects or programs focusing upon diversity and inclusion year-round in all of our schools.  We need to keep that momentum going by developing policies for our board and promoting the notion not only of inclusion but ultimately acceptance and respect.  These principles must not simply serve as mere gestures,  but permeate our entire system  

I would like to focus upon some of last year’s achievements a bit more – and they are indeed many.  All of our departments worked hard on a multitude of major projects. For example, the Student Services Department focused upon Mental Health and Wellness, while our Material Resources Department continues to coordinate millions of dollars in projects in our buildings.  Our AEVS Department pivoted to hybrid models of instruction due to the pandemic and Educational Services, in conjunction with Human Resources, Information Technology and others worked under intense pressure in partnership with our sister school boards to create the Quebec Online Alliance or QOA – an online campus for students with medical exemptions.  This project led us to successfully apply for the creation of our own virtual school this year – and I am proud to announce that our pilot project was accepted by the Ministry of Education.  This will effectively be a brand new on-line school at the EMSB, with David Servello as Principal.  The Russian invasion of Ukraine made its way into our classroom.  Not only did our staff and students stand tall in terms of organizing fundraisers and other programs in support of the Ukrainian tragedy; towards the end of the academic year, we accepted more than a dozen Ukrainian children as students who had been granted language exceptions to study at English schools in Quebec. 

These are just a few examples of the work we proudly completed last year, regardless of the challenges we faced.  They serve as a reminder of who we are. However, there is much more that we still have to do.  We still have to be weary of COVID-19 and the effects it has had on our staff and student health, as well as academic results.  We know that the entire school system in our province faces the challenge of labour shortages and other difficult questions. Most importantly, we must continue to look forward and develop the best possible approaches to empower and inspire our employees ultimately to serve our students both in the youth and AEVS sectors.

This year, among other initiatives, we are embarking upon a basic “Respect” campaign to impress upon our communities and the public at large that our schools are safe spaces and that our professionals must be treated with the respect they deserve.  We will also launch a consultation process for a new special needs school and, among other things, hope to sign a new entente with the Quebec Board of Black Educators.

We are actively promoting our youth and AEVS programs and we will continue to work closely with all our stakeholders and of course, our Council of Commissioners.

I wish everyone a terrific year!

Nick Katalifos
Director General

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