'It cannot go on like this': Mancini not opposed to placing EMSB under trusteeship

Angela Mancini, chair of the English Montreal School Board, is not opposed to the idea of putting the board under trusteeship after a scathing provincial report found it to be dysfunctional and mismanaged.

Scathing report released by Quebec's Education Minister last week recommends board be stripped of powers

EMSB chair Angela Mancini says she was the one who warned the ministry of the dysfunction within the board and she welcomes the report. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Angela Mancini, chair of the English Montreal School Board, is not opposed to the idea of putting the board under trusteeship after a scathing provincial report found it to be dysfunctional and mismanaged.

"We have a report that finally shows what I've been saying for a long time," Mancini, chair of the EMSB since 2008, told Radio-Canada.

"The report speaks to me. I cannot say that the report we have before us is not true." 

Released by the province last week, the report recommends the EMSB be stripped of its powers. It has not been made public yet.

Education Minister Jean-François Roberge did not rule out putting the board under trusteeship, or launching a criminal investigation.

On Wednesday morning, Roberge said the report is still being analyzed and the government has yet to decide how it is going to react. 

"We will make this decision within a few weeks," he said. "It will take a few weeks to decide if we go with full trusteeship, partial trusteeship or other measures."

Mancini said it is clear the minister will take action if the situation doesn't improve quickly.

She said she wants to meet with Roberge to discuss the issues within the board, but she is still opposed to the minister's plans to abolish school boards altogether due to the report. 

Mancini told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Wednesday that she deplores the way the minister appears to be using the report to fuel his board-abolishing agenda.

She challenged his timing — that the report is coming to light while the minister is considering a complete restructure of the way public schools are managed in the province.

Mancini welcomes report

Overall, Mancini said she was not surprised by the report and she welcomes it. 

She said she sounded the alarm herself, warning Roberge about management problems.

"We told him it cannot go on like this," she said. "There are things that are not quite right in our school board."

Sometimes, she said, "I found that there were gaps, irregularities that should be followed a little more carefully."

On Wednesday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said the report is still being analyzed and the government will make a decision in the coming weeks. (CBC)

Despite the report, Mancini said the EMSB is still second to none in terms of the quality of education.

"I am so proud of that, but there are things we need to fix," she said. 

Mancini hopes the report will not tarnish the image of board employees, such as principals, teachers and support staff.

"They are amazing and that's why we have a 91 per cent success rate."

Listen to EMSB chair Angela Mancini's interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak:  

Mancini said she is unwilling to "take all the blame." Instead, she blames much of the issues on vice chair Joe Ortona, saying his main goal has been to get rid of her.

However, the report goes back more than a decade and Ortona was first elected as a commissioner five years ago — some seven years after Mancini became chair. She has been with the EMSB for 21 years.

For his part, Ortona accused Mancini of playing the victim and laying the blame on everyone but herself. 

"It's disheartening the chair is open to trusteeship," he told journalists Wednesday. 

Vice chair Joe Ortona is accusing Mancini of "throwing in the towel." (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

In a Facebook post Wednesday, she claims the report highlights the "ethically questionable methods" used by some commissioners in an attempt to silence her.

Those commissioners include Ortona, Patricia Lattanzio and their majority group, she wrote.

Ortona would like to see the contents of the report. He said if there's anything he should improve on, he is willing to do that. 

"Despite the personal suffering Chairman Mancini had to endure, she refused to resign because the interest of the children and taxpayers deserved that she continued to fight against the abuse of power for partisan politics," she states in the post.

Internal conflict leads to dysfunction, report finds

The report says the internal conflict between the majority of school commissioners has rendered the council dysfunctional to the point that it paralyzes the decision-making body and adversely affects its ability to service students.

"If we spend time at each meeting to discuss all the problems, to put forward our political file against our opponent, instead of debating the real issues that can affect young people, it is certain that it will have an effect," Mancini said.

"We ended up not really addressing the elements that affected young people."

According to the report, the council "has clearly established that it prefers to focus on division for political ends rather than on good governance."

With files from Radio-Canada and CBC Montreal's Daybreak