|EDUCATION MINISTER LEGAULT VISITS JAMES LYNG HIGH SCHOOL FOR BRIEFING ON PILOT PROJECT|
MONTREAL, OCTOBER 23, 2001– Quebec Education Minister Francois Legault made first visit to an English Montreal School Board (EMSB) facility on Monday, October 22, spending more than an hour at James Lyng High School in Saint-Henri.
James Lyng is one of six Quebec high schools which opened the 2001-2002 academic year with new class schedules aimed at effecting greater parental participation. This is part of a $7.2 million, three-year pilot project to combat the provinces’s alarming high-school dropout rate.
Administrators at James Lyng and five other schools in the province have the responsibility of deciding how to spend their annual $400,000 budgets among target students in Secondary I to III. At James Lyng, Principal Wayne Commeford hopes to improve student graduation rates by getting parents more involved in their children’s education. This year classes there are limited to 18 students. These pupils will spend most of the day in the same classroom. A student/parent animator has been hired to serve as the liaison between parents and teachers. The goal of the six schools is to reduce average dropout rates from 41 to 26 percent by the end of three years.
Mr. Legault visited two Secondary I classes where he spoke directly to students, seeking their input on how to reduce the dropout rate and make school more enjoyable. "Going to school is very important," he said. "When you look at the statistics it is very clear that the number of jobs available for those people without a high school degree are decreasing."
Mr. Commeford said that his school is targeting Secondary I students this year in order for there to be some continuity. "We want to work with these same students for a three year period," he said in response to a question from the Minister. "We also felt that had we introduced this project with three grade levels simultaneously, we would have been spreading ourselves too thin."
Project Coordinator Nancy Price told the Minister that in the two months the project has been ongoing she has already noticed a dramatic change in the way the students are approaching their schooling. There has also been a stronger involvement from parents. "In the past we have found that most of our students have not made a connection between high school and their future lives," said Mr. Commeford. "We are trying to change that."
The school has set January as a target to assess the project and begin planning the implementation stages for Secondary II and III.
Mr. Legault met privately with Mr. Commeford, EMSB Director General Charley E.E. Levy, Chairman Dr. John Simms, Commissioner Susan Clarke, James Lyng Governing Board Chair Michele Ciampini and some staff.
Michael J. Cohen