MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 1, 2008- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) held its second annual Public School Education Month in January. Under the theme Following In Their Footsteps, the campaign encouraged prominent graduates to return to visit their neighbourhood schools to talk to students about the role public school education played in leading them to their present-day success. These individuals now serve as outstanding role models, as do many other prominent Québecers having or having had a link with area public schools or vocational centres.
Five Montreal-area school boards – three French and two English – once again embarked upon a unique collaborative activity aimed at increasing public awareness of the successes in neighbourhood public schools. Like the EMSB, the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB), the Commission scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), the Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSMB) and the Commission scolaire Pointe-de-l’Île (CSPI), engaged in such programming as well.
There were many notable highlights in the EMSB campaign:
- This year the EMSB had its first ever information kiosk at a popular shopping mall. Representatives, including staff and students, from five elementary schools - Carlyle, Dunrae Gardens, John Caboto, Sinclair Laird and Coronation- as well as John F. Kennedy High School and John F. Kennedy Business Centre showcased their programs at Rockland Centre in T.M.R.
- Dr. Gerald Fried, Professor of Surgery and Adair Chair of Surgical Education, McGill University and the Steinberg-Bernstein Chair of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Innovation at the McGill University Health Centre, returned to Hampstead Elementary School where he last attended in 1963. He credited the school with his decision to pursue a career as a doctor. “In Grade 5 I had to do a class project and I decided to do it on cancer,” he told an inspired gym full of students. “I called the director of cancer research at McGill University and he actually agreed to meet me for a half hour. At that time I learned how cigarettes caused cancer. It was that day that changed my life and I decided to become a doctor. Once I got into medical school, I opted for a career as a surgeon.” Asked how many surgeries he has performed, Dr. Fried estimated it at more than 25,000.” What was his most difficult surgical procedure? “There was a a young man of 22 who weighed 700 pounds,” he said. “He was so big we could not put him in the x-ray machine. We could not get the I.V. in and when he was placed on the operating table it broke. It was a very sad situation. We felt for this man.”
- Internet guru and former Just For Laughs Festival CEO Andy Nulman returned to his old school, Gardenview in St. Laurent. Nulman is now the president of Airborne Entertainment, provides mobile content for major North American wireless carriers and a growing number of international service providers. Airborne was established in 2000. Five years later, Nulman and his co-founder Garner Bornstein sold the company to Cybird Co. Ltd. of Japan for $110 million. Part of the deal meant that they stayed on to run the operation. Nulman mesmerized students with his secrets to success. He began by inviting a student to the front to interview him and then moderate a question and answer period. “To this day I still remain close to the people I went to school with at Gardenview 36 years ago,” Nulman said. “In fact every five years some of us get together either here, in Toronto or Montreal. This year we are doing so in Las Vegas. “ Asked what his ambition was at that time, Nulman confessed, “I actually wanted to be a garbage man. I saw these guys hanging on the back of trucks like cowboys throwing bags into the vehicle. It looked like so much fun.”
- Montreal Gazette Publisher Alan Allnutt returned to Parkdale Elementary School in St. Laurent where he began as a student in 1957. Asked what a publisher does, Mr. Allnutt noted that all department heads report to him. This includes the editor-in-chief and the director of advertising sales – two very important positions. Did Parkdale change your life? “I lived on St. Germain Street half a block away from this school,” he said. “Parkdale definitely set me on the right track. I was taught how to look things up and ask questions.”
- CTV National News correspondent Jed Kahane returned to his former elementary school, Roslyn in Westmount. He had just stepped off a plane from New Brunswick where he was assigned to cover the aftermath of the tragic mini-van crash that killed seven students from the Bathurst High School basketball team. He described the process of getting called at home and told to head to New Brunswick immediately, part of the job that is not foreign to him. Mr. Kahane brought a DVD containing some past stories he covered. This included the situation in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. That sparked a lot of questions from students. Concerning Roslyn he said: “I learned how to speak French at this school and that is a language I have to speak every day in my job.”
- CTV Montreal News anchor Mutsumi Takahashi returned to the same N.D.G. building where she attended high school. At the time it housed West Hill High School. Today it is the home of Royal Vale. Ms. Takahashi joined CTV, then known as CFCF, as a reporter in 1982 and moved to the anchor desk in 1986. She provided the more than 400 students in the auditorium with a lot of behind the scenes information on what is involved in preparing a newscast and confessed that even though she is on television every night, public speaking is something that does not come easy to her. “When I do the newscast it is in an empty room with cameras,” she says. “When I was here in high school I remember being too shy to even ask questions in class.
- Ely Bonder, a video editor at CTV for the past 28 years, returned to his old school of Willingdon to further promote his personal goal of empowering young people in the TV medium. He has won awards for his work, played a key role at one time in the establishment of YTV and initiated Youth eMage Jeunesse Inc. (www.emage.ca), which strives to provide youth access to entrepreneurship through broadcasting. When asked what he remembered most about his days at Willingdon he said, “I don’t remember particular incidents but I am overcome with a sense of wellbeing when I walk these halls.”
- CBC Television news commentator Marianna Simeone returned to John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel . She was joined by CBC Radio One Daybreak host Mike Finnerty, who attended public school in London, Ontario. “I feel very emotional coming back here 30 years after graduating,” said Ms. Simeone, who was presented with a framed copy of her graduation book photo. She stressed how important it is to pursue a post secondary education, noting she herself took some time off after CEGEP. “But then something terrible happened,” she said. “My father died very suddenly. I was 20 years old and not in school. My entire world was crumbling. Then I remembered what my dad always told me. That was to get an education because nobody can take that away from you. So I enrolled at Concordia, took an honours in Italian and a major in German. I completed that degree and ended up getting a job with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, latterly as director. From there I got into media. None of this would have happened without a post secondary education.” Mr. Finnerty, who took over the Daybreak show in December 2006, was asked whether students who go to private school have a better chance in the job market than those from the public system. “Not at all,” he insisted. “I got to work for BBC in London, England for 10 years. I am now hosting a morning radio show in a big city like Montreal. And I went to public school.”
- CTV Montreal Director of News and Public Affairs Mike Piperni, Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team head coach Kevin Figsby and Deborah Cross from the Montreal Children’s Hospital returned together to James Lyng High School in St. Henri. Mr. Piperni noted that when he attended the school mathematics was one of his weakest courses. Through hard work he never gave up and succeeded. Today he administers a large budget at CTV. He also spoke about how his experience at James Lyng, working on the school newspaper , helped pave the way for his present-day career. Mr. Figsby, who is also the president of the James Lyng Alumni Association, said that a turning point for him at a school was actually one day when he was asked to move chairs around the building in preparation for a sock hop. One teacher saw him directing other students what to do and recommended that he run for student body president. He did so the following year and won. He said that he always had a passion for hockey, playing the game throughout his youth and moving on to coaching part-time when he got a job in the financial world. While he earned a very good salary as a financial advisor and stock broker the job did not make him happy. Ten years ago he took as significant paycut to coach Concordia full-time. He calls it a dream job. “I feel like I am retired, “ he said, addin, “I learned more about Life at James Lyng,than I ever imagined.I also learned more about myself,which was probably even more valuable.” Ms. Cross noted that she went to the school there were more than 2,000 students, compared to 290 today. “Thirty five years ago I sat here and said that I did not know what I wanted to do with my life,” she said. “You know what, I still don’t. It took me 17 years to get my Bachelors of Commerce Degree and I was 47 when I got my MBA. My message to you is that one never stops learning.” Ms. Cross worked at McGill University for 18 years as the Administrative Director of Student Health Services. She is presently the manager of the Ambulatory Intensive Care Unit at the Montreal Children's Hospital. While at Student Health she was also the coordinator of the eating disorder unit as well as the university representative for the Alcohol Policy Committee.
The EMSB also ran a special promotion campaign in January which included radio and television commercials, billboards near the Decarie Expressway and newspaper advertisements.
Carlyle Elementary School in T.M.R. welcomed back standup comedien Heidi Foss and software engineer Michael Delis. Ms. Foss has combined her background in theatre with her unusually sardonic perception of everyday life to become a standout presence on the North American comedy scene. In addition to screenwriting and story editing for shows on HBO, FOX, PBS and YTV, she won a Canadian Comedy Award for being part of the staff writing team on CBC's hit series This Hour Has Twenty Two Minutes. She recently won a new development deal with CBC Television. Delis is a development and project manager at SAP and is also a training coordinator and instructor at PMI Montreal. Foss told the students a story about the one day there was a power failure at home. “My father started to use my text books to start the fireplace,” she recalled. “And then he tossed my math homework in as well. That was certainly a good excuse to tell my teachers why I had not done my homework.”
Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213