The English Montreal School Board's commissioners should have their powers suspended to save the board from internal divisions, according to extracts from a blistering report on Friday.

“Dysfunctional” and showing signs of “a low level of maturity” were just a few ways the Quebec Education Ministry described the EMSB in the Final Investigation Report on the Governance and Administration of the School Board. In the released extracts EMSB leadership was portrayed as deeply flawed, with board members accused of lacking an understanding of their roles. 

EMSB chairperson Angela Mancini and Director General Ann Marie Matheson were singled out for some of the harshest criticism. The report noted that the board is unable to remove Mancini from her post despite a past no-confidence vote. In January, the board voted to cut Mancini’s salary from $38,000 per year to $10,000 after being found guilty of numerous ethics violations.

“It’s clear that as long as the same individuals are in place as commissioner and executive director, school governance is unlikely to advance,” the report states. “The history that these individuals have dragged on for many years and the informal networks of influence are rooted in an organizational culture that is harmful to a public network.”

While the full report was not made available on Friday, the eight pages of extracts did contain several recommendations. Several of those recommendations, such as naming an advisor to support commissioners, were dismissed as likely not effective. 

"It's bad. It's really bad what's in the report. And it's unacceptable and we have to do something. We cannot let the EMSB continue this way," said Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

The report called for the EMSB's commissioners to have their powers suspended for six months.

"Considering the dysfunction of the Council of Commissioners has been rooted for more than 10 years and that this council has clearly established a preference for division for political purposes rather than good governance, it is recommended that consideration be given to suspending the powers of the council commissioners while also calling on an external consulting firm to assist senior management in improving its administrative processes," they wrote. 

Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge called the allegations in the report "serious and troubling" but added that the problems are not unique to the EMSB. He said the way all Quebec's school boards are governed is a problem and said further analysis is needed on what actions to take.

"The report is saying that some political interests are taking the place before the students' interests," he said. "The politicization of the governments of the school boards is causing pain to employees, teachers, principals, kids and the spending of public money, so it's a huge problem."


Issues with credit cards

The report also hinted at financial issues within the EMSB, recommending that internal controls of reimbursements be improved and that a policy on the use of credit cards be created to ensure "that the credit risk is addressed and expenses not corroborated by detailed receipts or don't comply with the policy not be reimbursed."

“When I read the recommendation to better manage the credit cards, I said, ‘Wow’," said Roberge. "If you have to send a recommendation to better control the credit cards, it shows a lot of problems: administration, governance, spending of public money. We can’t just let it happen. We have to take action.”

Audit already in place

The government was already auditing the board's contracts and now it's not ruling anything out: from stripping EMSB commissioners of their powers and putting the board under trusteeship to launching a criminal investigation.

"Oh sure, because that's the reason we have UPAC and that's the reason we launched an investigation, to get the information and I repeat: it's very clear that the management was dysfunctional," said Treasury Board President Christian Dube.


Changes coming to school boards

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government campaigned on a promise to do away with school boards. A government source told CTV News that under yet-to-be-tabled legislation, the province's school boards would be renamed Centres de Services Scolaires. While the CAQ said it wants to streamline the current education administration system, a report earlier this week said the province's English boards would likely be spared any major upheaval. 

"The status quo is not an option. We can't wait to transform school boards into service centres," said Roberge. "We have to take action."

QCGN president Geoffrey Chambers commented on the report, saying “the timing is unfortunate and it should not affect the government’s decision on the future of school boards.” He said he would not comment further until he sees the report.

Legault responded, saying, "It has nothing to do with the reform that is proposed, but maybe it's an additional argument saying that something's wrong."

The report's findings suggest governance issues aren't unique to the EMSB and school boards across the province should be restructured – exactly what the CAQ has been planning.