The Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) has decided to change its messaging system last month from the U.S.-based Connect-Ed to Emergency Response Messaging System (ERMS). The new system will cost $30,000 a year, whereas The Chronicle reported on Feb. 11, 2009 that Connect-Ed costed $80,000 a year.
Retired LBPSB English teacher Chris Eustace, who had decried the adoption of the Connect-Ed system since 2009, is still awaiting answers on the same questions he has asked been asking for three years now on this topic.: WWhy weren’t the parents asked for permission before the school board for sharinged their contact information with a U.S.-based company subject to the Patriot Act? and dAnd did the school board respect the law in choosing the lowest bidder?
Contacted on the phone on July 20, chairman of the board Suanne Stein Day said that the parents were given written information about the messaging service’s security particularities and that there was no risk of personal information being disclosed to third parties.
“We’ve provided written documentation from the company about the security of the data and when it can be used or accessed. It was all documented. There was no risk of personal information being disclosed at all,” she said.
“Unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or any wireless network can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect Client Data, you acknowledge that:
(a) there are security and privacy limitations of the Internet which are beyond our control;
(b) the security, integrity and privacy of any and all information and data exchanged between you and us through the Blackboard Website cannot be guaranteed; and
(c) any such information and data may be viewed or tampered with in transit by a third party.”
Eustace has filed two access to information requests to the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec in 2009, one of them asking for the full details of the tendering process that took place when Connect-Ed was selected. He as he feels the school board did not go with the lowest bidder.
While Stein Day indicates that the school board went with the lowest compliant bidder in 2009, Eustace is saying LBPSB is now acting in panic in getting rid of Connect-Ed after he told the commissioners at a June meeting he would take the matter to the Charbonneau commission on corruption in June if he didn’t get answers from the commission before September. Stein Day, on the other hand, has told The Chronicle that the reason the school board is replacing Connect-Ed is that the contract came to an end and a lower bidder came forward.
During the past three last years, Eustace has communicated on many occasions with the Commission d’accès à l’information to get his request moving but the commission has apparently not ordered LBPSB to provide the demanded paperwork yet. This was evidenced by Eustace’s correspondence with LBPSB lawyer Rémi Poliquin, who said in May 2009, that he had not received advice from the commission to produce the necessary paperwork. Stein Day confirmed this on July 20.
“All I know is that my staff , my administration complies with requests that are required by law, we always do. So perhaps Eustace is asking for his information inappropriately or in the wrong way or whatever, but I don’t have a letter from the Commission d’accès à l’information asking me to provide information that I’m refusing to do . It’s not happening. We are a very law-abiding school board,” she said.