Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary School has been without a principal since Oct. 21. Photo submitted

Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary School has been without a principal since Oct. 21. Photo submitted

Rural school lacks leader, say parents

Horsefly school without principal since Oct. 21

Horsefly Elementary Junior Secondary School has been without a principal since Oct. 21 and frustrated parents have started a petition asking that a principal be hired.

“As a parent I am laying this at the hands of the school district,” said Victor Khong whose daughter is in Grade 9 at the school. “We all realize that the superintendent just began his position and I feel he is doing what he can as he is able within the budget and within the constraints he is given.”

Khong said that by the time the principal position is filled, the school will have had four principals in five years.

“That kind of leadership turnover is not conducive to building an end product and the end product here is learning outcomes for our children.”

The purpose of their petition is to present the community’s concerns in a non-emotional way but in a way that talks about best practices and organizational leadership, he added.

School parent Abby Wilson has two children in the rural school and said it is unacceptable that the school can go eight weeks and counting without an administrator.

“Our students’ education is suffering and it is our job as parents and community members to ensure they have a good education and a good start on their future,” Wilson said. “They aren’t getting that. We need an administrator.”

Wilson said students needing individualized education plans are being ignored.

“Kids that have had the testing done or are waiting to get testing done have been waiting for over a year and that’s not fair,” she noted.

Khong said the parents requested to present their concerns as a delegation at the next Board of Education meeting on Dec. 19, but were denied and told they could only ask questions.

“Their communication protocol is set up to insulate the trustees from the grassroots reality of their constituents, that is why we have been denied,” Khong said, noting the only trustee that has reached out to him is Brice O’Neill.

In an e-mailed response Wednesday, Board of Education chair Tanya Guenther said the request from the parents to attend the board meeting as a delegation was denied because it did not meet the criteria for a delegation.

“While the request did not meet the delegation criteria, there are two other opportunities for public participation at Open Board of Education meetings,” Guenther noted. “The first is at the beginning of the agenda and allows for public comment on any item on the agenda. The second is at the end of the agenda and allows for a question or comment regarding items not on the agenda.”

An additional option, Guenther added, is to submit a letter to the Board of Education.

“These options were shared in our response to the request.”

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School District 27 Supt. Mark Wintjes told the Tribune he understands the community’s frustration.

“We are doing our best to try and attract teachers and get administrative support in the building.”

Wintjes said when principal Kelly Glen took an emergency leave for personal reasons from the school, he asked Lakecity Secondary vice-principal, Ken Lucks, to fill in temporarily, but then Lucks went on leave so the position is still vacant.

On Nov. 20, Wintjes and the district’s director of instruction, Dean Coder, met with all the staff of the school and then after that met with the president of the PAC, and in the interim they have asked Rob Kowalski, who teaches Grades 7, 8 and 9, at the school to be the teacher in charge.

“A teacher in charge gets assigned all of the administrative duties, except for pieces where you are dealing with staff evaluations and those kinds of things. That’s where I need Dean should any of that arise,” Wintjes explained.

Coder is assisting the school wherever needed and as the director of instruction has the authority to come in and oversee the school, Wintjes said, noting Coder was going to Horsefly Monday afternoon to meet with Kowalski and map out a plan.

“The complicating thing is that we’ve also been looking for teachers to fill positions at the school that were unfilled,” Wintjes added. “It’s been difficult to attract teachers, but we have hired two people recently in the community. One is a certified teacher and one is a non-certified teacher in order to back fill some of those positions.”

There are presently 64 children enrolled at the school.

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