Pembina Hills stays in-house to fill superintendent post
Colleen Symyrozum-Watt third PHRD Supt. since 2010
After nearly six months, the Pembina Hills school division has hired a new superintendent.
Colleen Symyrozum-Watt, who has been acting superintendent since Egbert Stang left the post last December, was confirmed as the new head of the division last Friday.
“We’re very excited about the appointment of our new superintendent,” board chair Sharon Volorney said. “She’s been with us for many years in many different positions.”
Symyrozum-Watt has 25 years of education experience, most of that within Pembina Hills. She has served in a variety of leadership roles in the division for more than a decade, and has been acting superintendent on three occasions.
“We know her very well, we know what she can do, and she’s made her relationships in the community already,” Volorney said. “It’s going to be an easy transition for us and for her.”
She added she was pleaded trustees hired from within the division, since the board has at different times encouraged Symyrozum-Watt to apply.
“We did a lot of talking,” she said. “We’re all very excited that she’s actually accepted the position.”
Symyrozum-Watt said she had considered the position before but did not want to sacrifice family time for the sake of her work. After discussing it with her family, however, she said she was ready.
“We believe as a family we can move forward relative to the position,” she said.
As for her plans within the division, she said she hopes to continue the work she has already done to foster positive environment within the division.
“My highest priority is to ensure we work toward collaborating with our community partners and parents to really and truly build learning environments that allow students to become engaged and life-long learners,” she said.
Although there are always improvements that can be made, Symyrozum-Watt said she sees Pembina Hills as a leader in providing quality education to its students and fostering a learning-positive attitude.
“I absolutely think this a goal we are building toward; it’s not something that can happen in the short term,” she said. “I see this as a continuation. I think Pembina Hills has positioned itself very well in terms of quality teaching, but we are always looking to build upon that.”
She acknowledged she is the third superintendent the school has seen within less than two years, but said she did not see that as a challenge.
“The challenge for me is to provide high quality learning for all students. I see that as my challenge,” she said. “There have been many superintendents before me and there will probably be many superintendents with Pembina Hills after me.”
Former superintendent Richard Harvey left the post under mysterious circumstances in the fall of 2010, while his replacement Egbert Stang was fired from his position in late 2011.
The board has offered very little information relating to either former superintendent. A request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act revealed that Stang left the position because of a board decision and he was paid about $120,000 in severance.
With respect to Harvey, the board has said only that he is no longer an employee of the division, and the FOIP process is ongoing. Barrhead RCMP began a fraud investigation into an unnamed employee of the division shortly after Harvey left his post. That investigation is apparently ongoing.
Symyrozum-Watt said she learned a lot working as deputy superintendent with those two men and their predecessors, and said she hopes to incorporate what she learned into her own approach to the job. “I certainly value what they have provided the division and what they’ve done for students. I will take the tools I’ve learned from them into my role as superintendent, but I will merge that with my knowledge and experience.”
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