Two weeks ago, we published an editorial that was critical of Pembina Hills Public Schools’ handling of a case involving a local instructor charged with sexual exploitation.
We pointed out that nothing about the case had been posted to the division’s website and only a vague e-mail with information about policies had been sent out to parents.
Of course, it’s a personnel issue and a criminal case, so Pembina Hills’ reluctance to share information is somewhat understandable. From the perspective of a parent whose children might have been in said instructor’s class, though … this secrecy might come off as infuriating.
This is standard procedure for the division, as their reaction to any controversy is to try to conceal its existence.
They’re not always successful — eventually, the fraudulent actions of former Supt. Richard Harvey, which Pembina Hills spent considerable effort trying to mask, were revealed when he pleaded guilty to charges in court.
But why are we blathering on about Pembina Hills again? Well, only a couple days after that editorial was published, we heard that Supt. Colleen Symyrozum-Watt had been … suspended?
Fired? Gone on leave? We’re not actually sure. “She’s away” was the only response we got for several days.
On Friday, the board did divulge to us a special meeting had been held on Feb. 1 and an ad-hoc committee had been authorized to take a number of measures, such as launching complaints with various provincial authorities, contacting legal counsel and suspending Symyrozum-Watt.
Have those actions been taken? What’s the issue prompting this investigation?
We have no idea.
In fact, if we hadn’t heard about this situation independently, we probably wouldn’t have heard about it at all. Pembina Hills has posted the minutes of this special meeting on the website, but if you didn’t know to look for them, you wouldn’t know they exist.
Even Symyrozum-Watt seems unclear why this investigation is taking place and she’s the subject of it. Let that sink in for a minute … it sounds like Franz Kafka’s The Trial.
Is Pembina Hills in the right for refusing to divulge personnel information? Probably. Does it feel like a cover-up? You bet.