So we finally (sort of) know what’s happening with former Pembina Hills Supt. Colleen Symyrozum-Watt.
Turns out the investigation that began in early February was the result of some complaints of alleged harassment and bullying involving the superintendent. We stress “alleged,” as we don’t know the substance of the claims.
And we also now know trustees apparently decided two months ago that they weren’t going to renew her five-year contract when it expires in July.
Why is this coming out now? It’s likely because trustees passed a motion last week to send out a request for proposals to recruitment firms — a move made following an in-camera session, which means it would be included in the meeting’s minutes.
So there’s a search on for a new superintendent and the investigation into the allegations continues. In all likelihood, we’re not going to find out what they are, unless the matter goes to court.
But quite frankly, this is basically a human resources complaint. We don’t particularly care about work squabbles at the Pembina Hills regional office; we care if they’re a) using public funds responsibly, and b) if they’re educating students properly.
This whole situation is an example of how Pembina Hills generates controversy by trying to avoid it at all costs.
For two months, trustees knew Symyrozum-Watt was done with the division at the end of July. They apparently told no one of this fact, not even Symyrozum-Watt herself.
What would have been the harm in putting out a public statement in February that they had decided not to renew her contract? And when we asked why, they could have said, “We’ve decided to go in a different direction with Pembina Hills’ leadership,” and it would technically have been true.
Meanwhile, their investigation could have proceeded quietly behind closed doors and without us constantly asking, “What’s going on with this employee that’s paid with public dollars who being kept at home for apparently no reason?”
Pembina Hills needs a better approach to controversy than simply retreating to the shadows and refusing to say anything beyond the bare minimum required.