David Garbutt, who’s been acting Supt. since Colleen Symyrozum-Watt’s departure in February, will permanently take over as Superintendent of Schools and Chief Executive Officer of Pembina Hills Public Schools effective Aug. 1.
The Ministry of Education officially signed off on Garbutt’s appointment with a letter dated June 27, and the official announcement of his hiring came a day later.
Trustees originally decided in February not to renew Symyrozum-Watt’s five-year contract, which is set to expire on July 31.
Later, trustees passed a motion during the April 11 board meeting to issue a request for proposals from recruitment firms to search for a new superintendent.
As noted in the division’s release, Pembina Hills went through a detailed hiring process that involved trustees consulting with school principals and senior administration to develop an ideal candidate profile and electronic advertisement.
Tuininga said they received 11 applications from five provinces and territories.
After reviewing all the applications and conducting initial reference checks, several candidates were shortlisted and the board took part in two-hour interviews with two candidates.
Tuininga noted that a third candidate was contacted but ended up taking another position.
Although this was effectively an internal hire, Tuininga said, “Anyone who applied went through the same process.”
Garbutt, who lives on an acreage in the Barrhead area with his wife Wendy, has 25 years of experience in education as a classroom teacher, school principal in five different jurisdictions and as a regional office leader.
He graduated from the Teacher Education Program at Simon Fraser University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
He also received his Master of Education (Leadership) from the University of Lethbridge.
Prior to coming to Pembina Hills, he served as a municipal councilor with the Town of Stettler; the president of the Golden, B.C. Teachers’ Association; and a council representative to the B.C. College of Teachers.
He entered the division by taking over as principal at Barrhead Composite High School in 2011, followed by taking over as principal of R.F. Staples Secondary School in 2014.
He was recruited to work at the regional office in 2015 as Assistant Supt. of Employee Services and Facilities & Transportation.
When asked what would happen to his old position, Tuininga indicated that some of those structural decisions would be made as they go forward.
While Garbutt served as acting superintendent, “we had a structure set up to manage his absence from that position,” she added.
When asked why he wanted to take over the superintendent’s position, Garbutt said he enjoys working with staff, parents and the community to provide the best education possible to students.
“It’s similar to wanting to be a school principal, just on a larger scale with a few more complexities. I was a school principal for many years and this is an opportunity for my continued growth and development,” he said.
Garbutt added Pembina Hills has excellent staff, highly-skilled senior management and a supportive and progressive board, which made the position more appealing.
“Over the last six years, Pembina Hills has become my extended family. For me, the decision to apply for the position was easy and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to our jurisdiction.”
Garbutt said one of his career goals was to become a superintendent at some point, although when and where that might have occurred, he wasn’t sure. “I was not prepared to make a move to another school division for a superintendent position at this time, but at a date in the near future, it was probable.”
It should be noted that the board’s review of allegations made against Symyrozum-Watt is ongoing.
Symyrozum-Watt’s departure from Pembina Hills came after trustees received a number of complaints regarding alleged harassment and bullying.
Tuininga indicated last week that they are still working with legal counsel on that process.