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Sunrise School Division under review

Four senior administrators left in less than two years

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Education Minister James Allum has ordered a sweeping review of the Sunrise School Division.

The review covers the whole gamut, including the board, the managers, culture, policies and practices.

Allum ordered the review after sending deputy education minister Gerald Farthing to Beausejour to find out what was happening in the division, which has seen the sudden departure of four senior administrators in less than two years.

Accounting consultants MNP will head the review, which will also involve division and provincial officials, along with John Wiens, a highly respected retired superintendent and former dean of education at the University of Manitoba.

MNP emphasized in a news release Thursday the review will look at structures and processes, and not at individuals within Sunrise.

Widespread consultation and focus groups begin Monday.

MNP said it will also offer the public an online survey from June 23 to July 11 at (surveymonkey.com/s/sunrisesd).

The review is expected to be made public after it is submitted to Allum later this summer.

Allum was not available for an interview, but Sunrise said in its own news release the review "will thoroughly and comprehensively examine the range of concerns, issues and assertions brought forward to the Sunrise school board by the various delegations and the public over the last month."

It will include examination of conflict-of-interest allegations, board governance concerns, human resources concerns, and relations among the community, schools and school division.

"Obviously, there’s a lot of passions around," Sunrise superintendent Wayne Leckie said in an interview.

"There’s been a lot of allegations and innuendo — it would be good if we got that clarified," Leckie said. "It will take at least until midsummer."

Leckie said the conflict allegations involved two trustees whose adult children are employed in Sunrise. The other seven members of the school board had looked into those allegations and concluded nothing was amiss, he said, but the review will take another look.

The latest senior manager to leave was assistant superintendent Paul Magnan, a 20-year veteran, who was let go April 24.

Two secretary-treasurers and another assistant superintendent have been removed, one after only six months on the job. An assistant secretary-treasurer left, reportedly of her own accord.

Left to run the division, which stretches from Powerview through Oakbank and Beausejour to Whitemouth and Prawda, are Leckie and secretary-treasurer Elise Downey.

Magnan declined to be interviewed, saying he was still negotiating a settlement.

The Department of Education has sent Farthing to investigate two other troubled divisions in recent years — Farthing went in to sort out a revolving door in top jobs in Thompson’s Mystery Lake School Division and to investigate turmoil and program cuts in tiny Turtle River School Division in McCreary.

The Mystery Lake problems led to a similar review and widespread changes in Thompson, while Farthing straightened out Turtle River without drastic action.

The ultimate tool available to Allum is taking over a division and putting it under public trusteeship, as the NDP did more than a decade ago with the adult learning centre scandal at the former Morris-Macdonald School Division.

 

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

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