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Minister wades in on school firing

Tensions high after principal removed

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A day after Thompson school trustees rejected reinstating fired high school principal Ryan Land, Education Minister Nancy Allan phoned school board chairman Robert Pellizzaro.

And that's about all anyone was saying Wednesday about one of the most remarkable Manitoba public school controversies in recent memory.

Allan's staff had said earlier Wednesday the minister would be available for an interview, but later issued a statement instead.

Said Allan by email: "In light of the concerns brought to my attention by community members in Thompson, I spoke to (the) board chair today. We had a very productive conversation.

"We have agreed that we need to work together to address various issues of concern that have been raised by community members in Mystery Lake (School Division). Ultimately, everyone wants the same thing: We want students to have the best education possible and parents to have input into their children's education," said Allan.

Pellizzaro did not respond to an interview request.

Before a crowd of hundreds of residents, the Mystery Lake school board voted 5-2 Tuesday evening not to restore Land as principal of R.D. Parker Collegiate, despite strong support among students and parents.

Trustees had publicly rebuked Land last spring and fired him last month. They also on Tuesday night upheld the demotion to teacher of one of the high school's three vice-principals.

A second vice-principal is on medical leave and a former principal has come out of retirement to run the school temporarily.

Mystery Lake has had three superintendents and eight assistant superintendents in the past three years; R.D. Parker has had three principals and nine vice-principals.

Land declined to comment Wednesday on his plans and any possible action he may take.

"Unfortunately, I cannot comment at this time other than to say that our family thoroughly appreciates all of the support," he said by email.

The Manitoba Teachers' Society did not respond to interview requests.

A veteran Canadian educator, Land had brought his family to Thompson in the summer of 2009 from Ghana, where he had been the principal and English language teacher at an international school.

Land reportedly has filed a grievance through the teachers' society over the public rebuke the board delivered last spring. The school board apologized for doing it publicly, but not for the content of the rebuke.

"There is a real sombre mood in town with what transpired last night (Tuesday)," said one Land supporter.

Several residents say there is considerable tension in Thompson following the delegation at Tuesday evening's meeting of a group called the Aboriginal Women's Coalition, who reportedly criticized Land's administration.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

photos by PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA

 

Buyouts at what cost?

 

THOMPSON residents have urged the Mystery Lake school board to make public how much it has cost the division to buy out all the senior administrators shown the door in the last few years -- so far, without success.

The provincial FRAME (Financial Reporting and Accounting in Manitoba Education) report provides some hints about the division's finances.

The cost of administration in the regular instruction programs -- principals and vice-principals -- rose to $2.52 million in all Thompson schools this year from $2.08 million a year ago, a jump of 21.4 per cent. The provincial average increase was 2.6 per cent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 7, 2011 A5

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