A consultant hired by the Coast Mountains School District 82 following this spring’s outcry tied to the planned transfers of one two principals and one vice principal has recommended increased communication by senior district administrators with their own employees and the broader public.
According to interviews conducted by consultant Dianne Turner, internal issues that arose from the planned transfers of Skeena Middle School principal Phillip Barron, Skeena vice principal Corey Killoran and Suwilaawks Community School principal Pam Kawinsky have existed for years.
Those planned transfers to classroom teaching positions and the appointments of their replacements brought on parent protests, student walkouts and a no confidence vote on the part of teachers in school district superintendent Katherine McIntosh and the board trustees.
Turner noted “poor communication across the entire district, relationships, and wellness” regarding the transfers which were subsequently shelved.
Turner was hired by the school district to gather information and provide recommendations on how the Board of Education could move forward. How much it cost to hire Turner will be released in next year’s Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report next year, the district says.
Within the report’s backgrounder, Turner noted those interviewed sometimes expressed nervousness in talking to her, stating that they felt vulnerable and were possibly taking a risk. They were assured their identities and subjects discussed would remain confidential.
To develop the report, Turner met with the superintendent to discuss issues related to the transfer of administrators to new assignments and the Coast Mountain Teachers Federation (CMTF) non-confidence votes. Two visits to the school district to meet and conduct interviews with the superintendent, secretary-treasurer, board of education chair, vice chair, trustees, representatives from CMTF and the Coast Mountains Administrators Association (CMAA), directors of instruction, parents, Kermode Friendship Society and other community members from June to September.
According to those interviewed, some of the issues that came up in the spring have been ongoing for many years, but came to a head from April to June.
“The District Leadership Team, comprised of senior school district staff, were “aware of some of the issues, and have been working on them for the past few years, including bringing in consultants.”
There were transparency concerns identified with the administrative reassignments of Skeena Middle School principal Phillip Barron, vice-principal Cory Killoran, and Suwilaawks Community School principal Pam Kawinsky, with “poor communication across the entire district, relationships, and wellness,” according to the report.
According to district staff, there is currently no policy for administrative reassignments at SD82 because principals are not bound by a collective agreement like teachers are. Those contracts are held with the district, not with specific schools.
CMTF votes of non-confidence
The concerns expressed to Turner by CMTF included ineffective communication, leadership style, mistrust, lack of appropriate processes and lack of consistent application of various policies.
Though at the time the report was published, “the CMSD82 Board of Education had not yet received the issues in writing, nor had there been a meeting arranged to discuss the issues.”
Turner provided 12 recommendations to the Board of Education on how they can move forward with an action plan that includes district partners in the planning process. The recommendations are summarized below:
1. Continue to engage in culture building and restorative relationship building to determine what can be done to address the issues that came from the CMTF votes of non-confidence, and the administrator reassignment issues, among other concerns brought up including improving morale, building trust, and developing a healthy foundation to build a respectful workplace within the district.
2. Implement a restorative process with school-based administrators to allow relationships, trust and respect issues to be dealt with.
3. Continue to engage in a succession planning process during the established annual professional growth planning meetings with administrators and discuss their plans for the future, and how that might align with the district’s vision and strategic process.
4. Continue with the healthy workplace scan, including taking actions for appropriate professional conduct.
5. Continue to engage in the development of strategies for improving cultural awareness, competency, diversity, inclusion and humility in the district.
6. Consider the creation of a three-by-three committee that allows for the regular sharing of information between the District Leadership Team and the executive officers of the CMAA.
7. Explore further strategies for internal and external communications planning for the district that is effective and transparent.
8. Establish modifications to district policies and procedures that further clarify the administrative reassignment process, within an overall long-term succession planning process.
9. Consider policy and procedures that ensure consistent human resources hiring practices for all leadership positions in the district.
10. Review the formal process for complaints to be heard by the District Leadership Team and the Board, as indicated by the community.
11. Consider adding a superintendent’s report to board meeting agendas so the community learns about educational updates and important and inspiring things happening across the district.
12. Re-engage in strategic planning with a visioning process, to update and renew a shared district vision, mission, and values.
Acting superintendent Janet Meyer and board chair Shar McCrory presented the recommendations to the public at a consultation forum on Dec. 11 at the Northwest Trades & Employment Training Centre in Terrace.
“We heard lots of good input from people, queries, concerns and suggestions. I think overall, it was a good start,” McCrory says.
Not every recommendation will turn into an action item, McCrory says, and some recommendations will take longer to implement than others, like a strategic plan.
“The first part is seeking input, the second part would be to look at prioritizing and actioning items. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do every single thing, but we’ve already started that process in putting things in place, but there are others that are going to take longer.”
Though both Meyer and McCrory noted a positive outlook from the consultant’s recommendations about moving forward.
“For me the biggest takeway is opportunity and optimism,” Meyer says. “Clearly we have work to do, but we’re willing to do the work. Now that the report is out, we can get into the reocmmendations and start moving in the direction we need to move in.”