Pembina Trails division loses three administrators

A Winnipeg school board has lost three trustees since the start of 2022, following the recent resignation of the chair and the suspension of a member.

The Pembina Trails School Division entered the 2021-2022 school year with a full slate of nine elected officials. Now only six active board members govern a district that oversees the education of more than 15,000 K-12 students.

At a May 12 meeting, chair Kathleen McMillan’s letter of resignation – in which she writes that her decision to leave is “personal in nature” – was read and accepted by the board.

Administrators voted to sanction and suspend Gerry Melnyk, the division’s longest-serving administrator, in connection with an outburst at a previous event.

The division did not issue a press release about the changes. He has yet to release minutes from the first meeting in May, citing standard protocol requiring the board to approve those minutes at the start of the next regular conference.

In a prepared statement, newly appointed Chair Dianne Zuk acknowledged that “a number of governance issues” took place earlier this month.

“I thank the board for their confidence in me and assure you that we will continue to work with all stakeholders in the Pembina Trails community to provide our students with the best child-centered education possible. »

Zuk did not provide details about the penalties imposed on Melnyk or what prompted them. She said only that the longtime administrator was disciplined and suspended for 90 days for violating codes of conduct established by the Public Schools Act and Pembina Trails. Melnyk could not be reached.

Meeting minutes show that in a public meeting on April 28, Ward 1 administrator alleged that a journal of their March 10 conference had missing content, claimed senior administrators had “deliberately misrepresented the conduct of the meeting,” called a public witness to back up his claims, then handed out documents to his fellow administrators in defiance.

Then-Chair McMillan assured Melnyk that the board had received an electronic transcript of the proceedings that matched the written minutes, but he did not agree to this and later ignored a “point of order”.

A record of a May 2 meeting shows that Melnyk issued an apology.

“Director Melnyk has apologized for his comments…and recanted his unsubstantiated allegations regarding the senior administration team and the board cover-up,” it says.

When contacted on Tuesday, McMillan said her departure was unrelated to the above events.

“Physically, mentally, my time has come,” said the 65-year-old. “I had a great run. I really, really enjoyed my experience as an elected official.

McMillan, who has served as vice president and president, was first elected in 2014. She served as the board’s top spokesperson for nearly two school years amid the pandemic, a superintendent search and the firing of Administrator Sheila Billinghurst.

In late January, the council announced that the Billinghurst seat had become vacant due to the Ward 2 administrator failing to attend an in-person meeting within three months.

“It’s a shame – because if the repeal of Bill 64 and this whole education review saga has taught us anything, it seems the public wants a say in education. and that he wants his voice to be heard,” said Cameron Hauseman, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba who researches educational administration.

Hauseman said administrators are often “the last line of defense” for community members when it comes to resolving issues in the K-12 system. Noting this reality, he said, it is “very troubling” that a third of the board is inactive.

It’s also concerning that the board wasn’t transparent about those changes right after they happened, he said.

Pembina Trails and the Winnipeg School Division issued press releases about board vacancies earlier this year.

“These are all public servants and their ability to do their job effectively requires that they earn or retain the public’s trust. If they’re unable to do that, then we’ll be in a lot of trouble,” Hauseman added.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press