Concerns over school principal sparks heated exchange in the P.E.I. legislature

Teresa Wright
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Province House in Charlottetown

A group of parents at Miscouche Consolidated School say they are being stonewalled in trying to raise serious concerns about their school and its principal.

The group, which calls itself the Miscouche Concerned Group of Parents, say they want their principal replaced because they claim their many, often serious, concerns are falling on deaf ears, resulting in a toxic school environment.

Opposition Tory MLAs brought the situation to light during question period Wednesday, asking Education Minister Alan McIsaac why he is refusing to meet with this group.

Group spokesperson Leon Perry says there are many complaints that parents feel are being ignored, the most serious involving bullying at the school.

“When parents go to deal with these issues in regards to bullying, (the principal) tends to talk down to them,” Perry said.

“The parents don’t feel comfortable dealing with him anymore because of the fact that they don’t get anywhere with him. There are some parents who have said it actually becomes confrontational.”

The parents’ group sent McIsaac a package of emails, letters and hand-written notes detailing their experiences with the principal, Scott MacDonald, when trying raise concerns about a wide variety of issues at the school.

Several parents detailed how their young children have been beat up and harassed by other students. One alleges her seven-year-old child’s life was threatened by an older boy who, among other physical abuses, cut him with a plastic knife while travelling on a bus to school.

Another allegation involved cyberbullying that took place on a group email sent to an entire Grade 5 class. The parent claims she was initially told by the principal it was not a school issue and needed to be dealt with at home. Weeks later, the parent says the issue was finally addressed, but only after she complained to the school board.

“This is an issue that has to be handled very properly, there are accusations made, we don’t know whether they are true or not,” Education Minister Alan McIsaac

“The parents have issues with their kids getting bullied, but whenever they address it to (the principal), it doesn’t go anywhere,” Perry said.

“He says he’ll look after it, but the kids just continually get bullied and bullied.”

Numerous letters from the parents also say the school’s office is often left empty and people are free to walk into the school unnoticed, without the required visitor tags.

Other parents complained about the science fair being abandoned and that home economics class often consists of students watching movies.

Several parents also raised concern about a day their children told them the principal brought a Ouija board to class.

Perry says several families have pulled their kids out of the school because they were so unhappy with the way problems were being managed.

Fifty-five parents — which they say makes up over half of the parents at the school — have signed a petition asking for a new principal.

The group has been seeking a meeting with the school board superintendent and the education minister, but have been told each parent must file individual grievances.

“What do these parents have to do to get a meeting with you, the minister?” education critic James Aylward asked McIsaac.

McIsaac said the complaints must be dealt with individually at the school board level.

“This is not a witch hunt,” he said.

“It has to go through proper procedures, it’s a very serious issue, and we take it seriously. We are dealing with it, but we are going through the proper procedures and protocols and that’s the way we are dealing with it.”

The Guardian attempted to reach MacDonald for comment, but calls made to the school were after office hours and no response was received via email.

Organizations: Miscouche Consolidated school

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • 5
    May 05, 2014 - 14:00

    "The group has been seeking a meeting with the school board superintendent and the education minister, but have been told each parent must file individual grievances" STOP COMPLAINING AND FILE THE INDIVIDUAL GRIEVANCES.

  • An Annoyed Student
    May 05, 2014 - 11:10

    I would like to say the majority of the staff is not "absolutely poison". As someone who deals with most of the staff 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, I don't think it is fair for this to be pushed onto them. I feel I am getting an amazing education thanks to my teachers, and I am pretty sure I deal with them more than most of the commentors here. As well, this fight has been going on for about four years, so it is about time everyone has been made aware that something is wrong. Nobody at the School Board has taken these concerns seriously, so drastic measures must be taken. Don't go trashing something you don't know all the details about, especially when it isn't even affecting you.

  • Jannett jones
    May 03, 2014 - 21:42

    Who has this petition? My daughters been going to the school for 3 years and this is the first I've heard of it, I'd like to have a look see ....

  • Brittany
    May 03, 2014 - 19:30

    While they are at it the should replace the new principal at KISH. He is by far the worst replacement and that school is going down hill so fast. I graduated from KISH in 2012 and I am so thrilled I could eat glass to be done. My kid brother is currently enrolled in grade 10 and he is living a nightmare. By the end of September the principal told my brother to take the semester off and start back in February, what 15 year old kid wouldn't take that offer? During this time off my brother went up a few times to talk to the school guidance counselor about getting back into school/about his credits. The principal called the police and filed a trespassing report on my brother which the police then wanted my kid brother to sign. A bit ridiculous is it not? My brother keeps saying he's going to drop out and I really don't blame him. The student rates in that school have been dropping like flies the last few years which I understand why. My brother has a hard time concentrating and requires more help in class. The principal and the teachers all have a pick on my brother for no apparent reason. They just can't be bothered to help the poor kid out and give him more time. If this principal is back next year I can guarantee my brother will not be back to KISH.

  • Principal Bullying
    May 01, 2014 - 18:37

    A Junior High in Charlottetown had similar issues. The principals brother was among the top 2-3 non-elected (appointed)government officials on PEI. A young boy was allegedly repeatedly bullied by kids of influential liberal supporters to a point where the abused had to quit school then change Junior High's. The then recently appointed school principal was simply nowhere to be found and the abuse drastically escalated with no repercussions the the accused. GREAT EXAMPLE we set eh! I hope he is valedictorian of his new school this year.

  • Colleen
    May 01, 2014 - 14:19

    WOW.....this is insane, I surely hope that there is legit concern for this type of bashing on the principal, as it is a true example of bullying by adults (wonder where the children learned to bully?) I don't know the principal or many of the staff or know the real situation but I can tell you that the slander of the principals name on the news, papers, facebook and community is a true shame! I am a parent and yes I would be VERY upset if nothing was happening if my child was being bullied but I just can't imagine making a petition to destroy the staff and principals livelyhood and reputation for life is the way to do it. I mean really give your head a shake bullying is very real and yes maybe he has made HUGE mistakes. I feel bad that his name has been brought public! It should of waited until it was resolved and then if there was legit reasons to fire him then so be it....he moves on, but to ruin him this way? I bet it is hard to deal with children and bullies and maybe he needs some communication training, perhaps he isn't cut out for the job, who knows but way to go parents...you succeeded in modeling how to be a true bully...sickening

    • Parent
      May 01, 2014 - 18:12

      "Colleen" I totally agree! My children go to this school and my heart breaks for the principal, no one deserves this!!!

    • for the record
      May 01, 2014 - 18:52

      No parent brought out the name. No parent ran to the media. This happened because we were being ignored. When the opposition questioned on the floor of the house the media ran with it. Basing an opinion on something you know nothing about and then condoning the parents that only have their children's best interests in mind imo sounds more like bullying then anything any of the parents have done thus far.

  • This is a joke
    May 01, 2014 - 10:21

    I moved off PEI a couple years ago and I occasionally read the guardian online stories. It's stories like this that make me happy I've moved off the island. Some people in PEI feel that they should always get what they want and jump to conclusions if the first tier doesn't create satisfactory results. Why does going to the media always come into play, I'm actually disappointed that the guatdian would write this ''gossip" article. If you went to this guys superiors and they did not peruse replacing him and you tried his bosses boss with no change... Take the hint, it's you not him. It sounds like most of the complaints are ridiculous anyway. From the comments by this principals coworkers it sounds like he is doing a great job, if I was in his position I'd be considering a defamation lawsuit for bashing his name and reputation. So to the 'up west' complainers please focus on fishing season, your annual 6 weeks of not drawing ei are here.

    • You're a Joke!
      May 01, 2014 - 12:14

      well, I am glad you THINK you know the entire story. It must be the 55 families that are wrong. It could never be the principal. Since you think you know everything I suggest looking a little more into it and seeing just how big of a fishing community "miscouche" is. When your done with that, I then suggest you go "up west" and fish some oysters for the season, then tell me how good those people have it. :)

    • jokes on you
      May 01, 2014 - 20:58

      It is very unfortunate that you feel the need to bash other peoples jobs along with your rant. You're sticking up for one job, and turning on another. With that being said, you must have had a principal as such, whom taught you to act as you are right now. You're now off PEI, and I'm sure there are a lot of people, especially us "up-westers' to see you gone.

  • w kennedy
    May 01, 2014 - 02:29

    Jello determined that if they made the flavors stronger some people might find it offensive???

  • Follow Procedure
    April 30, 2014 - 23:39

    Ironic how one Minister says he has to follow procedure, but the Premier and make up the rules as he goes along and then change them afterwards. Do as I say, not as I do.

  • Mom of student
    April 30, 2014 - 22:08

    My daughter goes to this school and I haven't seen the petition but I will say that I think the principal is doing a great job. He's very involved in everything going on and I would bet 20$ that there isn't a kid in that school he doesn't know the name of. He rides the bus with the kindergardeners there first few weeks of school. Has lunch with all the students of the month. Always there for concerts and every school event. He's a stern man yes. But you would have to be to handle all those kids. And half the students being 50. NO WAY . There's 20 kids in my daughters class alone. Your doing a great job Scott. And I will sign my name to that:)

    • Jarrod
      April 30, 2014 - 23:23

      You'll sign your name to that will you?

    • Elizabeth
      May 01, 2014 - 07:44

      "Anonymously signed, Mom of Student."

  • Teacher
    April 30, 2014 - 21:39

    As someone who has taught at this school over the last three years, I can say that the principal has always been supportive and helpful whenever there were issues with students, be it within the classroom, or outside on the playground. I have always appreciated his approach, which is firm yet fair. I have seen him deal with bullying and other issues time after time throughout the years, and I have always found his approach to be completely appropriate. I am very surprised, and quite skeptical of this witch hunt. This is group/gang mentality at its finest.

    • Show your name
      May 01, 2014 - 09:46

      So called Teacher..... Are you kidding!!!!!! You must have had your head in the sand! For this school to get to this point!!! OMG!

  • teacher
    April 30, 2014 - 20:55

    I have worked there off and on for three years, and I have always found him to be very fair. He is firm when it is needed, as he should be. I have actively seen him deal with bullying, among other issues, and I have always been satisfied at his handling of the situations. I find this very unfair and unfortunate. There is nothing wrong with your child being repremanded if they misbehave. This is rediculous.

    • REDICULOUS
      May 01, 2014 - 12:19

      Enough said!

    • Repremanded? Rediculous?
      May 01, 2014 - 12:22

      Glad your not teaching my children

    • "Teacher" huh
      May 07, 2014 - 02:06

      You spelled "ridiculous" wrong.

  • Ashley Gallant
    April 30, 2014 - 20:54

    The real problem at this school is the staff is absolutely poison and now a few of them have parents on board to have a public witch hunt of the principal. I know him personally and he's a great leader. The issue is that he's a boss who's not afraid to make a decesion and live with the consequences. Some teachers don't believe that they should have a boss who holds them accountable and parents don't like it when someone tells them something they don't want to hear about their kids. The whole situation is poison. Close the school.

    • John
      May 01, 2014 - 10:39

      Ashley The problem there is no one is held accountable for anything. The principal or the staff. That school was once a shining pillar of a school under the leadership of principal Mr. MacDougall, look at it now. Very shameful for everyone there and to the school board, you should all be very proud of what you turned the school into now from what it was. Shame, shame, shame!

    • Ashley Gallant
      May 01, 2014 - 16:15

      John, I heard from a pretty reliable source at the school, that the old principal, as awesome as he was, was a bit of a pushover...no disrespect. So the teachers were very use to getting whatever they wanted and the parents were the same way. I think maybe this principal doesn't waste time smoozing things over and just tells it as it is. Thats the way I like things. Just my opinion.

  • Retired teacher
    April 30, 2014 - 20:24

    The school board should meet with a couple of representatives of this group, right away. If Ghiz can side-step protocol in the Heather Moase case, he can certainly make it happen now in a serious situation. This would be better than appearing to protect an incompetent principal, and threatening to take away the job of the wife of an opposition member.

    • Tracey
      May 01, 2014 - 08:43

      You CANNOT compare awarding the Order of PEI to a group of parents with no solid proof behing then, wanting to have a principal removed from his duties based on a petition.

    • hmmm
      May 01, 2014 - 10:37

      Are you kidding me? No solid proof? 55 FAMILIES not 55 kids. 55 families out of a total of 100, they must be lying.

  • Just a crazy parent
    April 30, 2014 - 17:38

    When reading the title of this article I expected to open it and see the name of the school to be Elm St. Elementary. I also hear they have the same problem at the elementary school in Kensignton. Not surprised at all by the lack of response from the school board or the minister.

    • crazy parent
      May 01, 2014 - 20:09

      The school system in Pei when it comes to kids being bullied is crazy, and I'm speaking as a parent of a child who was in a summer side school who was bullied so bad this year she threatened to kill her self due to it my child is only 9 years old..and the teachers and principal just shrugged it off and when I took her to see someone at the hospital they did the same thing....look how many teens have killed them selves on the island due to bullying and nothing was done...the government in Pei need to step up and do something...due to all of this we have moved off the island for a better school system where the schools don't put up with bullying at all...

    • Tracey
      May 02, 2014 - 12:49

      55 complainers with no evidence of anything illegal. Just 55 people who don't like how he is running the school and who are all entitled to the due process of filing a grievance. They can provie their cases legitmately but instead they think that a "mob" reaction will somehow allow them to remove a man who has qualified for a job to just be removed because they don't like how he is doing that job? Different is often better if you take a step back and let it happen.

    • Ally
      May 02, 2014 - 16:26

      "Just a crazy Parent" you really are CRAZY or INSANE!! Why in the world would you list ELM ST SCHOOL as having the same problems??? your a JOKE!! HAHA EVERYONE I talk to says how AWESOME the Principle is at that school! and I think she was even awarded with something last year. The Staff Are VERY CLOSE..at the Union Meetings today..I seen them ALL at the same table at Samuel's. I also have a couple of friends that work there..and they have nothing but Great things to say about the staff and the school! Which is always that you'd never find a better staff to work with. K'Town Elmentary ,,may be a different story...but get all your facts right before you slander a school you clearly know nothing about!

    • darlene
      May 04, 2014 - 16:16

      its not just 55 people its 55 families that are tired of their children being bullied from the principal...they did try doing things the right way but when they are ignored over and over again what do you expect them to do...as for you people saying no solid proof really so i guess these 55 families are all just saying this for no reason you think parents dont know whats goes on at the school ..on and lets talk about repremanding a 4 year old really come on....or screaming and yelling at a 5 year old or telling a 14 year old they are fat really people its about time it was brought to light as it seems no one was doing anything about it so now its out there .....and just for the record im glad my children are grown and out of that school

  • and justice for all
    April 30, 2014 - 17:21

    Panama would blush with shame over this !!! Parents .just call in the RCMP..........they don't have to toe the party line ........you will get absolutely nowhere with this government .....

    • surely you're joking
      May 01, 2014 - 09:38

      call in the RCMP? There is no crime alleged. You can't be serious! Why?? Do you want that the principal should be locked up because a group says they are disgruntled with him? LOL... honestly! I can't believe you think police should be involved in this... It's clearly not a police matter in any way, shape or form.

  • Typical
    April 30, 2014 - 16:22

    Does anyone expect anything less from this corrupt ghiz government? Is anyone surprised that they are saying fyou to the citizens and protecting one of their own. I hope Islanders will remember these things at the ballot box next time around but I have very little faith in Islanders. They are stuck in their ancient thinking and will just let the pendulum swing the other way and elect the equally corrupt conservatives.

  • Wow, threatened to fire the guys wife????
    April 30, 2014 - 15:46

    Perhaps the Premier has gone to far if in fact he made any intonation that he would fire an opposition members wife? Wow, the emperor really, really, has no clothes. dig it, funny eh?

  • Whereisthehonor
    April 30, 2014 - 15:40

    No honor among thievs but they will bully you and threaten you and other family members jobs. Class act by the premier but not a surprise to anyone. Heavy hand tactics lead to the 17 million dollar boondoggle called one of the ten worst roads in Atlantic Canada. Called a legacy project Ha. The only legacy is we are doing what we want by the Liberals and there is nothing anyone can do to stop us.