Board, school must address criminal issue

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English School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet

The English Language School Board must take immediate action to deal with the vice-principal of Stonepark Intermediate who pleaded guilty last week to two criminal harassment charges.

Parents of students attending the junior high are demanding that he be removed from the classroom. They can’t imagine any student wanting him to remain in the education system.

It’s insufficient for the board and its superintendent Cynthia Fleet to stay silent “because it’s a personnel matter.” It’s well past that Ms. Fleet. Trial coverage was reported extensively in The Guardian. The board can’t just avoid the issue.

It’s a matter of public concern. Parents have legitimate issues about a teacher — with a recent criminal record — in the classroom.

The teacher was to chaperone a bus tour of students to Quebec this week. Angry parents intervened to ensure this didn’t happen.

If there is a board policy on this situation, what is it? Was it followed? And if there isn’t a policy, why in the heck not? Where does the P.E.I. Teachers’ Federation stand on this? What is their policy?

Without going into the specifics, the board, Ms. Fleet, and Stonepark principal Norman Beck find themselves on the horns of a dilemma. There is a perception they are more interested in protecting a teacher over the concerns of students and parents.

The vice-principal pleaded guilty last week to two criminal charges of harassment involving an adult woman. Details provided at trial revealed an unsettling portrait of a man who for months harassed and terrorized the victim.

The news came as a shock to parents and students. It was far past the point of irony that the teacher was instructing a healthy relationship program and saw nothing wrong with his own behaviour. There was no apology . . .  no regrets.

He is not a person that parents want to see in the classroom instructing their children.

Did the board or school know of the pending charges? Did they take any steps to remove the teacher from the classroom and put him on administrative leave until the trial was decided?

Were parents even informed that a criminal issue was pending or that the school and board were on top of things to ease any concerns?

Yes, we firmly believe in innocent until proven guilty but we’re well past that point now. We have two guilty pleas and testimony of disturbing behaviour.

A sentencing hearing is set for March 8. Parents need assurances that the issue is being dealt with now. They are not interested in waiting to see what sentence is handed down and what action the board might take in six weeks time.

There is a lack of leadership being demonstrated here. Will the minister of education have to step in?

Utility takes charge

Maritime Electric deserves credit for taking charge of the underwater power cable file and moving forward with the key infrastructure project that is so vital for Prince Edward Island. The utility has long warned that the existing submarine cables are at the end of their lifespan and electricity supply to the province might be jeopardized without the added capacity. The company pushed forward after governments talked and stalled for years.

Ottawa finally came on board early last year and the province is committed to cost-sharing the huge project valued at well over $100 million.

The announcement last week that the cable supply contract was awarded to a South Korean company and a $6 million down payment was paid is good news. The cables had to be ordered last fall so the delivery date of the $54 million contract could be met. Installation begins this fall adjacent to the Confederation Bridge.

An environmental review is still ongoing but there shouldn’t be any major issues. And if there are concerns, then the company should be able to address them. We’ve had cables laid before and these new ones are safer because they don’t have oil insulation. The danger of leaks won’t be a factor.

Organizations: English Language School Board, P.E.I. Teachers

Geographic location: Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Concerned parent
    January 28, 2016 - 10:02

    This man is a role model to impressionable adolescents. He has power and control over our most precious resources, our children. This situation must not be taken lightly. Many opinions have been issued, but what has not yet been considered is if this a repeated offense, and is there a strong occurrence for him to do this again. Do we want a man of this mentality to be leading our children and setting an example? Who is to say that others just have not come forward because of the legalities of it, and endure the humility of having their personal life exposed? Let’s consider that this is a 50 year old man, who only dated this woman for a short time. Would it not be reasonable to assume that he has had past relationships and that this may be a learned behavior, and perhaps even a pattern? Would it not be reasonable to consider that he would have difficulty not acting in this manner again? Obsession is like an addiction, and not easily overcome. If he was as obsessed as the article portrayed, it would be difficult to assume that it did not affect his job in some capacity. If there were more than 40 texts in a day, would it not be an assumption to that some were sent while he was at school, therefore interfering with his job? It would be incompetent to think that the school board, an employer to more than 1800 teachers, does not have a policy in place to address this. I would hope that some of the factors to consider would be the severity of the crime, how it may affect our children, and the likelihood to commit a similar crime again. I am confident that once these factors are considered, that the proper procedures will be followed to have this man dismissed from administering our children.

  • Aleena
    January 27, 2016 - 18:44

    If someone is in a legal proceeding, I don't think parents have any right to know anything until which time a guilty plea or acquittal has been reached unless the issue had direct connections to the children he was teaching. PEI's very public court of opinion would destroy that person's ability to continue to have a successful career should they have been found not guilty. While I realize this is not the case, the Stonepark community now should be made aware of this employee's leaving. Regardless of the reason for his leaving, all the parents and students need to know is whether or not he is gone. The irony is that he taught a healthy relationship program but his actions had nothing to do with the children being taught. Past articles indicated he was on administrative leave since November and remains so until a decision is made about his future at the school. This in no way excuses his behaviour towards that woman but I think people are entitled to have some level of privacy, even in situations such as these.

    • david
      January 27, 2016 - 19:53

      I would think any course he taught in healthy relationships would have to be very suspect when he admits he didn't know how to act. As a parent I would be VERY concerned what he told the kids in his class when he was not in class he felt harassing and threatening a woman is proper behavior.

    • Level headed
      January 27, 2016 - 22:04

      I completely agree...well said.

  • Chris
    January 27, 2016 - 18:36

    What is most concerning with this incident is that the person pleaded guilty so admits his wrong doing openly. Not like he was charged and then had to be convicted he openly said I done this. For someone like this to admit these terrible actions and behaviour to ever enter a classroom again is a major problem for everyone. Obviously he has no concept of what is right and wrong while committing the actions and after he is caught he admits he done them. It is possibly one of the worst cases of improper behavior by a school teacher ever in PEI. Yeah I done it and now I admit it. People like this should have no connection to teaching our kids what is right and wrong.

  • James
    January 27, 2016 - 12:20

    Ms Fleet, the Principal Mr Beck and the Justice Minister Currie must have known or were aware of this pending court case and more so the actions of this Vice Principal. High paid positions with great responsibility for the welfare of our students had better have known. The big concern is, what did they do about it? If nothing, than all of them should be fired. No excuses. Parents not being advised of this situation is disgraceful. Cut the BS, someone knew something. This is just another level of coverups. Where in hell is the teachers union on this issue. They must have known.