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

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 30, 2014

Province House in Charlottetown was the site of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference and is where the provincial government sits. Province House is operated by Parks Canada.

©Guardian photo

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.

“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.