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UPDATE: Pat Mella resigns from school board, saying government threw her under the bus

Pat Mella has resigned from the Public Schools Branch board of directors, saying the P.E.I. government threw her under the bus.
Pat Mella has resigned from the Public Schools Branch board of directors, saying the P.E.I. government threw her under the bus.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Pat Mella has resigned from the board of the Public Schools Branch, saying government threw her under the bus by rejecting the board’s recommendations to close schools.

She delivered a letter to Education Minister Doug Currie this afternoon at the legislature, and provided copies to all 27 MLAs.

In the letter she cites the “massive assignment” given to the three-member board in coming up with its recommendations on school closures and rezoning and that their decisions were “backed by real life information.”

“We understood that difficult decisions sometimes lead to strong emotional reactions,” she says in the letter.

“Having said that, I know that I was basically thrown under the bus by your government. Despite months of stress created by this assignment, we could have avoided almost all of it by being advised your government would not be closing schools.”

Mella suggests in the letter government already had its mind made up not to close any schools before meeting Monday evening at Bluefield High School where the board recommended closing St. Jean and Georgetown schools.

The next morning, just 15 hours later, the premier announced cabinet had met and rejected any school closures.

“While I was being shouted down with obscenities from the crowd and escorted to my car by security (Monday), you were preparing a press release that would make our decisions null and unnecessary.”

Mella also says she felt offended that parents and community members who were at the public meeting Monday from St. Jean and Georgetown schools were invited to the government announcement Tuesday morning rejecting the school closure recommendations.

Some of those same parents were “disrespectful and disruptive at every public meeting,” she says.

“Is that the message you want to deliver to our education community? That you can’t make difficult decisions and that the loud and offensive will eventually win?”

Mella ends by saying she has no faith other board decisions will be handled differently and that the board has been shown an “incredible display of personal disrespect” by every member of cabinet.

Education Minister Doug Currie would not speak to reporters on this issue at the legislature Wednesday, saying he had not had a chance to review the letter.

He did issue a statement shortly after the house closed, but did not directly address any of Mella’s concerns.

“I want to thank Pat Mella for her work as a director of the board of the Public Schools Branch. The school review process was an unprecedented level of engagement and I appreciate the efforts of the directors – it was a true display of public service,” Currie said in the statement.

“While aspects of the school review process were difficult, the directors demonstrated professionalism throughout the many meetings, focused on the best interests of Island students. I have the utmost respect for this work.”

Currie noted cabinet does have final say over any school closures in the province and that cabinet decided not to close schools “after listening to the many Islanders who participated in the consultations, and having reviewed the recommendations of the directors.”

 

Teresa.wright@tc.tc

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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