Board, school must address criminal issue

Published on January 27, 2016

English School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet

©Submitted photo

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.