The Northland School Division has a new superintendent. Don Tessier, principal from St. Theresa elementary school, in Wabasca, has taken over the position on an interim basis until the end of August.
Superintendent Pier DePaola sent notice on March 31 to staff and administration that he had resigned as of May 5 “as per mutual agreement with the trustee.” He held the position for approximately 18 months.
When Alberta Education disbanded NSD’s board in January and appointed former NSD superintendent Colin Kelly as official trustee and established an inquiry team, department spokesperson Carolyn Stuparyk said that DePaola could be replaced prior to the inquiry team making its recommendations to Alberta Education.
However, Kelly said that DePaola was retiring.
“The superintendent is essential to the operation of any jurisdiction …. We will be doing this in two phases. There will be an interim appointment for the remainder of the school year and during that time we’ll also be doing a national search for a superintendent for the school jurisdiction,” said Kelly.
In his memo to staff, DePaola stated that Kelly “needs his own team. . . . This time it should be easier since the trustee and enhanced divisional staff will access the minister’s departmental team . . . .”
Kelly said that NSD has no more access or any different access to Alberta Education resources than do any other school jurisdictions in the province nor any additional funding from Alberta Education. He added that NSD administration was already accessing those resources at the time that Education Minister David Hancock disbanded the 23-member corporate board.
The inquiry team has held its first two meetings with staff from individual schools, community school board committees, and parents and residents of the communities. A number of issues on the table including challenges facing students in learning, the governance structure, and the possibility of realigning some schools with neighbouring school jurisdictions.
Inquiry team chair David van Tamelen said it was too soon to generalize on emerging themes or common concerns.
“I’d really like to acknowledge the passion we’ve seen in both (Elizabeth Métis Settlement and Calling Lake where meetings have been held) by the people there for their kid’s education. That is one commonality. That’s very heartening,” said van Tamelen. He said turnout in both communities was good.
The last community meeting is scheduled for June 18. Van Tamelen said the report to the minister, which will include recommendations, is slated to be delivered at the end of September.
“It’s up to him what he chooses to do with that,” said van Tamelen.
Joining van Tamelen on the inquiry team are Nathan Matthew, former chief of the Simpcw First Nation and the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, and Keith Wagner, former deputy superintendent of Grande Prairie School District. Van Tamelen is former superintendent of the Peace River School Division.
Stuparyk said Hancock made the change because of “concerns in several areas” relating to the accountability pillar, which measures students results, teacher and administration retention and school improvements. In a news release issued by the department it is noted that “students in Northland School Division achieve results considerably below those of students elsewhere in the province.”
Kelly’s appointment runs through until October 2013 when general school board elections are held throughout the province.