(Haida Gwaii Observer/File photo)

Parents ask trustees to delay hiring of new superintendent

Some parents are asking Haida Gwaii school trustees to delay hiring a new superintendent until after the Oct. 20 election.

Members of the newly reformed Parent Advisory Committee (PAC) for Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary also have two related questions for the outgoing board:

Why is former superintendent Dawna Day no longer with the school district, and what severance was she paid?

“All I can tell you right now is all I’m legally allowed to say, which isn’t a lot,” said Chairperson Harmony Williams, speaking last Tuesday during the September school board meeting at Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay.

Williams said parents who want to know more about Day’s unexpected departure can file a freedom of information request. Day left this summer having served the district for two years. Her predecessor, former Haida Gwaii teacher and principal Angus Wilson, was superintendent for eight years.

“We’re pretty much bound by confidentiality,” she said.

Tracy Morton, secretary for the new Sk’aadgaa Naay PAC, wrote school trustees a letter on Sept. 1 that asked about Day’s “unexpected termination.” Trustees have not said publicly whether Day was fired or simply chose not to renew her contract.

In the letter, Morton also urged the board to delay hiring Day’s replacement because it is the most senior staff position in the district, one that is “key to ensuring trustees decisions are clear, fair, and followed.”

Williams said trustees received the letter from the Sk’aadgaa Naay parents, but as a board they decided not to respond because the issue is still in progress.

The current school board is still reviewing whether or how it may hire Day’s replacement, Williams said, noting that she only learned at the Tuesday meeting that the newly elected and acclaimed trustees can’t be sworn in before Nov. 5.

“I think our goal right now is to ensure that we’re not leaving a big hole for the new board,” she added. “We know how hard it is to go through the process of hiring a new superintendent.”

Roeland Denooij, who is running as a candidate for school trustee, said having the outgoing board make such a long-term decision for the district isn’t likely to be popular with parents.

Denooij suggested that at the very least, the three trustees who will join the new board by acclamation — Julia Breese, Dana Moraes, and Wilson Brown — should be involved in the decision.

“The optics of you hiring a new superintendent before the end of the mandate — I don’t know that that’s going to wash over very well with the community,” he said.

“It’s a little disappointing that members of the community have written letters to the board addressing this issue and received nothing at all — even a letter to say, ‘We can’t say anything.’”

Dave Reynolds, a member of the Tahayghen PAC, disagreed.

“The fact that we’re near the end of your mandate doesn’t indicate to me in any way that you’re not able to assess the suitability of the next superintendent,” he said.

“It may not be fair to ask the new board to hit the ground and make this massive decision.”

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