Board Terminates Symyrozum-Watt’s Contract for Just Cause

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - The Board of Pembina Hills Public Schools has terminated the employment contract of Ms. Symyrozum-Watt effective July 31, 2017.

On January 27, 2017, the Board Chair received allegations about the former superintendent, including reports of harassment and bullying, under the whistleblower provisions in the division administrative procedure and Alberta’s Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act. The board held a special meeting on February 1, 2017, and appointed a sub-committee to investigate. A lawyer was retained through the Alberta School Boards Association and MNP LLP (Meyers Norris Penney) was brought in to conduct a thorough investigation. MNP did a review of the evidence and interviewed staff and Ms. Symyrozum-Watt.

The Board of Trustees received the final report of the investigation July 27 and the final legal opinion July 28. With the investigation now complete, the Board met July 31, 2017 to review and discuss the findings and the recommendation of the ad hoc sub-committee. Following its deliberations, the Board passed the following motion:

“That the Board of Trustees, upon recommendation of the ad hoc sub-committee supports the immediate termination of the contract of employment of Colleen Symyrozum-Watt for just cause. An independent investigator and legal counsel found Ms. Symyrozum-Watt on repeated occasions over a lengthy period of time has:

  • breached various contractual, board policy and administrative procedure requirements related to per diems, expenses, vacation days and nepotism,
  • counselled employees to misrepresent information to the board of trustees,
  • engaged in harassing behaviours, and
  • was dishonest in responding to questions during the formal investigation

These actions, and other conduct issues, have broken the trust of the Board of Trustees in Ms. Symyrozum-Watt, and are not compatible with the values of Pembina Hills Public Schools and the fiduciary obligation and expected conduct of the Superintendent of Schools.

The Board Chair is authorized to issue the notice of termination to Ms. Symyrozum-Watt’s legal counsel.”

The report and opinion provided to the Board are confidential and will not be released as they contain personal information provided by employees.

All salary paid to a Superintendent of Schools is disclosed in the annual audited financial statements and provided to Alberta Education. No severance or retiring allowance is being paid.

“When allegations like these are made, they must be taken seriously and acted on with great care. Not only do these issues involve public trust, the reputation of the employer and the employee are at stake,” said Jennifer Tuininga, Board Chair. “The Board worked very hard to ensure that the process was thorough, fair, and impartial. This was a difficult situation and the Board acted in the best interests of staff, students and the public.”

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Contact:
Jennifer Tuininga, Board Chair    780-674-8500

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