Education minister snubs request for apology for ‘personal attack’ on superintendent

By | March 15, 2019

The Winnipeg School Division asked for an apology from Manitoba’s education minister but got a cold shoulder instead.

The division’s board of trustees called for the apology from Kelvin Goertzen for comments he made about the school division’s chief superintendent, Pauline Clarke, being paid too much.

The minister is trying to divert attention from the cuts he is making in education by singling out one superintendent … as a scapegoat to blame for all the problems in the school system.– Winnipeg School Division chair Chris Broughton

Rather than that, however, Goertzen, offered advice to the trustees.

“I think the Winnipeg School Division should focus on the job of supporting students and working for students,” he said on Friday.

“I think they should focus on the work that they were elected to do as trustees.”

The comments about Clarke were made during question period in the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday. NDP education critic Matt Wiebe quoted a teacher who was concerned about the provincial government closing down the Curriculum Support Centre — a library of classroom materials for teachers.

Goertzen responded by saying teachers should be more concerned about Clarke’s salary.

“This was an uncalled-for personal attack on a public civil servant who cannot speak in their own defence,” said school board chair Chris Broughton.

“The minister is trying to divert attention from the cuts he is making in education by singling out one superintendent among dozens in the province as a scapegoat to blame for all the problems in the school system.”

The board wrote to the Speaker of the House, requesting Goertzen apologize during Friday’s question period.

Goertzen made no apology, or even reference, to the matter during question period. Only when asked by reporters afterward for his response to the WSD’s request did Goertzen offer his blunt reply.

Broughton said he and the rest of the board fully support Clarke and her pay, which he said is “reflective of her education and experience, particularly her unique experience working with inner city students and schools.

“Our students, parents and staff are extremely fortunate to have such a skilled and compassionate leader,” Broughton said.

Trustee Lisa Naylor, in response to Goertzen suggesting the board work for the students, said that is exactly what they are doing by having someone with Clarke’s level of competence leading them.

“Our chief superintendent has dedicated more than 45 years of her life to the education of children,” Naylor said. “For an elected official to go after a public servant this way is an incredible disappointment. It’s very discouraging.”

She said the board had a respectful relationship with Goertzen’s predecessor, Ian Wishart, and met face-to-face with him often.

Goertzen, however, seems content with launching attacks against trustees on Twitter or in the legislature and won’t meet with trustees in person, Naylor said.

“We’re waiting to see when he will start to engage with us and respect what we do.”

The Manitoba government is in the middle of a wide-ranging review of the provincial education system and Naylor wonders if Goertzen’s comments about Clarke are “showing us more and more that he has an outcome already in mind.”