NDP questions Pelly Crossing principal’s departure

The NDP are demanding the government explain itself over a murky situation in Pelly Crossing.

The NDP are demanding the government explain itself over a murky situation in Pelly Crossing.

The community’s principal, Keith Clarke, left the school suddenly over March break with no explanation from the Department of Education. Community members spoke up, saying they were frustrated that they hadn’t been consulted about Clarke’s departure from the school.

“If they’re going to make such a drastic decision … it’s contingent in my mind that they would survey the parents before they make such a drastic decision to torpedo somebody’s career, notwithstanding the impact it has on the community,” said Janie Lee Silas, a parent and part-time teacher in Pelly Crossing.

The Education Department has refused to comment, calling the situation an internal staffing issue. Keith Clarke has also declined to speak publicly about why he’s no longer working in Pelly Crossing. At this point, nothing is known for certain beyond the fact that he is no longer there.

Now it’s reached the floor of the legislature.

“This matter is not to be taken lightly. The recent removal of the principal of Eliza Van Bibber School is a major disruption to the students, the community of Pelly Crossing, the staff and the parents,” said NDP education critic Jim Tredger on Monday.

Many community members have spoken up in Clarke’s defence and are asking for him to return to the school, said Tredger.

“In Pelly Crossing, the principal was removed over spring break and the community was told that he took a new job, which is an interesting interpretation of what happened.

As elder Jean Van Bibber said, ‘There was no warning, no consultation and no explanation.’ Confidence in government leadership has been shaken. How will the minister work with the Eliza Van Bibber School community to restore confidence in his decision-making process and in his leadership?” Tredger said.

Education Minister Scott Kent responded saying that staffing issues are not the responsibility of the minister’s office.

“With respect to the specific issue, it is a personnel issue and I won’t comment on it further,” Kent said, adding that there are plans to engage the Eliza Van Bibber School community and the First Nation in looking for ways to resolve the historic staffing problems that have plagued many Yukon communities. Eliza Van Bibber School has had seven new principals in the past 10 years.

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