Departure of popular high school principal upsets many in Kugluktuk

Concerned residents want answers from local DEA

Kugluktuk High School will lose its well-liked principal next month, after the district education authority voted not to renew his contract. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

Updated on May 7 at 11:45 a.m.

A popular principal at Kugluktuk’s high school will depart from his job on June 9 after the district education authority decided not to extend his contract.

And, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, the loss of the principal has prompted an exodus of more than half a dozen teachers from the community’s two schools.

Many in Kugluktuk, home to about 1,500, attended a district education authority meeting on Monday evening to learn why its members voted in March not to renew Principal Haydn George’s contract.

The principal’s supporters had earlier submitted a petition, with about 130 signatures, to Nunavut Education Minister David Joanasie, along with a letter to the hamlet expressing their concerns about the DEA’s decision.

At the meeting, they asked the DEA to explain more about why its members had decided not to renew George’s contract and they questioned whether one of the DEA members, who is also George’s roommate, should have participated in the process.

But “we got nothing,” said a community member who said there was a lot of “stonewalling.”

A student at the DEA meeting also spoke on George’s behalf asking them “why would you try to make him leave when he wants to stay and not many principals do?”

“You don’t see him here and what he does everyday but we do,” she said.

Before the DEA meeting, a concerned parent of two students heading into high school told Nunatsiaq News that she questioned DEA’s decision to not recommend George as KHS principal.

George has an “amazing rapport with students and staff,” she said, and the staff love their job and, as an additional plus, lots of non-attenders are back in school.

The woman asked that her name not be used, as she is a Government of Nunavut employee and fears a backlash for speaking out.

She said the DEA has an obligation to listen to community concerns, but said these have been “avoided and ignored.”

“I want to ask why they chose not to recommend another term for Haydn,” she said. “I want to show the support he has from Kugluktuk and that they made a mistake. With the shortage of teachers in Nunavut we are appalled they would go this route to not renew a dedicated educator.”

The impending loss of so many teachers in the wake of George’s departure represents the highest turnover ever seen in school staff that she can recall in the community.

“Over the years we’ve been blessed with solid, dedicated educators,” she said.

They’re the kind of educators featured in the new movie, The Grizzlies, about how team spirit created by a lacrosse program in the early 2000s improved the lives of those students who participated in it.

Whoever has George next year as principal would be “very lucky,” she said.

Most of the departing teachers are going to Iqaluit, she said.

Since the DEA’s decision to not renew George’s contract, no further DEA meetings had been held before this week’s meeting, the Kuglukuk resident said.

In the meantime, the screening process for the principal’s job is underway, she said.

The woman is not alone in her concerns about the decision and the process that led up to it.

Another Kugluktuk resident, who did not want to be identified due to possible professional conflicts of interest in the small community, said “if I had heard about legal wrongdoing or severe policy breaches it would have gone around town and I would understand.”

“But the principal was here at least six years and wanted to stay. So this came out of nowhere and seems petty, especially when it’s so hard to find good principals and teachers these days,” she said.

Cathy Keeling, the executive director of Kitikmeot School Operations, told Nunatsiaq News in a statement that the DEA’s motion to post the principal position for competition “was not a termination nor was it punitive, as the current principal’s contract comes to an end naturally on June 9, 2019.”

In line with section 107 of the Education Act, the DEA made the recommendation to the regional schools operations to advertise the principal position, she said.

“The Kitikmeot School Operations supported the DEA recommendation, as the DEA followed the appropriate procedure in reaching this recommendation.”

Keeling said George could have submitted his application for the position: “this recommendation does not impede the current principal from submitting his application to be considered for this position. He can apply for the position of principal.”

She added that “it should be noted that the Department of Education supports our Inuit Employment Plan Initiative as well as our commitments to Article 23 of the Nunavut Agreement.

“Therefore, advertising the position provides an opportunity to Inuit applicants should they wish to apply.”

George’s supporters now say they want to fill the two vacant seats on the DEA and seek a review of the decision not to renew George’s contract.

Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak, who attended the Monday evening meeting, said she planned to bring up the issue when the Nunavut legislature sits later this month.

When contacted by Nunatsiaq News, George said he couldn’t comment on his current situation. But he did say “all of us who work and live here in Kugluktuk know it’s a fabulous community and a fantastic school.”

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(24) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bob on

    Typical Kugluktuk. Don’t know a good thing when it’s staring them right in the face. Last MLA election the community could only muster 1 inexperienced candidate. Won by acclamation. Sad. Good luck! to the well-meaning people of Kug for the present & future students they are looking out for.

  2. Posted by David on

    Why anyone in their right mind would want to be a principal in Nunavut or any province or territory is completely beyond me.

    It has become a horrible job where every one of your decisions is bantered back and forth on FaceBook , and people are very free to meanly and personally criticize principals on Social Media.

    The future here is not that bright IMO.

    • Posted by Former Principal in Nunavut on

      So true David, Facebook can be very damaging.

  3. Posted by Toxic Work Environment on

    Article 23, priority hiring. There it is, let’s get rid of a great thing because we can always fins something that “might” work, eventually, maybe?

    Screwed by the process.

  4. Posted by Crystal Clarity on

    The Kitikmeot is demonstrating a real lack of leadership by the local DEA’s and the RSO. At a time when teachers and principals are in short supply they can not afford to be losing good people. It seems to be happening in all the Kitikmeot communities. I guess the DEA’s and RSO feel really powerful not renewing contracts and squeezing people out but the Kitikmeot is just getting a really bad repuatation and the word is out to stay away The Minister should be investigating what has been going on over there the last couple of years because in the end the ones that will be suffering are the students.

  5. Posted by Hmmmmm on

    This should be concerning to everyone on many levels. Many teaching positions are going unfilled, every principal but two are leaving the Kitikimeot, or being changed out. A similiar change happened last year in Taloyoak with Gina Pizzo with the intent of providing an opportunity for an Inuit hire. The Kitikmeot school operations operates out in this hinterland, far away from any rational interceptions as a fiefdom. When can we advertise those jobs for an article 23 hire? Staff are coming that have no local knowledge, knowing that they are not welcome to stay. Hey KSO, hope you arent expecting a bonus this year while you work to run all those empty schools from Kugluktuk. The DEA got bad advice. Put the responsibility on the right people for this fiasco.

    • Posted by One brick short of a load on

      There are too many big words in this comment. How are the people who hold power supposed to understand the need to be responsive to their community if there are so many big words. Perhaps they can find a good prinicpal to help them. Unlikely though.
      Mind you, the fact that we have to shroud our writing in secrecy, that so many people in the article are afraid to use their real identities for fear of government reprisals, suggests this story is not about a district education board decision. In a democratic state, the peoples voices should be welcomed, and conversaton should be embraced. Decisions should be measured with common sense and not ambition. It is the purview of the people to question everything. The people who work to make the community stronger should be seen as the real heros. Hayden, you will be replaced, but you will also be missed for the gentleman you are.

    • Posted by Re: Hmmmm on

      Correction there…they actually just posted the 7th principal job last week. There is 1 returning principal in the Kitikmeot Region.

      • Posted by David on

        That is very telling , isn’t it?
        Being principal of a tough school takes time off the end of your life, it really isn’t worth it. I have seen many really good people, take principal jobs, and you can just watch them age.

        It’s a little sad.

  6. Posted by Of Course on

    This is Nunavut –of course things like this happen all the time.
    There are, I’m sure, some good DEA’s in the territory, who have members who have half a clue about education in 2019.
    It seems to me that there are a whole lot of people on DEA’s who have no clue about the realities of schools & classrooms in Nunavut, or the impact of uninvested parents. Individuals who only set foot in the school for a DEA meeting or to collect a cheque. Some who have had to be removed from the DEA’s because of threatening behaviour & attitudes towards teachers.
    Known alcoholics & potheads– even bootleggers, those who are neglectful of their own children, who are abusive, have criminal pasts. As well as those who are known child abusers. Other situations where DEA’s are pawns of administrators who have ulterior motives or are ‘power tripping’.
    Then there are Elders who are elected –because they are old, not because they wish to be an active stakeholder in education. People end up on DEA’s by default, because no one else puts their name forward. The honoraria is the focus.
    . . . and the teacher & principal shortages in Nunavut continue to grow . . . The irony that this has happened in Kugluktuk is something else–
    This territory needs a lot of help.

  7. Posted by popular? on

    130 signatures out a population of 1500? Does not seem that popular to me.

  8. Posted by why is this in the news on

    I get that this is disappointing for a few people but did this issue really need to be a news article and wouldn’t this article be considered a professional conflict of interest or professional sabotage?

  9. Posted by two sides to every story on

    There is ALWAYS two sides to a story and the DEA cannot share with the media what influenced their decision to not renew this principal’s contract. Maybe the principal got along with the Southern teachers but didn’t resonate with the local community? Maybe the DEA wants new and fresh leadership for the school after 5 years? Maybe the Inuit students and Inuit hires did not do well under him? WHO KNOWS? Plus, a max exodus of teachers is not uncommon to the North…most teachers leave after a while and this isn’t unique to only Kugluktuk. And I don’t know, after 5 years- what more do you want as a Southerner? This time should have been used to train an Inuit for the position so they could take over.
    But of all the issues in Nunavut to talk about, a bunch of Southern hire teachers really invested their time and effort to contact the Nunatsiaq to complain about their Southern hire principal’s contract not being renewed after 5 years of service? I am sorry but these teachers in Kugluktuk seem bored, whiny, spoiled and entitled……throwing tantrums when they do not get what they want. Good bye and farewell and good luck to Iqaluit if these are the kind of teachers coming in for the new school year. Just a heads up to these teachers- that type of entitlement, tantrum throwing, and whininess about not getting your way will not work in Iqaluit. Keep it in Kugluktuk.

    • Posted by One brick we need on

      You must have some insight to naturally assume it is southern teachers moving on to iqaluit? It does not say that in the article. Or, you are just making assumptions about the teachers based on the large amount of southern teachers in the north. Why is that?
      I say, stop providing any education past grade 9, only staff with ntep and do away with the principal jobs all together, let the Kso run the schools and fill out all the reports they want for themselves. (Think how brilliantly done they will be) think of the money we will save! Think of the time on the land the children can have! Think of how high the attendance rates will be? And since you dont value these jobs, think how happy you will be having your children with you all the time. They will never leave you! Education in Nunavut will finally be a success!

    • Posted by Rorschach Test on

      To: two sides to every story

      What a comment. Lots of assumptions, a bit of mind reading and general vitriol. I really wonder how much you know about this specific situation, versus how much of your comment is really a Rorschach test, revealing your own internal mind state, that is: “entitled, tantrum throwing, and whininess about not getting your way”.

      Sound familiar?

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Spoiled and entitled? Umm, haven’t the Nunavut beneficiaries written the manual on that?

  10. Posted by slow news day? on

    Inuit people in Nunavut are dying from food insecurity, lack of housing, lack of safe spaces for shelter from violence, etc, and what we want to worry about is why a White male privileged teacher did not get his high school principal job back after his 5-year contract ended? He and his White Privileged Southern teacher friends will be okay…they will find new jobs and move on with their lives while Inuit people will continue to suffer. Let’s address real issues here…. not this nonsense.

    • Posted by White Person on

      Yours and “Two sides to every story” comment hopefully only reflect a few of Nunavut residents. Obviously you do not care and playing the White Person card is just getting tiring. What do you think Nunavut would look like without any White People? It would be a mess, with nothing functional, barely anybody at work and big cries for the Federal Government to send help because Nunavut is part of Canada and should be supported. You guys are pathetic!

    • Posted by Putuguk on

      The most fundamental and permanent improvements in food security, housing, safe spaces, reductions in violence anywhere on Earth has been brought about by higher levels of education. So, for Inuit of Nunavut the answer to why we should worry about the quality of school administrators and teachers in our schools is obvious. It is whether we care that our children will have the capacity to feed themselves, house themselves, and lead a healthy and productive life. Giving someone food, giving someone a house, and sending our problem people away is nothing more than applying a band aid to a gaping wound.

    • Posted by Israel MacArthur on

      Ah, the racism is strong in this one.

    • Posted by iRoll on

      Dear “slow news day” you’re right, the teachers will likely be okay. It’s the students that are the concern here. Let me guess, their suffering is okay too, as long as someone sticks it to the ‘white man’, that’s what really matters in all this. Am I right?

  11. Posted by Bricked up on

    I think you mean Cathy has already been there. What a mess!

  12. Posted by KUGsupporter on

    WHy do we loose good teachers???, he knows all the kids, and all the new JR high kids that are in transition already from elementary school…why anyways, we need to build our community with good leaders for the future, our population is getting older and we are loosing more elders as each month or as years go by. Keep our Principal, Koana

  13. Posted by Support our Children on

    All this seems to be about what our DEA, KSO and Community is doing. Absolutely nothing about what our children of Kugluktuk needs. And Kugluktuk needs to stop voting in those people who just come into town and want to be known by running on boards, committees to show who they are. There are people on the DEA board who have no involvement with any of our children of Kugluktuk whats so ever and along with both Schools. Go figure.

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