Western Nunavut town says goodbye to principal rejected by DEA

Many in Kugluktuk “felt strongly that the current principal should stay in the job”

Outgoing Kugluktuk High School principal Haydn George (left) stands with his vice-principal, Jonathan Lee, who gave a tribute to George on June 5. That’s after the district education authority, with Kitikmeot School Operations, decided not to renew George’s contract to stay on for another three years in the western Nunavut community. (Submitted photo)

By Jane George

Kugluktuk’s high school gym was filled to capacity on June 5 as students and residents gathered to say goodbye to the school’s popular principal, Haydn George.

Over the past few weeks, many in the western town of Kugluktuk had clung to the hope that their local district education authority and the Kitikmeot School Operations would offer another contact to George.

Initially, the DEA members had decided not to renew George’s third contract offer. Then, after complaints from residents, he was interviewed again for the position, but, in the end, his position went to a new hire.

So George, who had led the high school for six years, left the community of about 1,500 this week.

Some in Kugluktuk continue to allege that, in its decision not to offer a new contract to George, the DEA didn’t follow the rules of the current Education Act and didn’t disclose what had happened during their private meetings to the public.

The dispute over George, which started to gather momentum in May, also came up during the spring sitting of the Nunavut legislature, when Kugluktuk MLA Mila Kamingoak spoke on May 31 about the uproar among her constituents and tabled a petition signed by 130, asking for George to remain as principal.

“A number of Kugluktuk community residents were very upset to note that the high school principal position was recently advertised,” Kamingoak said in a member’s statement.

“Many residents felt strongly that the current principal should stay in the job. Following that, it became common knowledge that a number of teachers would be leaving the community at the end of the school year, prompting more concern.”

Kamingoak said she hoped that discussions about Nunavut’s education system and the new Education Act would bring “greater clarity regarding the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of community district education authorities with respect to staffing in our schools.”

In responding to her questions, Education Minister David Joanasie admitted “this situation in Kugluktuk is a case where we do want to clarify our roles between the DEAs and the department on the reappointment of principals or vice-principals.”

Nunavut’s Education Act currently states that “an appointment or reappointment of a principal or vice-principal may only be made on the recommendation of a panel appointed by the district education authority that has jurisdiction over the principal or vice-principal.”

That panel is supposed to include an employee appointed by the minister and others appointed by the DEA.

Joanasie said his department recommended to the regional school operations that they move ahead with the competition for the principal’s position, and “we went with that and this is in line with our current legislation.”

But some in Kugluktuk say the Department of Education did not follow its own regulations in the process to determine the fate of George.

Proposed changes to Nunavut’s Education Act, found in Bill 25, tabled last week, put the DEAs more in charge of the community programs than education programs, which may result in changes to the DEAs’ role in hiring principals or vice-principals.

Bill 25, which has yet to be discussed by MLAs in the standing committee on legislation, would require DEAs to appoint members to the hiring panel within two working days.

So, on June 5, many in Kugluktuk came to say goodbye to George. The gym of the school, which was recently featured in the acclaimed movie, the Grizzlies, was packed.

The gym in Kugluktuk’s high school was filled to capacity on June 5 as students and residents gathered to say goodbye to their principal, Haydn George. (Submitted photo)

George’s vice-principal, Jonathan Lee, presented him with a Grizzlies banner. Lee spoke about George who could often be found welding, snow shovelling, “inviting the whole community into the school for lunch, giving out so much fruit that he literally found a weekly chartered plane from Yellowknife, or (sending) a quick text offering some hummus he’s just made, if you have a container.”

This was all part of George’s effort, made possible with the help of donors, to attract and retain hungry students and to build a stronger relationship with the community.

“Haydn offers sincere love and compassion…. These attributes are not sourced from a teaching manual … they come from his heart,” Lee said.

Last week, the high school under George’s leadership was praised in the auditor general’s report on education for its trades courses, which combine hands-on skills with academic studies.

One of the school’s students, Shauntay Bolt, summed up George simply: “the students in your next school will be incredibly lucky to have a leader like you.”

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(21) Comments:

  1. Posted by Thunder & Lightening on

    Hayden sure will be missed by the community and the youth especially. He was a good leader, so many have graduated under his belt. At his going away, the word out there, was question if any of the DEA members were available to say some comments on his going away gathering, was not surprised they’re was no one from the DEA presentable at the going away. They should all be FIRED. Need a new board.

  2. Posted by Bricked into silence on

    Pay attention to the role of the Gn and the KsO here, not the Dea. The local board did as they were told and put the position out for competition. The puppet masters here are trying to remove themselves from the carnage, but if the article is to be belived, they orchestrated this. “We went with that and that is in line with the legislation”. What really needed to happen is the local board needed some common sense and some courage. Get out of the Kitikmeot Haydn, but the interference of the gn maybe wont make anything better in the other regions. What a mess!

  3. Posted by Ms. T on

    Finally the DEA steps in and wants more Inuktitut in classes and becomes the bad board. I am proud of them and they shouldn’t feel bad.

    • Posted by Finally eh on

      Some people in Kugluktuk were asked to see about Inuinnaqtun at the schools. Apparently the DEA is against it but there have been no meetings to inquire. They dont listen to the community members anyway.

    • Posted by Weird Comment on

      The language in Kugluktuk is Inuinnaqtun, not Inuktitut. Also, there’s no reason that hiring a non-speaker as principal will have any impact on language teaching, at all.

  4. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    I’m not sure what the problem is here. The principal had a contract that expires this year. The DEA and GN could have offered an extension (assuming that was part of the contract). They did not. Now all of you are on the people you elected just because they followed the contract.
    What if the principal does not want to extend?? Hmm.

    What if the principal does want to stay? Well if he was as good as you say (and I have no reason to doubt you) then he could apply for the position.

    Think about this. Do you want him to have a permanent position as principal? What if there is an Inuinnaq teacher who wants to (or does) take the principal certification and qualifies to be a principal. When do they get a chance?

    Maybe the system works?? But I sure do appreciate the exuberance of the folks in Kugluktuk over this. Now perhaps redirect it to the alcohol, the drug and spousal abuse that goes on there. Priorities people Priorities.

    • Posted by Education is key on

      Do you even know what education is about. Even if its learned at home or at school, education is key. And children caught up in the alcohol, drug and spousal abuse mostly do not get it at home so the principal was there for the kids and worked hard to not only get the attendance up, but kept an academics standard through it all. Maybe live here to see for yourself, lend a helping hand rather than letters on a keyboard, or at least broaden your scope a little. No?

    • Posted by A Concerned Parent on

      Maybe you should have some facts before you post speculative questions hmm? Fact one – the principal very much wanted to be extended. Fact two – the principal did reapply for his old job. Fact three – the new principal is not, I repeat not, an Inuit beneficiary. In fact, he is does not even have any experience as a principal.
      You suggest the system works? What exactly worked in this case Mr. Murphy? Was it the decision to ignore the wishes of the vast majority of concerned Kugluktukmiut, parents, or teachers? Was it the the decision to remove a principal who was actually getting results, improving attendance and providing pathways for young Inuit to succeed in careers after secondary school? What was it that worked?

      • Posted by Also a parent, also concerned on

        Can you provide the evidence that shows that Haydn was getting results, that attendance was improving and that young Inuit were provided pathways to succeed in careers after secondary school?

        • Posted by we do not know the full story on

          I agree with Paul Murphy.
          I get that he wanted to stay after doing 6 years but throwing a public fit about the contract not being extended is not only immature but is not in alignment with the goal of the GN which is to create opportunities for Inuit employment so I am actually surprised an MLA is supporting a Southerner staying longer in a position. Even if the new person coming in is not Inuk, it still helps having contract positions to prevent non Inuit people from staying in positions longer than they need to and to give the option to have new leadership for the school.
          I also agree that this public attention should be used for bigger issues in Nunavut.
          I wish the Nunatsiaq would do a news article for every time an Inuit got unfairly let go from their GN job!

          • Posted by iRoll on

            Paul’s comment and yours are so similarly simplistic and facile one wonders if they not written by the same person. New opportunities for who exactly? If something is working well you suggest just getting rid of it in the name of “new opportunities” for who? Some unidentifiable figure who will, maybe, but unlikely, do as well? To what end exactly? And of course, we can’t let outsiders have any sense of long term connection to the community. Especially educated and talented ones. Get rid of them before they actually ‘live here’! What an abysmal failure of imagination or reason.

  5. Posted by Northern Guy on

    Not sure why my first post was not accepted but since facts should matter (especially in journalism) here it goes again. The Kugluktuk gym was NOT featured in the recent Grizzlies movie. The gym (and school) featured in the movie was the Aqsaarniit Middle School which used as a stand in for the school/gym in Kugluktuk. In fact the entire movie was shot in around Iqaluit and NOT in Kugluktuk.

    • Posted by NORTHERN GIRL on

      What does that have to do with Haydn not being extended?

      • Posted by Northern Guy on

        Because as I said in my post facts matter and inaccuracies should be corrected. Regardless whether they are related to the story the journalist saw fit to include it so I saw fit to comment.

  6. Posted by Sad parent on

    Hayden is a great principal. Am very disappointed on the process on which he was LET GO by our DEA group. He was very community and education minded. My high school student will have to deal with yet another new comer. Hayden please comeback when possible. Must be some principal decisions was not liked by DEA member(s) ….good luck to Hayden and the new incoming principal.

  7. Posted by KugRes on

    Given the strong opinions surrounding this decision, and those in town who question the process and reasoning the Kugluktuk DEA followed, I’m curious as to why there have been signs up around town for months asking people to step forward to fill empty seats on the board. Those vacancies still exist , so there is a chance for those who think they can do better to step up and fight for what you believe in.

  8. Posted by Colin on

    Especially seeing that it’s difficult to hire and retain good teachers in Nunavut, accountability requires that the DEA deliver an explanation for not renewing Haydn’s contract.
    Did Jane George ask for one—if only to get a no comment?

    Accountability requires immediate publication of the name of the new principal with the corresponding credentials for the job? Has the appointment been made and, if so, when?

    When addressing other matters relating to First Peoples, the Supreme Court of Canada has emphasized the necessity for consultation with the people involved. Are Nunavut’s demonstrably incompetent education administrators all above that legal and ethical principle?

  9. Posted by The wishes of the people on

    If Mr. George wanted to stay in Kugluktuq, and the majority of
    the people of Kugluktuq wanted him to stay, then they should
    support him by not sending their kids to school, and then
    hopefully he would be given his job back.
    It is the wishes of the people which count in a democracy and
    not the DEA or the DEPT. of EDUCATION.

  10. Posted by Come to Iqaluit on

    We would welcome his help in Iqaluit. Maybe he wouldn’t be distracted by his personal life, unlike lead educators in Iqaluit.

  11. Posted by move on already! on

    What does this principal hope to accomplish by going to the media and going to the Legislative Assembly about his contract not being extended? I am not quite understanding the goal because he is clearly not getting the job back.
    There are many principals who are let go from their GN positions or their contracts do not get extended and they do not get a newspaper spread about it or have an MLA discussing it in the Leg.
    People just need to move on. Sometimes in life things do not work out. If the issue is that much both of a bother…hire a lawyer or talk to your union and deal with the issue maturely and privately.
    This public smear and whiny entitlement news campaign about your GN job ending is not necessary.
    I get that feelings are hurt but he was able to be a principal for 5 or 6 years…seriously…what more do you want after doing 5 or 6 years in the position?
    Be grateful for the experience, give someone else a chance and tactfully move on to something else.
    Do you know how tacky and unprofessional it is to blast your employer in the media for not extending your contract? Good grief.
    I hope Nunatsiaq does a newspaper article every time someone gets let go form the GN.
    It clearly pays to know people in media.

    • Posted by Crystal Clarity on

      Haydn did not initiate the media frenzy or ask the MLA to raise it in the Legislative Assembly, members of the community did. Haydn being the excellent principal he is, already has a new job and is moving on. The real issue here as it has been in other communities is that the DEA has the right to renew or not renew a principal’s contract after the.3 years have lapsed on the contract. They may advertise the position to allow qualified beneficiaries to apply on the position or look elsewhere to see what turns up if no qualified beneficiaries apply. They didn’’t end up getting a beneficiary but rather someone else who has been teaching in Nunavut for a few years. I don’t envy that person walking into this mess. Everything he does will be scrutinized with a fine tooth comb. Quite often these DEA’s are looking to promote relatives/friends without knowing if they are even qualified or have the backbone to be a principal in Nunavut. It’s. A tough job to be a principal and while there were many beneficiaries who got fast tracked to the position when Nunavut first became a territory most either did not last or they had to hire “co-principals” to mentor them. That also didn’t last long and the whole purpose was to “up” the number of beneficiaries in managerial positions. DEA’s like so many other boards have no understanding of conflict of interest and have no problem promoting their own self-interests or that of friends and family. We see that in so many other areas as well like with housing assignments all the time too. One has to ask the logic of losing good people in a time when good people are extremely hard to find not to mention the huge expense of locating or relocating people to positions in Nunavut or other parts of Nunavut. The Minister needs to take a hard look at this and more closely scrutinize what the RSO’s and DEA’s are doing. There are still over 50 unfilled teaching positions in Nunavut’s posted for the second time as “posted till filled” (ie no applicants yet) and at this point in time when teachers are getting hard to find at all you will not be getting the best, but more than likely people who couldn’t get jobs elsewhere.

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