Superintendent Angus Wilson. Kevin Mills Photo

Superintendent Angus Wilson. Kevin Mills Photo

Cherry Hill Elementary parents heartbroken, angry over mid-year principal swap

PAC president says she doesn’t understand why it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic

Parents of Cherry Hill Elementary were heartbroken to discover they would be losing their principal to another school – and angered the transition is happening halfway through an already disruptive school year.

The school’s PAC got wind of the sudden change yesterday (Nov. 25), after a school district email was posted to social media.

“It’s just so disruptive,” said Wendy Stewart, the PAC’s president. “We really want to know, what could be so important that this needs to be done in January?”

Many of the parents immediately reached out to the superintendent, trustees, and their principal to inquire about the email. Superintendent Angus Wilson, and Principal Shane Sliziak, soon confirmed that Sliziak would be swapping places with Albert McMahon Elementary’s principal, Hardeep Grewal, effective Jan. 5, 2021.

The parents expressed frustration over what they felt is a lack of transparency over the reasons why. Stewart said they understand administrative shifts happen, and they would be sad regardless, but it’s “ludicrous” to force this in the middle of a pandemic.

“The kids’ worlds have been turned upside down as it is,” Stewart said. “They have no programs running in the school, they barely have access to the gym, everybody’s wearing masks and washes their hands 100 times a day. And now, we’re going to lose our principle.

“Apparently [Grewal’s] school loves her too.”

Kara Mia said she specifically moved her son to Cherry Hill Elementary because of Sliziak’s reputation and work enhancing inclusive-support programming.

“If [my son’s] having a really rough day, and he’s upset, and nobody else can talk to him. Shane can come in and just say, ‘Okay buddy, come with me, let’s go.’ And he’ll come,” Mia said. “It was an incredible change.

“Shouldn’t we be more worried about the kids’ mental health this year?”

Wilson wants to reassure parents the move was not taken lightly, and said there’s no “negative issue” with either principal.

Speaking generally, he said principal changes can be made to address specific performance or school issues, increase student-support levels or provide a break or change of pace to principals.

It’s a “top-down conversation” that never involve consultations beforehand with parents, students or teachers, Wilson said.

While he acknowledges a lack of transparency, he said because the decision involves personnel matters, he can’t speak about the specific reasons for the transfer, or what issues need fixing or where.

“There’s nothing nefarious to it, but it gets too much down the rabbit hole of student issues,” he said.”I totally appreciate why it’s upsetting for students and parents.”

Wilson said he can personally relate, because he was transferred in the middle of the year when he was a principal.

“As the principal, you’ve created great ties with your staff and students and parents,” he said. “I just want everyone to trust us doing this. We know that it will be really good for both schools, and both principals are really excellent administrators.

“I’m happy to chat or meet with parents that have concerns or questions.”

The principals will be visiting their new schools in the coming weeks to meet with students and staff, and meet with parents at PAC meetings.

RELATED: Two more COVID-19 exposures at Mission schools