Former chair states his case
Fradsham explains why he resigned from DEA

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Mar 26/99) - Gerard Fradsham, who resigned as chair of the District Education Authority (DEA) in Fort Simpson last month, told DEA members last Tuesday that failure to discipline school staff and poor reporting procedures were among his reasons for stepping down.

In an interview after Tuesday's DEA meeting, where Fradsham had made a presentation, he said there were at least two serious incidents of alleged inappropriate conduct by school staff over the past year that the DEA should have resolved, but instead both matters were turned over to the Dehcho Education Council and the Deh Cho superintendent of education.

"There was too much of that stuff being dealt with in-camera that the public should know about," he said of such incidents.

Nolan Swartzentruber, director of the Deh Cho Divisional Board of Education, is in Saskatoon this week and could not be reached for response before press time.

Fradsham, who had been chair of the DEA since the 1997-98 school year and was a member for more than four years, said he knows of other incidents of inappropriate conduct by teachers and students that were supposed to be reported to the DEA but never were. A lack of communication between the schools and the DEA "is a big factor," he said, adding that until the DEA straightens out its reporting procedures it will be under public scrutiny.

"If you don't ask for direction or bring anything to the DEA, then you're going to end up with a lot of chaos, disrespect," he said. "Not only with the students, you're going to get disrespect from the students to the teachers, from the teachers to administration and ultimately then you've got the community that's got no respect for the whole school."

Fradsham said he was also frustrated by what he described as poor punctuality and poor attendance on behalf of some DEA members. For example, the DEA couldn't attain quorum at its annual general meeting, he noted. No DEA members, excluding the school principals and himself, attended the Minister's Forum on Education public meeting on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 24, he said.

"I either take it as they're not taking it seriously or they don't know what the hell's going's just tiresome, frustrating," he said of the situation. He added that he had addressed these poor attendance and tardiness issues before the DEA and had suggested consequent disciplinary measures, but "nothing serious" came of it.

"If there's a lot of time missed, you miss out on a lot of issues," he said.

As well, "very few" members ever volunteered to sit on any committees, such as the hiring committee, he added.

"That's why I made the remark that I think a lot of people here are just here for a paycheque and not for the representation of the community," he said. The one appointed and six elected members of the DEA receive an honorarium of $55 per regular meeting.

In order to fix these perceived problems, Fradsham suggested that community members will have to start asking questions of the DEA. He added that he believes there are people in the community who are afraid to speak up within the schools because of the potential for retribution against their children at school, which Mayor Norm Prevost had alluded to at the last village council meeting.

Prevost, who has publicly attacked the education system, has been invited to attend the next DEA meeting on April 6.