Resignation 'a shock to the district'

Former School District 57 (SD57) superintendent Marilyn Marquis-Forster has issued a statement for the first time since her sudden departure from the job earlier this week.

Tuesday was her last day as head of one of the geographically largest school districts in the province.

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"It has been an honour and privilege to serve the students, families and communities of School District No. 57 (Prince George) over the past three years," said her written statement, but other than a description from the district's board of trustees that suggested a desire to "devote more time to the pursuit of other activities and opportunities," there is still no concrete reason given for Marquis-Forster's resignation.

In her written statement issued by the district, she praised the partnerships and collaborations she had worked with in her three years here. " I have enjoyed working collaboratively with UNBC, CNC, Northern Health, other provincial ministries, local non-profit organizations and the private sector," she said.

"The SD57 team is over 2,000 strong," she added. "Together we have celebrated a number of significant achievements. The district met the requirements of the restored language to the British Columbia Teacher's Federation Collective Agreement, and Springwood Elementary was reopened in September 2017. Construction of a new Kelly Road Secondary School, scheduled to open in September 2020, is well underway."

She also celebrated, at length, the improved learning outcomes for Aboriginal students of the district, plus the signing of two education agreements with area First Nations - Lheidli T'enneh in July of 2017 and McLeod Lake in June of 2018 - plus the implementation of policies to support better Aboriginal learning outcomes and other inclusionary protocols.

"Most recent measures of SD57 student achievement, as reported through the Six-Year Graduation Rates and Foundation Skill Assessment (FSA) results, have never been higher," she said. "SD57 students, staff, families and community deserve to feel gratified with this achievement are well-positioned to enjoy continued success."

When asked how much notice the board had been given, the board's chair Tim Bennett told The Citizen there had been little advance warning but did not specify the timelines. It was at a point close to the end of the school year, he said, which offered certain advantages in administrating the complexities of managing the district's business.

"It's always a shock to the board when there's a resignation of your superintendent," Bennett said. "We had a heads up but it is still a shock to the district."

The board as a whole expressed thanks to Marquis-Forster "for her service to the school district, specifically with the operationalization of the Strategic Plan and her focus on student success."

Bennett said the board would be meeting "in the coming days" to begin the process of finding first an interim and then a permanent superintendent.

"We have a great leadership team at the district office, between our assist superintendents, our secretary-treasurer, and other very capable senior administrators," Bennett said. "But many of them have what's probably best described as a more-than-full-time job, so we will be looking first for an interim superintend to address any added pressures and then beginning our search for the next full superintendent of the district."

Bennett did not specify is the parting was amicable or acrimonious but did say he and the board felt gratitude for her three years of work and "we wish her nothing but the best. We respect her decision."

The resignation of any senior staff has impacts on the flow of the district's administrative organization, Bennett said, but nothing that would be felt in the classroom. "The district will not run as normal, but schools will run as normal," he said. "We have a fantastic team and this is, as we look forward, definitely an opportunity to find someone new to the position who will embrace our district's challenges and move the district forward on the work already done."

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