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Community protests when long-time Parrsboro vice-principal overlooked, school board goes for do-over

PARRSBORO – The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board has decided on a do-over when it comes to the hiring of the Parrsboro Regional Elementary School principal.

The news that a principal had been hired at Parrsboro Regional Elementary School sparked outrage in the community when it was learned that long-time vice-principal Norma Collinson (far right) had not even been granted an interview for the position. Parents and former students have been vocal about the difference she has made in their lives and their school.

Many parents and former students of the school were upset to learn the position had been filled, and that long-time vice-principal Norma Collinson, who has been at the school for more than four decades, had not even been offered an interview.

The board is replacing vice-principal positions with principals. Previously, one principal served both Parrsboro’s elementary and high schools, with each having its own vice-principal.

“The Family of Schools supervisor acted within her authority, as stated in the CCRSB-NSTU local agreement, to staff the principal position without an interview,” said school board spokesperson Debbie Buott-Matheson. “However, it was realized that a section of the collective agreement was not fully addressed in the previous staffing process. Knowing that, we have chosen to re-start the process.”

Buott-Matheson noted that no surplus administrators would have been left without a job in this process, and that Collinson and other vice-principals in Springhill and Wallace were told in April that, should they be unsuccessful in securing one of the new principal positions, they would be given a teaching assignment at their current school.

That gave little comfort to the many parents and students who consider “Mrs. C.” the guiding force of the elementary school, and many took to social media to express their outrage. Cumberland South MLA Jamie Baillie was one of those who contacted the school board about the matter, and was quick to inform his constituents of the board’s decision to restart the hiring process.

“They acknowledge that not all aspects of their hiring processes were followed last time, making a new process necessary,” he said. “It is my understanding that all interested candidates will be invited to re-apply.”

For many, there is only one candidate who should be considered.

Parents like Kursten Kelly described Collinson as a one-of-a-kind person who has benefited countless students.

“She goes above and beyond to make each child feel equally special and important,” she said. “She has the ability to see in children what they need sometimes before they can even see it in themselves.”

She also pointed to Collinson’s efforts beyond the school day, including getting up early each morning to prepare breakfast for students who may not have had time or could not afford it, or purchasing coats and boots for other children in need.

“She has helped a great deal in the growth of my kids confidence-wise and educationally,” said Kelly. “She has shown them love and compassion and a willingness to be there for them whenever they need her. She’s an amazing woman who deserved much more respect than she was shown after dedicating her life of 43 years to teaching and guiding the students and staff of PRES.”

Parent Amber Lewis described Collinson as the “heart and soul” of the school.

“She truly cares for the children and their wellbeing,” she said. “These kids are more than just a job to her, and her job doesn’t end when the school day is done. She has even phoned my house one evening to check in on one of my children who has had issues with anxiety, simply because she was thinking of him and wanted to make sure he was OK. Things like that matter.”

Almost everyone who has passed through the halls of PRES has a story about how Collinson has made the school a better place, according to Lewis.

“She exemplifies what an educator/administrator should be,” she said.

Twitter: @ADNandrew

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