The former director of Human Resources for School District 52 said he can’t fathom how the Board of Trustees wasn’t aware of the surplus hiring of itinerant teachers that caused a domino effect into 14 recent job redundancies in the district due to overspending. Ian Laroque said ‘secret hiring’ took place without his knowledge as well as unnecessary hiring.
The past HR director confirmed documents found on the public sector compensation website that the previous superintendent of SD 52, , who was terminated on May 31, 2020 was paid $15,958 salary for June and was paid a salary continuance of $184,085 upon leaving the district from July 2020 until May 2021, which added to the overbudget staffing costs.
Laroque who was employed as the head of HR from June 2018 to March 2021 told The Northern View he feels an independent audit of the situation is required as he was effectively shut out of the hiring process and could not even make proper employee files.
“The nature of my role was to report directly to the superintendent, but also to advise the board from an HR perspective,” Laroque said.
He said after repeated attempts to gain information regarding hirings and necessary employee information from his direct supervisor, Irene LaPierre the superintendent of SD 52, and others, he eventually issued Freedom of Information Act requests. Copies of the FOI requests have been provided to The Northern View.
“After repeated attempts to try and get the information that naturally would be available to me in a senior level management role I had to go down the unorthodox route of being a current employee submitting an FOI request,” he said.
“I tried to bring it [concerns about over hiring and lack of infomration] to the attention of the superintendent and I was just met with … it was received unkind, let’s put it that way … I can think of an instance in which I was simply told, ‘you’ll get what you need to know’,” he said.
Having no success with the superintendent he said he then had to decide an appropriate course of action regarding his concerns. He approached an individual board member, whom he did not name, to seek consult on how to proceed.
“I then had to go to the board to whom I provide advice. I approached them as early as September 2019,” he said with a detailed outline of his concerns provided to the Board in November.
Due to privacy issues, he could explain only to a certain point, he said. His concerns around the itinerent teachers didn’t stop at the lack of hiring information or the number of teachers that were hired.
“Now, where that was getting concerning for me was … there were certainly examples of where the district was mandating a teacher to be away from their classroom on an arbitrary basis, then allocating someone to fill that void, thereby double paying for one classroom,” Laroque said.
From a high senior level position when he was reviewing information for the upcoming 2019-2020 budget year it just didn’t make sense, he said.
“When I’m looking at the information at hand, it doesn’t justify that action. That’s a concern. And that’s why I had to bring that up.”
Laroque said he tried to address the emergent issues early with the board and likened it to the early snowball phase of an avalanche.
“I tried to approach it in what I would call a conciliatory manner. I said Guys, I’m not trying to, you know, blame anyone here, but we need to have a chat. And where this got interesting was I was immediately met with cut off.”
Laroque said he found himself cut from financials and it got to the point where ‘they’ were cutting him off from certain staff members and he was instructed not to attend meetings.
“Now when I say ‘they’, it’s coming from the superintendent and the secretary-treasurer,” he said.
The former HR director said he is at a loss reading news reports that the Board didn’t know about some issues, but he agrees to some extent that they may not have received all of the information they needed to make informed decisions and have an awareness of all the issues.
He said in the meeting packages disseminated, whether there is an HR representative in the room at the time of the meeting or not, there is an HR report in that package.
“Regardless of whether or not there’s actually a rep of HR in the room, the board receives a breakdown of each and every hire in the course of that time, [since] the last board meeting.”
At the meetings, the Board members confirm spending status and hirings with the head of finance.
“Then they would have received a response in the affirmative, and proceeded,” Laroque said. “So, this is where I think that they were being misinformed, because given my experience, and the fact that we’re now hearing from the board themselves that they didn’t know what’s going on — you can put two and two together.”
Reports for the Board are completed jointly by the HR generalist and the secretary-treasurer Laroque said, with the final compilation being done by the secretary-treasurer. He said he would initially sign off on the HR reports for accuracy, but that was stopped.
“After November , that quickly became something I could not do, because things were happening without my knowledge. So I couldn’t sign off on saying this is accurate.”
“It’s quite the story, ” Laroque said. “It would appear from my perspective, I’m not trying to throw out an allegation or anything, but it would be from my perspective, it would seem there was some purposeful hiding of the information.”
Despite that Laroque ended his position with SD 52 in March, he said to date he has not had the requested response in the mandated timeframe to the FOI’s. The FOI’s are handled by the district privacy officer, he said, who has the dual role of secretary-treasures. Larquoe said, while the Board of Trustees was aware of the FOI’s none of the board had reached out to him to seek clarification or further information.
Upon reaching out to School District 52 Board of Trustees for comment an email was received from Board Chairperson James Horne, on May 20.
“A review of the processes and timelines in the hiring procedures in SD 52 is underway,” Horne said. “We will not be providing further comment until that review is completed.”
K-J Millar | Journalist
Send K-J email
Like the The Northern View on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter