Former principal files suit against Cornerstone

The former principal of the Weyburn Comprehensive School, Wade Oberg, has filed a suit against the Southeast Cornerstone School Division in Court of Queen’s Bench, seeking to have his demotion quashed.

According to his lawyer, Amanda Quayle, “an application for judicial review has been filed by Mr. Oberg in relation to the removal of his duties as principal of Weyburn Comprehensive High School.”

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The review request was filed on Thursday, and it will be heard in Court of Queen’s Bench in Regina on Thursday, Feb. 28.

According to the court application document, Oberg asks that the decision to remove him as principal be quashed or set aside, and that the costs of the filing be covered by the school board, along with any disciplining that the court might deem appropriate.

In citing grounds for this application, the suit alleges that the Cornerstone board breached his rights to procedural fairness and natural justice, and these breaches prejudiced his ability to defend himself.

Giving a list of eight breaches of fairness, Oberg asserts that each one of these should give sufficient grounds to quash the board’s decision.

This list includes that the board failed to provide him with proper written notice of the complaints against him, failed to provide him with the right to respond to the investigation report, and prohibited him from speaking to anyone involved in the incident, but not prohibiting other witnesses from talking with each other.

The suit also alleges the board failed to provide him with the specific nature of the allegations against him and the identities of the complainants, failed to give him any opportunity to speak before the decision was made to remove him from duties or for any adequate reasons for upholding his removal, and the board failed to follow their own internal progressive discipline policy in making the decision to demote him.

He also pointed out that the board made an unauthorized delegation of its authority by delegating the decision to the investigators, and to the board’s legal representatives who were not present at the show-cause hearing into the decision.

At the show-cause hearing, which was the first time Oberg had any opportunity to speak to the board about the incident, the board upheld the initial decision to remove him as principal from the Comp.

This penalty of removing him as principal was unreasonable, alleged Oberg, as it was “grossly disproportionate to the conduct” and it “ignores or gives inadequate weight to Wade’s exemplary and unblemished personnel record.”

The documents note the past year has been challenging for Oberg and his family, and as he is currently on medical leave, he is only getting 70 per cent of his salary. Also, his wife, Tammy, took a leave of absence due to the “day-to-day stress and anxiety of being at WCHS in light of everything that had happened.”

The final point made was about the impact of this whole situation on Oberg: “Prior to the incident, Wade was a respected member of the community, serving on many boards and as a volunteer firefighter for over 23 years. He no longer feels respected in the community, based on interactions that he has had in public.”

Oberg began his teaching career in Kipling in 1990, and joined the Weyburn Comp in 1992 as a physics-math teacher. In 1997 he was appointed as the vice-principal, which he held for 10 years until being appointed as principal in 2007 at the Weyburn Junior High, and as principal at the Comp in 2008.

His personnel file did not have a single report, letter or memo raising any concerns about his character, integrity or decision-making.

He volunteered as a volleyball, basketball and badminton coach through his time as a teacher and administrator, and was an assistant coach of the senior girls volleyball team since 2015. His youngest daughter Payton was on this team, and he and the head coach, a community volunteer, differed in their philosophies on playing time.

This resulted in a disagreement between them at the Mustang Volleyball Tournament in Saskatoon in October 2017. After this incident, Oberg decided to step down from his position, and was subsequently called into a meeting with Gord Husband, superintendent for Cornerstone. Husband said he had received letters of concern related to “student safety”, and there would be an investigation into what happened.

He was questioned by the investigators on Oct. 30, and two days later a report was given to the board, recommending that he be removed as the Comp’s principal. Oberg did not receive the report, and he was not given any opportunity to comment on the report before it was given to the board.

In their reasons for the demotion, the board said he used his position of authority as principal in an inappropriate way, he demonstrated significant lapses in judgment, he failed to conduct himself in a manner befitting a role model for students, and his conduct had damaged the reputation of the school division.

He did not have any opportunity to speak to this decision until the show-cause hearing held on Dec. 5, where the board upheld their initial decision.