Parents are celebrating after a former teacher who was convicted of indecent acts agreed to resign from the South Shore Regional School Board.
The board announced the settlement with Peter Speight on Wednesday night, prompting cheers and tears from parents and community members who didn't want him back teaching at New Germany elementary school.
"Look, I am ecstatic. I am so happy, so happy," said Myra Jodrey, who has a son in Grade 6.
"Our kids are our lives and we would do anything to keep them safe. And I'm so pleased that they have come to this decision."
Barbara Veinot has two grandchildren at the school.
"I am so happy from the bottom of my heart. I am happy that they did this for us. They have done the right thing," Veinot said.
Speight agreed to resign immediately and give up his licence to teach in Nova Scotia. The terms of the agreement are private, so the financial details are not known.
Board chair Jennifer Naugler suggested the settlement was worth at least $150,000, which was the amount Speight was entitled to in back pay after an arbitrator ruled that he shouldn't have been fired.
Jodrey doesn't care about the money.
"No, our children's safety is what matters, and our piece of mind knowing that our kids can go to school and be safe. I don't know what to say. I'm just so emotional. I could just break right down, but I'm so happy," she said.
The announcement of the settlement comes after Education Minister Ramona Jennex ordered the school board to put Speight on administrative leave until his teaching status was determined.
It meant the board would pay Speight but he wouldn't be in a classroom.
The move was designed to appease parents, who threatened to take their children elsewhere if Speight was returned to his old school.
The students "need a stable, positive learning environment," Jennex said in a statement released earlier Wednesday.
School board superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake said given the circumstances, putting Speight on administrative leave was the best option.
"It will ensure that he is not in the classroom," she said. "In the short term, I think for the students and their families and the staff at New Germany elementary, it is the best solution."
Fired in 2009
Speight was charged in March 2008 with five counts of willfully engaging in indecent acts. Police said he called women over to his car and masturbated in front of them. In each case the women fled and he did not pursue them.
Speight pleaded guilty to one count in 2009. He was given a conditional discharge, which means he has no criminal record.
The school board fired him almost immediately, and then the Department of Education took away his teaching certificate.
The school board's decision to fire Speight was overturned by an arbitrator, who imposed a one-year suspension instead.
An appeal board said Speight had good performance reviews, was sorry for his actions and, after therapy, was a low risk to reoffend.
Another arbitrator ruled that Speight should regain his teaching certificate. That prompted the department to file for a judicial review.
Restorative justice meetings with the community were held this week. Parents and community members crowded into the school gym to face Speight.