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Aurora College board member was asked to quit after criticizing teacher education cut

The college says Lynn Napier-Buckley was in a conflict of interest, while she says her stance made her a black sheep.

College says Lynn Napier-Buckley's position as mayor of Fort Smith put her in a conflict of interest

Lynn Napier-Buckley was asked to resign from Aurora College's board of governors because, she says, her opposition to a program cut meant she was 'not in line' with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment. (Submitted by Lynn Napier-Buckley)

A member of Aurora College's board of governors was asked to resign after writing a letter opposing the decision to phase out the college's teacher education program.

The college says Lynn Napier-Buckley was in a conflict of interest, while she says her stance made her a black sheep.

"After I sent the letter, it put me in a position where I was not in line with what the Department of Education, Culture and Employment was looking for for the future of the college," says Napier-Buckley.

"I couldn't agree with the position, and I really had no choice but to resign."

Letter went to premier, education minister 

Napier-Buckley is the mayor of Fort Smith, where the teacher education program is administered. She sat on the board of governors for about a year and a half until she stepped down this past Wednesday, at the behest of board chair Kathy Tsetso.

On Feb. 13, she sent a letter to Premier Bob McLeod, Education Minister Alfred Moses and the MLA representing her riding of Thebacha, Louis Sebert, opposing the program's termination. She signed the letter as mayor of the town. (Read her opposition and resignation letters at the bottom of the story.)

Students protest the cuts at the college in early February. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC News )

The cut was announced last year but, alongside this year's proposed phase-out of the social work program, became the source of recent student protests and a major flashpoint in ongoing budget discussions in the legislative assembly.  

Under repeated questioning by regular MLAs, Moses has said that, after being provided a reduction target by his department, it was the college that identified the proposed reductions.

Napier-Buckley says that didn't happen.

"The board did not identify those cuts," she said.

'Not enough input from board'

Nor does she feel the consultation process between the department and the college was meaningful.

"There was not enough input from the board of governors on the decision."

At the same time, Napier-Buckley feels the board was not in much of a bargaining position. Board members are appointed by the education minister. 

"The board falls under the government. So if the government says, 'You need to make these cuts,' they have to support that decision. I couldn't support those decisions and therefore could not stay on the board."

Board cites conflict of interest 

Neither board chair Tsetso nor Jane Arychuck, the college's president, were available for interviews.

But in an emailed statement to CBC News, Tsetso confirmed she suggested Napier-Buckley resign on the grounds that her "personal and/or professional interests compete with or are in conflict with the interests of the institution."

Education Minister has said it was the college that identified areas for reduction, but Napier-Buckley says 'the board did not identify those cuts.' (CBC News )

Napier-Buckley disagrees.

"I'm not personally benefiting from this. Maybe the town is benefiting by having 30 families here, by having the six teachers here."

Napier-Buckley says she had been encouraged by residents of her town to resign from the board as a form of protest, but says she wanted to wait until she defended the program one last time during her final board meeting days before her resignation.

"I'm not one to make rash decisions and to quit just to quit, just to make a point. I wanted to wait to have those conversations."

Napier-Buckley says she's hopeful the legislative assembly can reverse the decision to terminate the teacher education program.

Despite the way her tenure played out, she says she enjoyed working on the board.   

"I believe that Jane [the college's president] is engaged and interested in what is best for the college and for the students. I know that the government is making cuts across the board and that the college is required to work with the budget that they are given. I really don't think that these cuts were easy for anybody who is involved with the college at any level."

Regulars MLAs have delayed the approval of the government's 2017-18 budget in part to protest the proposed end of the social work program.

The current sitting of the assembly is scheduled to end on Mar. 10. 

Napier-Buckley's opposition letter. (On mobile? Read here.)

Her resignation letter. (On mobile? Read here.)

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Journalist at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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