Revolt grows: CDNIS students and alumni mobilise against school administration

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Dismayed by series of the school administration’s actions, 176 students and alumni of formed “CDNIS Student-Alumni Forum”, advocating for change. EDB intervention is called for.

HT is seeking interviews with relevant parties and will update as information arrives.

Students and alumni have mobilised to express their concerns about the actions of the administration at The Canadian International School in Hong Kong. The massive layoff on June 11 offended many. Upper School Vice-principal Chris Coates and one another teacher also resigned within the past month. On June 26, students and alumni created an online platform, “CDNIS Student-Alumni Forum” (the Forum), to express their dismay.

Participants on the platform demanded an apology from the school administration to the terminated teachers and staffers, as well as immediate reform plans. Investigation by external organisations is called for.

The group has also launched a petition at seeking support for the statement: “Support our perspective that many administrative decisions have had a detrimental impact on CDNIS, our request for a public apology to the school community, and our call for open investigations into CDNIS governance by the EDB, IBO, and OME.”

The organisations are the Education Bureau (EDB) of the Hong Kong government, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) and the Ontario Ministry of Education (OME).

Fighting and protecting
For the sake of anonymity and privacy, all letters were signed as a class instead of individuals. The school administration’s history of retaliating against outspoken teachers and administrators and reports in the Globe and Mail that the former Chairman’s comments about dissenting parenst and students led many to fear for speaking out.

Ten classes petitioned in open letters, including that pending graduation, the class of 2015. Five sets of students are still in the Upper School section: Class of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Four have graduated including the graduating classes of 2008, 2012, 2013, and 2014.

Through the open letters, the Forum articulated their concerns regarding the quality of education that would be offered by CDNIS in the future. Both current students and alumni were worried that the departure of experienced teachers, resigned or terminated, would impede teaching quality:

“The unfavourable learning and teaching environment caused by lack of trust in the community has directly impacted the quality of student learning,” reads the letter from the Class of 2015. “Given that many teachers have indicated their desire to leave the School—and some already have—as a direct result of the tense atmosphere of fear and distrust stemming from administrative issues, there arises the issue of continuity, which is an essential consideration to any school.”

The Forum indicated their disappointment towards the school administration’s dismissal of the nine teachers and one staffer on June 11. Heart-felt messages of support for the fired teachers and staffers were attached to the open letter.

The Forum has also highlighted sections of the School Administration Guide on dismissal of under-performing school staff. The letter from Class of 2012 quotes Section 6 of Chapter 7.8.3:

“Staff concerned must be given adequate opportunity and reasonable time to improve their performance and to address/redress an accusation,” Section 6 reads. “The grievance procedures should be clearly communicated to all staff, for example, by incorporating the arrangements into the employment contract.”

The firings of nine teachers on June 11 were extremely abrupt. Some teachers received the notice, and were directed to start packing, in front of primary school students and were escorted out of the campus by security guards.

All classes which participated in the petition requested for investigation to uphold transparency and accountability. They called for not only internal review, but also by external organisations including the EDB, IBO and OME.

The school administration has yet to provide an official response to the petition. The school is normallyy quiet during summer vacation, but since last day of school ended badly  it may be that the troubles will carry on over the summer.

Erratum: HT had previously reported that “almost all” petitioning classes demanded investigation. In fact, all petitioning classes called for investigation. HT regrets the error.

Disclosure: HT’s Editor-in-Chief Andrew Work was an ex-officio member on CDNIS Board of Governors, and resigned along with other Governors in protest of the school’s lack of transparency in governance, among other issues, in November 2014.  Read their letter here.