CEO of Seine River School Division resigns suddenly ‘for personal reasons’

The head of the financially strapped Seine River School Division has unexpectedly resigned, but it has nothing to do with the money woes, the board chair says.

“It’s for personal reasons. I have, I guess, some information, but it’s confidential and I’m not in a position to discuss that,” chair Wendy Bloomfield said.

“It was fairly sudden.”

The division posted a news release on Monday to announce that it has accepted the resignation of Ryan Anderson, superintendent/CEO, effective May 24.

“We would like to express our thanks to Dr. Anderson for service to Seine River School Division and extend best wishes on his future endeavours,” the release said.

CBC News has asked for a comment from Anderson — who came from Alberta in 2022 to work for the school division — but has not yet received a response.

A man in glasses and a beard smiles at the camera. He is seen from the shoulders up and is wearing a suit
Ryan Anderson joined the Seine River School Division in July 2022 and has resigned suddenly and unexpectedly, the board chair says. (Ryan Anderson/linkedin.com)

The Seine River School Division is just south of Winnipeg, with 15 schools in and around St. Norbert, La Salle, St. Adolphe, Ile des Chênes, Lorette, Ste. Anne, La Broquerie and Richer. 

In January, Manitoba Education hired a consultant and ordered a review of the division’s finances, following a jarring budgetary report from the board.

The board initially thought the school division would have a $3-million surplus for the 2022-23 school year, but by November, the board announced it instead had a deficit of approximately $1.3 million, and a projected $5.3-million shortfall by the end of the 2023-24 school year.

That projection has since ballooned to $5.8 million.

The result of the review process was a requirement for the board to establish a deficit reduction plan, which Bloomfield said it has submitted to Education Minister Nello Altomare for approval.

“That was submitted to him on April 10, and we’re expecting any day to have comment back from him,” she said about the proposed three-year plan.

The province told CBC it cannot comment, citing the blackout on new policy and funding announcements due to the upcoming byelection in the Tuxedo riding.

The deficit reduction plan includes a “historical perspective” to provide a summary of some of the contributing factors that led to the troubles.

“It really started back in 2020, when our secretary treasurer of 17 years, I believe, announced his retirement, and because of a provincial hiring freeze at that time, we were not able to hire a new secretary treasurer,” Bloomfield said.

“There was a lot of factors that came into play, including the pandemic, [a proposed but eventually scrapped] Bill 64 and, in three years, our senior team turned over three times.”

There were four retirements and two departures for different reasons, including higher pay elsewhere, Bloomfield said.

The deficit reduction plan also mentions a new collective agreement for educational assistants, an error involving a provincial grant and restrictions imposed by the previous provincial government on school divisions’ ability to levy funds through property taxes as being among the contributing factors to the financial fiasco.

“Should we have caught stuff? Yes, probably. Can you fall through the cracks? Yeah, probably some stuff happened that way,” Bloomfield said. “It was a tough six or eight months that we just went through, but we’re on the right track now.

“The plan is there, and by the end of three years, we will be back in a small surplus position. We’ve got a lot more checks and balances in place that maybe we should have had before.”

Anderson’s departure has no connection to division’s fiscal footing or the review, Bloomfield said.

The process to hire a replacement is underway, but in the meantime, the board has two assistant superintendents job-sharing to fill in, Bloomfield said.

“We will be fairly quickly starting into a search process. The extent of how we’re going to do it and what we’re going to do, that’s something the board still needs to meet and talk about,” she said.

“Ideally we would like to have somebody in place for September, but we also realize that often … people have current contracts [elsewhere] and most contracts at this level require a six-month notice period.

“We’re hoping that we would have an interim person, at least part time, to carry us through until we get a new person in place.”