Former Calgary principal accused of fraud, turning elementary school into ‘zoo-like environment’

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The Calgary Herald

Published on: November 7, 2017 | Last Updated: November 7, 2017 10:45 AM MST

The Calgary Board of Education building was photographed on September 14, 2017. Gavin Young / Calgary Herald

The professional credentials of a Calgary elementary school ex-principal are in question for allegedly designating students as “special needs” without proper assessments in an effort to get more money for his school.

Mark Patrick Buckley is also accused of having a sexual encounter with an adult in the music room of West Dover Elementary School on a weekend, and of housing animals for three years in an unsafe “zoo-like environment” throughout the school, presenting officer Ian Stewardson said Monday.

Buckley is charged with four counts of unprofessional conduct under the Teaching Profession Act, an Alberta Teachers’ Association conduct panel heard Monday in Edmonton. Buckley didn’t attend the hearing.

On a visit to the school in December 2011, Dianne Yee, an area director for the Calgary Board of Education, said West Dover’s hallways were cluttered with algae-filled fish tanks, furniture, dying wall plants and hazardous electrical cords.

After Buckley went on a medical leave in April 2012, Yee and facilities staff found leaking hoses, caged animals living in classrooms, odiferous egg incubators in the principal’s office, and bird feces “all over the couch and the walls” in a room where staff prepared breakfast and lunch for the school nutrition program, Yee said: “It was disgusting.”

In the first few weeks of the 2011-12 school year, the number of students at West Dover who were “coded” as having a severe disability doubled to 16 from eight, Yee said, which was “very unusual.”

Yee said Buckley failed to follow board and provincial policies to assess the students’ abilities and consult with their parents. When she challenged him, he said he wanted to use the $80,000 in extra funding to hire a gym teacher, which she told him was an inappropriate use of the money.

“I believe he committed fraud,” Yee testified. “This is not an oversight, or an inexperienced principal.”

Buckley was no longer employed by the school board in 2015, Yee said.

Calgary forensic psychiatrist Dr. Kenneth Hashman testified, by phone, that Buckley told him he had brought someone to the school on a weekend to have sex.

The hearing is scheduled to continue until Thursday.

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