Southeast Cornerstone loses appeal of Oberg decision

The Southeast Cornerstone School Division has lost its appeal of the decision by the Court of Queen’s Bench, which was to reinstate Wade Oberg in his position as principal of the Weyburn Comprehensive School.

Oberg fought his dismissal as principal and the Queen’s Bench court sided with him, ruling his dismissal was unreasonable.

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In the decision issued by the Court of Appeal, released on Monday, the justices dismissed the board’s appeal and ordered the board to pay Oberg’s costs of the appeal.

In a statement to the Review, Oberg said, “The Court of Appeal agreed with the Queen’s Bench Court that the process followed in my case was unfair and the decision to demote me was unreasonable. These events have had a major impact on me and my family, both professionally and personally. I am grateful the mistakes that were made have been corrected.”

His lawyer, Amanda Quayle of the McDougall Gauley law firm, added her comments on the decision.

“The decision of the Court of Appeal is confirmation of the importance of procedural fairness in processes that can impact a person’s ability to practice their profession and earn an income,” she said. “It was important to ensure that the process followed in Wade’s case was a fair one.”

Quayle noted the demotion and the court proceedings have impacted Oberg’s profession as an educator.

“As the Court of Appeal recognized, the decision to demote Wade had grave and permanent consequences on his professional career, which we hope is at least partially remedied by Wade’s reinstatement,” she said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, the Cornerstone board stated the following: "The Division has received the decision from the Court of Appeal and is in the process of reviewing the reasons for the decision. The Division will respect the opinion of the Court and will comply with the disposition of the appeal. Since this involves a personnel matter, the Division will not make any specific comments on that aspect of the case. The Division will carefully consider whether or not this decision might affect any processes of the Board that may, or may not, need to be reflected in board policy or procedures in the future."

Oberg was removed as principal of the high school in October of 2017 following an incident involving his daughter and the senior girls volleyball team. He had had a dispute with the team’s head coach as he tried to substitute his daughter into the rotation during a tournament, and after an argument with the coach, he and his daughter left, and he was subsequently removed from his position.

He appealed the decision at a show-cause hearing before the board of trustees in December 2017, but they upheld his demotion.

He worked for 25 years for the Cornerstone School Division as a teacher and as an administrator, and had no stain on his record up to that point.

In taking the school division to court over their decision, Oberg argued that the action taken against him was disproportionate to his actions, which he admitted to, and the justice agreed with him.

“Given my agreement with the Chambers judge that the board’s decision to amend Mr. Oberg’s employment contract to remove his principal duties was unreasonable, there is only one outcome in this case. No useful purpose would be served in remitting the matter back to the board,” said the Appeal Court decision, written by Justice Leurer.

The justices noted the board only had two options, to remove his duties as principal or to retain them, and if he was retained as principal, he could still be subject to discipline by the board’s senior administrators.

The appeals court also agreed with Oberg that his demotion had “grave and permanent consequences upon his professional career”.

The board felt the chambers judge erred in saying that Oberg’s demotion was unreasonable, but the appeals court upheld this opinion, saying the chambers judge did not make an error in her interpretation of the Education Act in her decision.

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