Nick Primiano faces FACE

January 16, 2007

Montreal, Quebec — Former FACE school principal Nick Primiano met with FACE students, teachers, and parents at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday night. The event, organized by SOS FACE, was the first opportunity for members of the school’s community to speak to Primiano since his suspension in September and his subsequent resignation in November.

Having signed a confidentiality agreement with the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), Primiano gave the best explanation he could, by providing anecdotes from his encounters with school board officials over the years. The most notable example was a phone call that the then-principal received from a CSDM functionary concerning media reports of parents camping outside the school to register their children there. Primiano expected a word of congratulations, but instead was chastised for creating a “spectacle” that left “people with questions.”

Alluding to the allegations brought against him by the CSDM, the former principal did not deny bending rules when it came to administering the school.

“Want to find me guilty of putting the students first? No problem…Sure, I didn’t respect some rules,” said Primiano. “Nobody can say that I didn’t serve the students.”

Addressing his November 1 resignation, Primiano provided three reasons for the decision: age, family and the school’s best interest. At age 54, and near the end of his career, Primiano didn’t feel he had the health to fight a court battle which would take several years to complete; it would also put FACE in limbo, if his situation continued to be unresolved. He also felt that his presence at the school was doing more harm than good, with the CSDM often targeting him for what he was doing with “his” school, as officials often put it.

Sylvie Tremblay, who had served on the school’s governing board for several years, supported Primiano’s claims, saying that the school faced daily battles with the school boards.

When asked by reporters about the CSDM’s suspension and the charges of wrongdoing which he accepted as part of his agreement with the CSDM, Primiano dismissed them as ridiculous. According to Primiano, an inventory that is not up-to-date is not uncommon for a school the size of FACE. As far as the budget of the school’s daycare program is concerned, the school’s daycare usually runs a surplus; last year it was around $43 000 CDN.

“Principals use those surpluses differently. Some during a year, some at the end of the year…Apparently there’s a rule that you can’t touch it until the end of the year,” said Primiano.

When the evening concluded, the former principal thanked all present and reminded students that the school belonged to them, the teachers, and the parents who volunteer a reported 3000 hours during the school year. He was also optimistic about the new administration and the potential for FACE to reach new heights.

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Teachers, students, parents waiting for an announcement from the CSDM
Waiting for an announcement

Moments before the announcement
Moments before the announcement

Parents and students leave the auditorium
Parents and students leaving the auditorium.

Leaving the auditorium
Leaving the auditorium

Phillip Baugniet gathers students outside, moments after leaving the auditorium of Georges-Vanier High School
Phillip Baugniet gathers students outside — moments after the resignation is announced.

Photos by Alexandre Marine.

At last night’s special public meeting of the CSDM, F.A.C.E. School principal Nick Primiano, resigned his duties in a last-minute deal reached with the CSDM. Primiano admitted to “serious errors” with the budget of the school’s daycare.

Click on the play button below to listen to my report which aired today on CKUT’s Off The Hour:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/2325809/view]

CSDM Meeting Wednesday October 25

This weekend, I conducted an interview with two parents on the S.O.S. FACE Committee, as well as an eleventh-grader at the school. It was for a report on the suspension of F.A.C.E. School Principal Nick Primiano, which aired today on CKUT‘s show OFF THE HOUR.

For those that were not able to tune in to CKUT today (90.3 fm in Montreal), I’ve made the report available on Odeo. It is also available for download on CKUT’s website in the archives section, as is the case with all of their programming.

To listen, press play on the player below:

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/2279821/view]

Today, from 7:45 am to 8:30am, F.A.C.E. school students rallied for the return of their principal in their schoolyard. Students chanted “Face! Primiano!” and “On veut Primiano! Sans lui, c’est la panique” (“We want Primiano! Without him, it’s panic!”) accompanied by fellow percussion students.

About 50 students gathered in support of their suspended principal and managed to get significant support from drivers, who honked in support of the students. F.A.C.E. school teachers also seemed to welcome the students’ initiative in voicing their opinion.

One student had a poster demanding “answers,” alluding to the meeting that took place at CSDM headquarters this Wednesday.

So far, the CSDM has not replied to this blog’s questions.

F.A.C.E. Community Comes out in Force

F.A.C.E. Demonstration.

Yesterday, on October 25th, the community of F.A.C.E. School students, parents, teachers and alumni spoke up, by staging a protest outside the Commission Scolaire de Montréal‘s Headquarters on Sherbrooke Street East.

The hundreds of protesters gathered to voice their outrage with the suspension of F.A.C.E. principal Nick Primiano. Veiled in a cloud of secrecy, the September 25 suspension of the popular principal has parents and students angry: the school board has not made public the reasons for Mr Primiano’s suspencion, citing the necessity of confidentiality in an ongoing inquiry into Primiano’s directorship of the school.

This silence has triggered various rumours about the school and has obviously tarnished the school’s image. The timing could not be worse — the principal was suspended as the school year began — and came a month before the school’s open house (happening on October 30th). The overwhelming message of the evening was that parents and students are angry and want their principal back.

Question Period

CSDM Question Period

After the protests outside, the crowd went inside the building for the weekly meeting of the commissars of the CSDM, a meeting that usually allocates a 30 minute question period for parents. Today’s question period lasted a whole 90 minutes, because parents and students numbered several dozens and had a lot of questions for the CSDM.

The CSDM provided no answers.

The only answer given was an introductory speech which promised that by next Wednesday, a verdict will be reached in the Primiano case.

Parents were expressing their concerns over ruining the carreer of their beloved principal and were also concerned for the future of the unique school. Most stressed the unique character of this Alternative Art School located at the heart of Montreal (across from McGill University). The school is famed for its theatre and music program, as well as its unique bilingual character: the school has both French and English classes.

Not Without Controversy

The evening was not without its fair share of controversy. The CSDM’s meeting was held in a room that could barely hold the hundreds of F.A.C.E. supporters gathered outside – about a hundred was simply not let into the building. The ones that managed to make it into the meeting, had to cope with being crushed inside the meeting room or had to listen to speakers in the hallway. Once inside, the supporters were also surprised with a group of students already in the meeting room, who were in the building for “educational purposes” prior to the CSDM opening its doors to the F.A.C.E. community.

At the question period’s conclusion, a parent spoke to the commission and asked to be addressed in English — as a sign of respect for the English-speaking parents in the bilingual school (the English side of the school is governed by the EMSB, but the school falls under the jurisdiction of the CSDM) — something the commissars refused to do.

EDIT: Earlier in the day, William Paul, the webmaster of www.ecolefaceschool.com, an unofficial site linking the F.A.C.E. community and mobilizing former students, received word that the CSDM was considering sending him letters from its lawyers.

More to come.

Photos by Alexandre Marine.

To read an account (in French) of the event by Julie Bélanger, who asked the council of commissars some questions, please visit her blog.