Alexandre-TachĂ© students took to the streets and the web Friday to protest the sacking of their school’s beloved principal.
Ă©cole Alexandre-TachĂ© students launched a comprehensive on-and-offline protest Friday just hours after learning that Marcel Ouellette, the school’s principal, had been fired by the Greater North Central Francophone School Board.
The students got the news from Ouellette at the end of an assembly held Thursday, said Grade 7 student Brandon Azer.
“When he told us, the entire school burst into tears. It was chaotic,” Azer said.
Azer was one of about five students who staged a demonstration outside St. Albert Place Friday afternoon in protest of Ouellette’s dismissal. Azer said he also spoke to Mayor Nolan Crouse and the CBC about the issue.
The protestors likened losing Ouellette to losing a family member – many of their signs said “Sauvez notre famille,” French for “Save our family.”
In a letter sent to parents Friday, Ouellette said that his contract had been terminated by the board due to a “general dissatisfaction of my duties” on the part of the superintendent and assistant superintendent.
“Although I was not made aware of their dissatisfaction of my work towards the students of Alexandre-TachĂ©, I disappointedly accept their decision,” he wrote. “I greatly appreciate the support I have always felt from the school community and I hope that you will offer the new administration the same warm family environment that you have always showed me.”
Students have learned that Ouellette will stay on as principal for the rest of the school term. Ouellette’s letter suggests that he will continue to teach in the district afterwards.
Ouellette was an inspiration to many at the school, said Jaleze Cochlin, a Morinville resident and graduate of the school. She said she was among those inspired by the principal.
“He’s like a school dad,” she said.
She said she was furious when she heard he had been dismissed.
“He’s tripled the number of students in that school,” she said, and he’s always willing to help any student when they need it. “He’s the reason why I graduated.”
Ouellette brought a sense of life to the school and helped students take pride in being francophone, she said.
“Without him, I don’t think the kids are even going to be proud anymore.”
Many graduates come back to the school years later just to talk to Ouellette, said Emily Flint, a Grade 8 student and one of the demonstrators at St. Albert Place.
“He’s been leading the school in the right way.”
Ouellette went to great lengths to make sure students had the facilities they needed for school, Azer said – a challenge, since Alexandre-TachĂ© is crammed into the basement of the Youville Home long-term care facility.
“It takes skill to turn a basement into a school, and that’s what he did,” Azer said. “He helped us in many ways and this is how we are going to help him.”
Cochlin said she was part of a group of students campaigning to get Ouellette’s dismissal overturned. “
We’re going to get his job back.”
The “Garder M. Ouellette comme Directeur D’Ă©cole Alexandre-TachĂ©: On veut le garder!/We want to keep him!” petition set up by the group at change.org had drawn 168 signatures as of 2 p.m. Friday.
The group was also sending e-mails of protest to superintendent Henri Lemire, and planned a sit-in protest at Alexandre-TachĂ© Monday.
Neither Ouellette nor Lemire could be reached for comment Friday.