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Former New Westminster Secondary School principal leaves job as Langley superintendent

Former New Westminster Secondary School principal Cheryle Beaumont was fired as superintendent of the Langley School District. That's the word from one Langley school trustee, who said she was very angry about how everything played out.

Former New Westminster Secondary School principal Cheryle Beaumont was fired as superintendent of the Langley School District.

That's the word from one Langley school trustee, who said she was very angry about how everything played out.

"Cheryle Beaumont was terminated by five trustees who are part of a secret slate," said trustee Alison McVeigh, adding that the "slate" was "backed by unions."

Beaumont, who was principal at NWSS from 2000 to 2004, has been in Langley for the past seven-plus years.

McVeigh said she felt she had to let the public know exactly what happened, because this has resulted in the "firing of one of the best superintendents in the province of B.C., who has an outstanding achievement record."

She added that Beaumont would never walk away from a job but would wrap up duties and help with transitions.

Beaumont was the most senior staff member when the district's financial problems came to light, but McVeigh said an independent audit showed that that "could not be placed at her feet."

McVeigh said she struggled with her decision to speak out about an in-camera vote on a personnel matter, but "I believe the public has a right to know the truth."

She said she does not know whether there will be a wrongful dismissal suit, but said she believes it will end up costing the district a great deal of money.

Finding a replacement will take a long time, she added.

Beaumont's departure was first announced in a 5 p.m. Tuesday press release in which the Langley Board of Education announced that Beaumont is "leaving the school district to pursue other ventures."

The short release offered plaudits for the superintendent who, it said, "provided strong leadership through difficult times."

The "difficult times" may have referred to the controversial and divisive decision to close H.D. Stafford Secondary School -the only secondary school in Langley City - and re-open it as a middle school. The move involved or led to the closures of some of the several elementary schools that ceased operations during her time as superintendent in Langley.

Other "difficult times" during her tenure may have included a mysteriously burgeoning 2009 budget deficit that came to light after it was first announced that the school district was seeking ideas for how to spend a modest surplus of several hundred thousand dollars.

Before any submissions for spending the extra money were examined publicly, it was revealed that there was actually a deficit of a few million dollars. Closer examination of the figures raised the deficit figure by several million dollars more. After a final audit, it was determined that the school district was more than $13 million in the hole.

The provincial government was asked for permission to repay the deficit over a period of years, and in early 2010, a plan was agreed upon. As a result of a surplus in the current school year, the district is ahead of its repayment schedule.

Reasons for the deficit were chiefly chalked up to "accounting errors" and problems resulting from Langley School District's decentralized budgeting system.

Beaumont is continuing to work with the district on the changeover and is scheduled to work with other administrators on a transition plan until the end of January.

One of the details yet to be revealed is how much Beaumont's departure will cost.

Beaumont was appointed superintendent in August 2006 after serving as assistant superintendent for two years.

In December, the Public Sector Employers' Council indicated that a dozen superintendents made in excess of $200,000. Beaumont's annual pay was pegged at $198,503.

Her contract was renewed for three years in the summer of 2010, with a generous pay increase and other benefits.

Beaumont arrived in Langley in 2004 after serving as NWSS principal for four years.

"I'll miss NWSS," Beaumont told The Record at the time. "The school district has been wonderful to me. I would like to have seen the new school to completion, but this is a wonderful opportunity and it's the timing of it."

"We're disappointed to see her go, but the opportunity is a good promotion for her," school board chair Brent Atkinson said in 2004. "She served extremely well at the high school. She's indicated she will help us with the transition to the new principal."

One of the more important things that occurred during Beaumont's tenure at NWSS was the return of the football program, with head coach Farhan Lalji giving Beaumont credit for helping with resurrecting the program that had died decades earlier.

Lalji said the football program got a firm endorsement from Beaumont, who lauded the sport's inclusion of many more students.

- with files from The Record