The Surrey School District no longer has a deputy superintendent, and is not planning to fill the position.
District spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed this week that the position became vacant “earlier this year,” and the superintendents’ office is being restructured as a result.
But he would not disclose anything further about the former employee – including anything “regarding severance-related issues” – citing privacy concerns.
“I can confirm the district no longer has a deputy superintendent, but as with any employee, even if I knew, I would not be able to say whether that person quit, was fired, retired or took a job elsewhere, etc.,” Strachan told Peace Arch News by email Tuesday.
Strachan said that even sharing the date the position “was no longer filled or no longer existed” could be deemed a violation of privacy.
According to school board chair Laurie Larsen, the position held by deputy superintendent Rick Ryan has been vacant “for about eight months.” She said Ryan was “an asset” to the district, and lauded his compassion for students and staff alike.
Ryan could not immediately be reached by PAN. According to Ryan’s LinkedIn profile, he held the position from January 2014 for four years, 11 months. He was an assistant superintendent in the district prior to that.
Ryan’s profile also lists his title as “Former Deputy Superintendent.”
Why he left, Laursen said, is a human-resources matter.
“Unless they’re fired, we really aren’t told what the reason was,” Larsen said Wednesday, hours before she and other trustees were to attend the newly re-elected board’s inauguration, following the Oct. 20 civic election.
“Certainly, he wasn’t fired.”
While there is speculation around severance that Ryan may have received – one man who contacted PAN from a Surrey school but wouldn’t identify himself cited a figure of nearly $1 million – Larsen said any actual sum “as far as I know… was in line with whatever his contract was.”
Anything exorbitant would have been brought to the board, she said, adding she does not know “for sure” if severance was paid.
Strachan noted that provisions of the Public Sector Employers Act “do not allow for severances anywhere near $1M for any school district.” He described the suggestion as “just wild rumour and/or media bait.”
According to the district’s last annual compensation disclosure report, with figures from the 2016/2017 fiscal year, Ryan was the district’s third-highest earner, receiving a total compensation of $240,821. The figure included $184,003 in salary, $6,833 in benefits, $25,501 in pension contributions and $24,484 in “other compensation,” including $12,377 in vacation payout and a $6,000 vehicle allowance.
Surrey Teachers Association president Matt Westphal said the union was advised of Ryan’s pending departure “at the start of the year” and that he had no insight with regard to severance paid. He said “this specific staffing matter” raises no concerns for the STA.
“However, the concern we have is that money spent on severance packages is money that is not being used to meet the many needs of students in Surrey schools,” Westphal noted.
Strachan said superintendent Jordan Tinney has confirmed the deputy position is to become an assistant superintendent position, and will likely be filled in the new year. The difference in salary is approximately $34,000.