Millarville Community School located in Millarville, a small rural, bedroom community located about 60 km southwest of Calgary, AB is shown Apr 17, 2012.
Credits: JIM WELLS/QMI AGENCY
Principal Ted Thorne can at least take comfort knowing he's added a brand new ‘R' to the traditional trio of reading, writing and arithmetic.
It's called regret, and Thorne certainly taught students at Millarville Community school a lesson rife with remorse, after the principal used the school newsletter to voice anti-Wildrose political views to parents.
"The Wildrose group is an unknown lot for the most part with no idea on the part of the public what lies in store," wrote Thorne, on a bi-weekly newsletter dated April 16.
"It is apparent that with the newness of the party, the Wildrose leader doesn't know her candidates' backgrounds and historical underlying beliefs."
It's an oddly-placed rant in a newsletter typically advising parents of upcoming pizza days and new appointments for staff at the 200-student school southwest of Calgary.
Thorne wasn't content to just bash the Wildrose Party leading up to next Monday's election, he actually goes on to endorse the incumbent Progressive Conservatives, declaring them the architects of Alberta's success.
"The Conservatives are a well seasoned group which has been in power for forty years and as Peter Lougheed recently stated, it is due to the present party leading the Alberta government that this province is as great as it is."
Of course, the unsolicited political junk-mail written by a public servant on the taxpayer's dime was carried home in hundreds of backpacks to parents who weren't necessarily keen to hear Thorne's opinion.
To all but the Tory-pushing pundit in the principal's chair, the anger was predictable.
From parents of the Grades 1 to 8 students to members of the community who got a look at the blue leaflet, there was plenty to outrage to go around in Millarville and the surrounding area.
"He shares his political views, using a captive audience to campaign for one party," said Susan Graham, a parent whose children used to attend the school.
With Progressive Conservative leader Alison Redford promising a teacher tax credit and having restored funding cuts to re-hire laid off school staff, it's no secret she's popular with many educators.
But personally approving of a party or even expressing your views in the staff room is very different from using students as mules for your political message.
With furious calls lighting up the school superintendent's phone, even Principal Thorne seemed to realize he'd landed himself in big trouble with the boss.
"It wasn't intended," Thorne said of the growing anger, adding he'd been told to refer all calls to the Foothills School Division head office.
There, Superintendent of Schools Denise Rose had already ordered a letter of apology be sent to all parents who received the anti-Wildrose propaganda.
This followed what must have been a tense talk with Principal Thorne.
"I've spoken with the principal and he sincerely regrets his comments, and the school's sending a letter of apology home to the parents today," said Rose.
She says the school district offers no partisan support for any political party - a smart choice, given that the party signing the cheques may soon change.
"From a school district perspective, we respect the democratic process and look forward to working in partnership with whichever party forms the next government," she said.
"We certainly do not make a practice of taking position within the district, or expressing or advancing our personal viewpoints."
Rose said she can't discuss any repercussions the soon-to-retire principal may face, but she said Thorne told her it was an attempt to be funny.
"He said he was playing a bit with humour, but it backfired - he was very apologetic when I spoke to him," said Rose.
If parents were less than amused, the Wildrose Party itself found little to smile about in the taxpayer-funded insult.
"It's ridiculous - I'm amazed at the misinformation about our party and its policies coming from people in the education field," said Rob Anderson, Wildrose MLA for Airdrie.
Still, Anderson said he's satisfied with the fast response from the Foothills School Division.
"People say things they regret all the time," said Anderson.
"I'm just glad they've issued an apology."