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Former Saskatoon teacher at bankrupt post-secondary school speaks out

Rebecca Ehlert was the former director of the Mental Health and First Responder Program at McKay Career Training before it filed for bankruptcy. Kabilan Moulitharan / Global News

A former instructor at a Saskatoon post-secondary school has come forward, saying the provincial government has accused her of withholding student documentation.

On April 28, McKay Career Training filed for bankruptcy and ushered staff and students into a room to tell them over the phone they would not be completing their degrees and everyone was to be escorted out.

“It was a jarring moment,” said Rebecca Ehlert, former director of the Mental Health and First Responder Program at McKay.

An official memo was later sent to the students and staff saying the school’s Certificate of Registration had been cancelled and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Education would be exploring options available to compensate and/or finish the training of all those affected.

Click to play video: 'Students left in the dark after McKay Career Training shuts doors'
Students left in the dark after McKay Career Training shuts doors

Thirty students were enrolled at the time of the closure.

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In order to transfer students, the ministry requested transcripts and progress reports of each student from their instructors.

“We didn’t have access to physical documentation or records, at least I did not,” Ehlert said.

She said when the bankruptcy process began, a representative from the bankruptcy agency seized all student files and documentation on site and instructors were locked out of any online accounts associated with McKay.

In an email to a former student which was shared with Global News, the ministry accused Ehlert of withholding student documentation of her own choosing.

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“Instructors were asked to compile the records for current students and give them to us,” the email read. “Your instructor chose not to do that and so while we have been in contact with her several times to request it, she has yet to provide us with anything.”

Ehlert provided Global News with email threads that proved she told the ministry on two separate occasions that she did not have the reports and transcripts they were requesting.

“We as instructors (at the very least, I) did not receive physical copies. A majority of work submitted by the students had been online. The moment the bankruptcy was confirmed, all access to online accounts and documents were lost. MNP informed me that they have all of the information you’re seeking (regarding transcripts and previous grade distribution),” read an email from McKay on June 1.

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On June 8, she confirmed in an email to the ministry that, again, she did not have what they were looking for.

Ehlert also claimed she made her lack of access to documentation known during one phone call and one virtual meeting with the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology (SIIT), a school to which the ministry is trying to transfer McKay students.

“As part of this effort, the Ministry of Advanced Education is in the process of collecting student files. We appreciate the willingness of teachers to assist as we collect information about a student’s progress in the current school year. Gathering this information can assist in identifying potential options for students to continue their studies,” the ministry told Global News when they asked about the situation.

Even if the documenters were in her possession, Ehlert said they would not be relevant due to a revamping of curriculum outlines. This was news that came as a shock to the ministry.

When Ehlert began as an instructor at the school six months ago, she was tasked by the school with developing a new curriculum for the students; a job that has to be cleared and approved by the ministry.

“I was informed that the ministry was aware, but they were not aware of that curriculum shift,” Ehlert said.

In an email statement to Global News, the ministry confirmed that they approved a curriculum prior to the 2022-2023 school year that they were under the impression was being implemented.

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Ehlert began teaching the curriculum she developed halfway through the year.

“During the school closure process in April 2023, the instructor advised the ministry that she had made changes to the program, which seemingly occurred during the 2022-23 academic year. The ministry had not received a request from McKay Career Training to revise the approved program; if changes occurred the ministry was unaware of this,” the statement read.

Ehlert claimed the creation of a new curriculum was green-lit by her supervisor.

“Those grades, those structures, that understanding of the graduation process might not have even been valid at that point,” Ehlert said.

She told the ministry that any transcripts or student progress reports she would have been able to provide, had they been in her possession, would have been useless, as the school was operating on an unapproved program.

“Anything I could have provided would have likely been null to you, as you were evidently unaware that McKay had cleared a curriculum restructure – the grades and exams were as well restructured in that process,” read Ehlert’s email to the ministry.

“The information you are seeking from me wouldn’t line up with the program McKay had been offering from a documentation perspective.”

In the same email, Ehlert said she would be able to ‘fast-track’ the curriculum and have students earn their diplomas in three months if initiated immediately.

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Throughout the entire bankruptcy process, Ehlert said she has remained transparent with her former students.

“This city is in a very notable crisis with substance misuse and mental health fields and these were able-bodied individuals that were going to go into the field and assist with that. They were ready, willing and passionate, and now that has been severed with a $30,000 price tag.”

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