Wade Smith weighs his options following election defeat
Says rumours suggesting he wanted to close Woodland Elementary were untrue
Wade Smith is not happy about the outcome of last week’s school board election, and he hasn’t ruled out taking legal action.
For most of Wednesday, the chairman of the Help Whitbourne Elementary committee thought he was the victor in Zone 12, giving him a seat on the first fully-elected board of trustees for Newfoundland and Labrador English School District.
However, NLESD issued a news release shortly after 5 p.m. that day announcing results had been updated for multiple zones, including Zone 12. A spokesman for the board has since confirmed ballots from Woodland Elementary in Dildo were not included in the first count.
That gave Hayward Blake almost 300 extra votes and only 25 for Smith, giving the Harbour Grace town councillor a surprising victory — 784 to 678.
Smith learned about the new outcome shortly before 5 p.m. when the returning officer contacted him by phone.
“I was totally blown away,” Smith told The Compass last Thursday. “I just couldn’t fig- ure out how something like that could happen, given the way the process was supposed to be done.
“Those ballots were supposed to be sent in. There was supposed to be notification sent in the night after the polls, with everything secured, and to find out at quarter-to-five, over 12 hours later, that I hadn’t been picked to be the (winning) candidate, and after everyone announcing it’s been posted on the website — I don’t know. It’s a total shock … Given the way this election was and the way this board has been operating, it doesn’t surprise me.”
The outcome doesn’t change anything when it comes to fighting for the future of Whitbourne Elementary, which is slated to close in June, a full year after it was originally set to close before a Supreme Court ruling quashed a board of trustees motion to shut down the school.
“I’m going to fight for Whitbourne Elementary,” he said.
Another school review took place after the court case, resulting in a second call to close the K-6 school and move students to Woodland Elementary.
Unofficial results from the poll at the latter school would indicate there was very little support in the area for Smith’s candidacy. According to Smith, there was a rumour making its way around the area suggesting he wanted to close Woodland Elementary.
“I want to make that very clear that under no circumstances at any time did I even consider or have a thought in my mind about closing Woodland Elementary,” he said.
Smith also felt an unfair advantage was given to Blake and former board of trustees chair Milton Peach. He claims both candidates visited schools to meet with staff, students and volunteers. An official complaint was filed Nov. 9, after which a memo was sent to all trustee candidates and school principals requesting that such visits cease.
“The election was flawed from day one because of this, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Smith intends to send a letter to the returning officer requesting a recount, and he will also seek legal advice in the coming days. “We’re not letting this go.” In a subsequent interview with CBC last Thursday, Smith said he would like a full investigation into the vote.
Failed Zone 12 candidate Wade Smith thought he won Tuesday’s vote. But uncounted ballots from Woodland Elementary changed the outcome.