The Okanagan Science Centre has relieved executive director Jim Swingle of his duties, effective earlier this month, much to the chagrin of several staff members, who have submitted their resignations. (Morning Star - file photo)

Vernon science centre director dismissed

Jim Swingle relieved of duties in early March; four staff members tender resignation following move

There has been a major shake-up at Vernon’s Okanagan Science Centre.

And it has nothing to do with a volcano or earthquake exhibit.

Executive director Jim Swingle was relieved of his duties by the centre’s board early in March, which prompted the resignation of four staff members.

Swingle had been with the centre since December 2014.

“As you can imagine, in these circumstances we are limited in how much information we can provide,” said Ryan Irving, spokesperson for the centre’ board of directors. “I can advise that Mr. Swingle is no longer employed by the centre. The board thanks him for his contributions to the centre over the last five years.

“Operations continue as usual under the support of the dedicated full-time staff of the centre. We are committed to continuing the centre’s mission to continue to inspire scientific inquiry in the community.”

School outreach co-ordinator Gabriel Newman was one of the four centre staff to tender their resignation after Swingle’s dismissal, which he inferred came as a complete shock.

“For the past five-and-a-half years Jim has overseen the improvement and replacement of exhibits, expanded the reach of OSC’s programs, created a more inclusive set of programming and environment as well as ensuring an open, accepting and creative work environment,” Newman said. “He is respected by the Vernon community, the non-profit community and the staff.

READ MORE: Okanagan Science Centre founder fondly remembered

“To fire him without cause is a red flag to me and should be to the rest of the community. I have seen this happen to non-profits in the past. It usually results in high staff turnover, loss of respect in the non-profit and general community, loss of funding and three-to-five years until the organization can regain its position.”

Support for Swingle also came from as far as Atlanta in the form of a Facebook note from Swingle’s colleague Kara Hudson, originally posted to the centre’s page, but has since removed.

“Over the years, I’ve watched the centre grow and supported the centre’s initiatives from afar (I believe if you’ll check your records, you’ll see that I have donated several times to the Okanagan Science Centre),” Hudson wrote. “I have watched as Jim has enacted multiple programs that encourage diversity in your community; classes for children with autism, highlighting women in science, bringing increased awareness and support to First Nations arts and music, support for refugee families and so much more, all with the clear goal of making science education fun and approachable for all.”

Irving said a third-party firm has already been retained and is engaged in an active search for a new executive director.

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