No farewell for principal

Last updated 11:49 18/12/2013

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The Employment Relations Authority has supported a school's decision to decline a request by a suspended principal to be temporarily reinstated so she could farewell students at their final assembly.

Salford School principal Marlene Campbell wanted her suspension temporarily lifted so she could return to the Invercargill primary school to farewell the children at their final assembly of the year, but the school turned down the request.

She also wanted to work towards reintegrating herself within the school community, the ERA decision, released today, said.

A number of concerns surrounding the school, including Campbell's conduct, are under investigation.

The ERA decision detailed the tumultuous recent history of the school's management.

In 2012, the Education Review Office recommended the school's board investigate further after anonymous complaints were received about Campbell, and a subsequent report identified issues of concern with Campbell's management style.

Limited statutory manager Peter Macdonald was appointed to the school, and meetings were held to discuss the issues. He found there was a "climate of fear" that existed in the school, the ERA said.

In June this year, a staff survey found six of the 16 staff were actively seeking alternate employment.

In July, Campbell raised a personal grievance. By the end of October, the entire board had resigned.

Macdonald said that from correspondence from the investigation, he had reasons to believe concerns about Campbell were widespread and serious. He was also concerned about the welfare of certain staff, the ERA decision said.

Staff were divided over Campbell's treatment of them, it was found.

On November 1, Macdonald instructed solicitors to write to Campbell advising her she would be suspended while the investigation continued, and should leave work immediately, the ERA said.

Campbell's suspension was publicly confirmed on November 5, and a commissioner, Nicola Hornsey, was appointed the next day.

At an ERA meeting held last week, Hornsey said Campbell's suspension should continue.

She said the school could function without Campbell, and she was concerned about the potential effects on the emotional safety of staff if Campbell was to return.

In his decision released today, ERA member Michael Loftus upheld Hornsey's decision.

Loftus said it was highly unlikely an appropriate programme could have been put in place by Friday, the last day of school.

It was better to put effort into completing the substantive investigation, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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