Christchurch Girls' High stand-in tries to restore calm

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Prue Taylor
John Kirk-Anderson

SACKED: Prue Taylor.

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The man now leading Christchurch Girls' High School is working hard to ensure normality is restored after outrage over the sacking of principal Prue Taylor.

Peter Sawyer, the school's deputy principal since 2008, was appointed acting principal on Friday after Taylor was fired by the board of trustees.

The decision to sack Taylor has outraged pupils, parents and many colleagues, including Dame Dawn Lamb, who was principal for 12 years before Taylor was appointed.

Some year 13 pupils, who are due to finish school this week to prepare for exams, said losing their principal had "ruined the last week of high school".

Sawyer said yesterday that he was trying to ensure it was "business as usual" for the girls in the lead-up to the end of the year and he wanted to make sure the school's traditions were maintained.

The school had told pupils that guidance counsellors were available, he said.

Sawyer, who also teaches physical education, said his new position had its challenges and he was unsure how long he would be in it.

Lamb, who lives in Wellington, said that when Taylor was appointed she was "the best applicant by far" .

Lamb described Taylor as  "a courageous and admirable person with considerable personal integrity".

"I find it difficult to see how the judicial process the Christchurch Girls' High School board has embarked on can result in the school being a winner."

Parents of pupils and of the more than 300 girls who had applied for the 2013 intake could have lost any sense of security in their choice of school, she said.

"The tragedy is that there can't be any winners," Lamb said.

The board has refused to say why Taylor was sacked other than saying there had been "issues and tensions" between Taylor and the board for a long period.

It said a wide range of "stakeholder groups" had expressed "issues of concern" with Taylor since 2009.

The board would say only that the groups were "a range of school-related groups who have direct contact" with Taylor.

Taylor said this week that she could not specify what had been the catalyst for her dismissal.

She said there was no gross misconduct on her part and she did not bring the school into disrepute.

 

She has confirmed she will fight the decision.

TAYLOR MAY BE BACK WITHIN WEEKS

Sacked Christchurch Girls' High School principal Prue Taylor could be back in her job within weeks if she successfully applies to the Employment Relations Authority to have her job temporarily reinstated.

Kathryn Dalziel, an employment law specialist and partner at Christchurch law firm Taylor Shaw, said Taylor could make an order to the authority for an interim reinstatement of her job, but had to prove she had an arguable case for unjustified dismissal.

She would also have to prove that no compensation would be enough to compensate her for the loss of her job, Dalziel said.

Taylor was sacked by the school's board on Friday and has said she will fight her dismissal.

The authority said yesterday that no complaint had been lodged.

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Dalziel said a request for interim reinstatement was usually done within 48 hours after a dismissal and the board would then be asked to file its defence before the authority held a hearing to make a decision.

The process was usually completed within one or two weeks, she said.

If successful, the reinstatement would be temporary. A decision on a permanent reinstatement would be decided by a full court hearing.

The hearing would also look at any other complaint Taylor decided to make, which could include unjustified dismissal and compensation for damages, humiliation and distress.

Interim reinstatement used to be common but a law change in April last year made it more difficult to have one granted, Dalziel said.

Taylor also had 90 days to raise a personal grievance with the board.

The parties could then go into mediation, but the board confirmed on Monday it had already been involved in mediation with Taylor.

Dalziel said the burden was on the board to prove it had acted as a fair and reasonable employer and it had enough grounds to terminate Taylor's employment.

Some people negotiated exit packages with their employers, but an agreement usually prevented the person from fighting the dismissal in the Employment Court.

- The Press

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