Board to challenge Taylor's lawyer

04:13, Nov 26 2012
Prue Taylor
SACKED: Prue Taylor.

Christchurch Girls' High School board says it will fully co-operate with a decision to temporarily reinstate principal Prue Taylor.

In a statement released today, the board has ruled out appealing the Employment Relation Authority's decision, but said it will vigorously challenge ''unsubstantiated assertions and innuendo'' made by Taylor's lawyer Richard Harrison at the full hearing in February.

Read the board's full statement here.

The authority report, released on Friday, identified a number of failings by the board in its decision to dismiss Taylor on November 2.

The board said today, the interim reinstatement hearing last week gave the board a limited opportunity to present material as part of its submission and the February hearing would examine all issues.

''We are very confident that the reasons for our serious concerns will become evident at that time.''


The board said last week's hearing involved the consideration of legal submissions on untested evidence and it looked forward to that evidence being considered and tested in February.

The decision to dismiss Taylor was made by the board and no other parties were advised or consulted before the decision was made, the statement said.

The board also acknowledged it had been widely criticised for not communicating  throughout the process and for not consulting with parents, staff and pupils.

''The board has seen the need to maintain a high level of confidentiality throughout the process as this is clearly a very sensitive employment matter and also, so as not to prejudice a fair hearing.''

It said ''the fact that other parties have been prepared to break accepted and required confidentiality for personal gain and advantage is, in our opinion, unethical and reprehensible''.

Concerned Christchurch Girls' High School parents are asking for speaking rights at a board meeting tonight.

Mark Smith, who represented a group of parents, said a growing number had concerns relating to the recent dismissal of the school's principal, Prue Taylor.

Taylor has been temporarily reinstated as principal after the release of the Employment Relations Authority findings on Friday.

Trustees are due to meet tonight at the school library at 5pm.

Smith said several parents planned to attend the meeting and he had requested speaking rights.

"I have not had a response from Mr (James) Margaritis, the Board of Trustees chair, regarding speaking rights however we do not envisage there will be any problems," he said.

Smith said he hoped to raise three issues: the Board of Trustees' engagement with parents, the process leading up to the principal's termination, and expectations and recommendations from the parent community.

"This is an important meeting. It is not a witch hunt.

"As a group, we hope we can achieve meaningful engagement and communication with the board as the education of our daughters is of the utmost importance and anything that may affect that negatively is, of course, a concern to us.

"The education of our daughters, as well as the well-being and stability of the staff and our school community is our focus."

The Employment Relations Authority found Taylor's dismissal, by the Board of Trustees on November 2, was procedurally unjustified. 

The report highlighted several failings by the board to follow the correct procedure.

It also uncovered details of unrest between Taylor and her senior management team.

A full hearing will be held on February 4.


Prue Taylor's reputation and career as a high school principal in New Zealand could have been "damaged beyond repair" by her dismissal, an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) report says.

Further details of the damning report into the sacking of the Christchurch Girls' High School principal show ERA considers damages may not be adequate compensation if this proves to be the case.

Taylor was temporarily reinstated as principal following the release of the findings on Friday.

Taylor said yesterday she had yet to hear from the board, but she hoped to be back at the school on December 12, the day after school ends for the year.

In its report, ERA member David Appleton said it was possible Taylor would find it hard to find an alternative suitable position due to the potential damage to her reputation and career prospects by her dismissal.

"Uncertainty about the reasons for Mrs Taylor's dismissal would continue to prevail in the minds of prospective employers.

"Effectively, her career as a high school principal in New Zealand could well have been damaged beyond repair.

"In such a case, damages would not be adequate to compensate her."

The report highlighted a number of failings by the board to follow the correct procedure.

It also uncovered details of unrest between Taylor and her senior management team.

An Education Review Office (ERO) report, released in August, highlighted concerns with the professional relationships between the board, principal and senior managers.

Following the ERO report Taylor made an Official Information Act request, which resulted in ERO disclosing 47 specific comments made about her.

The school's deputy principal, two assistant principals, the hostel manager, the careers co-ordinator, head of learning areas and the teachers in charge of careers and learning support had all made comments.

About 18 of the comments were direct criticisms of Taylor, the authority report said.

Many others referred to relationship problems, without attributing blame. It said the vast majority of criticisms were generalised.

Hostel manager Dionne Guillemot-Rodgerson said she would not sleep the night before a meeting with Taylor due to stress and worry.

The deputy principal and two assistant principals also wrote a statement saying Taylor's decision-making was inconsistent and she was reluctant to engage with the board and senior managers in strategic planning.

However, when Taylor asked the board for more detail about the allegations she was refused the information by board chairman James Margaritis, the report said.

In the ERA report, Appleton said "the evidence suggests that Mrs Taylor was not disliked or viewed with concern".

A letter from a male teacher to the board, sent shortly after Taylor's dismissal, stated he was writing "at the behest of a group of 64 members of staff to express our shock and dismay regarding the termination of the contract of our principal", Appleton said.

Taylor said yesterday there was a lot of work to be done before she returned to address people's expressions of dissatisfaction with her. "I think if we are going to have a good positive working relationships we need to clear the air, otherwise we're just going back to the same old stuff."

Margaritis and the board's lawyer, Peter Macdonald, did not return calls yesterday.

The board has 28 days to appeal the decision.


Nov 2011: Performance appraisal identifies Prue Taylor's strengths, resilience and courage.

April 2012: Margaritis writes to Taylor citing various issues over 12 months which had resulted in informal talks with her about concerns the board had with aspects of the school's operational management. They had difficulties gaining her co-operation to implement board initiatives, he wrote.

July 12, 2012: Mediation held. No protocols, processes or similar are put in place.

August 8, 2012: Margaritis writes to Taylor asking why she used her principal's account to pay for legal advice. Taylor said she did so because it was school-related business. She reimburses the account after inquiries find uncertainty over who should pay.

August 24, 2012: Education Review Office publishes report saying CGHS is "not well placed to sustain and improve all aspects of its performance". Professional relationships are of concern.

September 2012: Official Information Act request by Taylor shows 47 specific comments were made about her by people including the deputy principal, two assistant principals and hostel manager. About 18 comments were direct criticisms of Taylor. Most criticisms are generalised.

October 11, 2012: Deputy principal and two assistant principals provide statement to board saying Taylor's decision-making is inconsistent and she is reluctant to engage with the board and senior managers.

October 18, 2012: Hostel manager writes to board stating she no longer has confidence in Taylor.

October 22, 2012: Board informs Taylor in writing that it had unanimously "lost trust and confidence" in her "leadership of the school".

November 2, 2012: Board decides to dismiss Taylor after she is unable to attend a disciplinary meeting on that day with her lawyer.

The Press