Parents furious over handling of principal's sacking

CAROLINE KING AND TINA LAW
Last updated 18:45 26/11/2012
James Margaritis
JAMES MARGARITIS: The former Christchurch Girls' High School board of trustees chairman.
Prue Taylor
Iain McGregor
REINSTATED: Principal Prue Taylor was absent from the CGHS prize-giving.

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Concerned Christchurch Girls' High School parents have told the school's board of trustees they are outraged over how the sacking of the school's principal was handled.

Prue Taylor has now been temporarily reinstated as principal, and looks set to return to work next month, after the Employment Relations Authority found there was "very strong evidence" that her sacking was "procedurally, and possibly substantively unjustified".

Trustees met at the school library at 5pm today, with up to 20 concerned parents also attending the meeting.

Board chairman James Margaritis was not present.

Mark Smith, representing a group of parents, told the board his response to recent events was "utter outrage".

Smith asked the board why parents, as stakeholders, were kept in the dark and if parents were viewed by the board as "relevant" stakeholders.

A board member told Smith parents were a fundamental stakeholder of the school but in context of recent events, they were not.

This was due to the matter being "private and confidential".

It was not appropriate to consult any parties, aside from the employer and the employee, the board member said.  

"In the time of the surprising announcement of Prue Taylor's dismissal, the parent community has felt alienated from a board we feel to be in crisis, who has not consulted us for opinion," Smith told the board.

Smith said the board had been operating in a "bizarre" fashion.

Other frustrated parents in the room tried several times to ask questions but were told by the board chair they did not have speaking rights.

Parent Michel Fivet said he came to the meeting as he felt the board had displayed "incompetence on a number of levels".

"At this stage, we need to show as parents we're very concerned. Our sympathies are with Prue, we think she's a good principal, but the main reason we're here is for the school."

Fivet was concerned with a lack of transparency at the school.

Parents had no access to minutes from board meetings, he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Fivet said there were several unanswered questions.

"I think it's really, really weird Mr Margaritis did not show ... He's not here, let his actions speak for him."

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Smith had earlier told The Press he hoped to raise three issues at the meeting: 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," he said.

"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."

Earlier, the board said it would fully co-operate with a decision to temporarily reinstate Taylor.

It has ruled out appealing against the Employment Relations Authority's decision.

However, it said it would 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 several 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 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''.

The Employment Relations Authority said on Friday it found Taylor's dismissal 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.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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