Ministry threat to intervene at Christchurch Girls'

TINA LAW AND OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012
Prue Taylor
Iain McGregor
REINSTATED: Principal Prue Taylor was absent from the CGHS prize-giving.

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The Government warned it would intervene at Christchurch Girls' High School if principal Prue Taylor was reinstated.

The revelation comes as outraged parents last night called for the entire school's board of trustees to resign. About 35 parents crowded into a board meeting in the school's library to raise their concerns over Taylor's sacking.

Taylor was stood down on November 2 and was temporarily reinstated on Friday after an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found her dismissal was procedurally unjustified.

However, before the ERA hearing last week, the Education Ministry wrote to the school board saying if Taylor was reinstated, the "level of risk would escalate to the extent that the ministry would immediately recommend the minister consider intervention".

The ministry said, in its letter, Taylor's sacking had dealt with its concerns with the school, but a reappointment would change that.

The ministry would recommend the appointment of a limited statutory manager if Taylor was reinstated, the letter read. A limited statutory manager works alongside the board and a principal, the ministry's website says.

The ministry would not comment on possible intervention yesterday, after the board released parts of the letter in a statement.

"We are not in a position to comment as no decision has been made at this stage whether to recommend any further intervention," a ministry spokeswoman said.

Before the letter was released, the ministry had declined to comment. It told The Press the school's problems were "an employer-employee matter between the board and its employee".

But in the letter it wrote to the trustees, the ministry took a different stance.

It said "it is extremely important to clarify to you [the board] that the ministry is monitoring the situation closely and will intervene as necessary".

Taylor's lawyer, Richard Harrison, said he had not heard about the ministry considering putting in place a limited statutory manager. "I'm disappointed to hear the ministry seems to have made an assumption about Prue without seeing what the evidence is."

Parents yesterday told the board its communication was "abysmal" and invited the entire board to stand down.

Board chairman James Margaritis and board lawyer Peter Macdonald did not attend last night's meeting.

Mark Smith, who said he was speaking on behalf of about 70 parents, told the board the sacking had left him feeling "very concerned" about the school's reputation and quality of governance.

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"The parent community has felt alienated by a board in crisis . . . a board widely perceived as operating in a bizarre and eccentric fashion not at all representative of the opinion or wishes of the school community," he said.

When other parents started posing questions to the board, deputy chairwoman Robyn Burgess refused to answer, stating: "I have not granted you speaking rights."

Smith reminded the board of its legal obligation to "be good employers" and provide a safe physical and emotional place for students.

"In light of Prue's reinstatement . . . I now invite the board chair and any other board members who cannot work with Prue Taylor to stand down," he said.

Board spokesman Tim Priddy

responded: "All I would say is we made a decision on the safety and wellbeing of all the people at school".

"We had to act," he said.

After the meeting, Smith told The Press he was surprised Margaritis, chairman of the board, was not present.

"This is a matter of unprecedented importance and he's not there."

Priddy said Margaritis could not attend because he was in Auckland and that Macdonald was an adviser to the board who did not attend meetings.

"The board is absolutely committed to having Prue back reinstated by 12 December."

- The Press

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