Spirits high as school wins battle

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 12/12/2012

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Smiles, relief and happy chatter spread among staff and students at Salisbury School this morning.

"It's over! Woohoo!," one student shouted above the whole school gathered on the lawn in the sunshine.

It is the last day of school for the year before students head to homes around the country for Christmas. Respite from the stress of recent months was palpable.

"We're feeling pretty damn good today. We have very happy staff and very happy girls," principal Brenda Ellis said.

She said the students were alerted to the news of the decision last evening.

"They saw what was happening in my office when Mai Chen [the school's lawyer] contacted us with the very positive news. A lot of parents also phoned."

Ms Ellis said the school was "100 per cent relieved" at the judge's ruling that the Education Minister's move to close the school was unlawful.

"It's been six months of hard slog, but this makes it worthwhile," Ms Ellis said of the joyous reaction to the decision.

She did not doubt the outcome would have been any different.

"We felt all along common sense would prevail. That's what it was about - how could you put two groups of vulnerable people together?"

Justice Robert Dobson agreed with the school's argument that moving the girls from Salisbury to a boys' school, as was planned, placed them at high risk of sexual or physical abuse.

Ms Ellis said five Salisbury staff, including three teachers and two residential staff had already sought new positions as a result of the doubt over the school's future. They were people who had been faced with no choice but to consider their options.

"They sought positions elsewhere because they had to."

She hoped the positions would be able to be replaced, but that depended on the Ministry of Education.

"We are waiting for the staff notice and that will determine the numbers of staff we can employ.

"We have a notional roll of 80 and we hope that won't change."

Ms Ellis said she has had no time to consider her personal circumstances.

"To be frank, I didn't stop to think of myself. It's been a huge push to do the submissions and the legal work.

"I worried about my staff and the girls and their families. It's been a big burden to carry, and as a principal, you carry that for all."

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