Trustee ready to front backlash

DEENA COSTER
Last updated 05:00 04/01/2014
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Bill Simpson
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Waitara High School board member Bill Simpson is staring down calls for him to resign following his caustic public comments about outgoing principal Jenny Gellen.

The school trustee and Waitara Community Board member last week criticised the school and Mrs Gellen as past her use by date and questioned her success at the school in a letter published in Taranaki Daily News.

His letter came after Mrs Gellen was selected as one of five people in the running for the Daily News Person of the Year for her work in significantly raising student achievement rates at the school during her time at the helm.

The Daily News could not reach her for comment yesterday.

Mr Simpson's letter sparked an outpouring of support for Mrs Gellen and a number of calls from the community that he be axed.

Yesterday Mr Simpson said his letter was not meant to be critical of Mrs Gellen or the staff.

"I value every teachers' efforts up there," said the trained teacher.

He said he was motivated to write a letter in response to comments made by Mrs Gellen to the Daily News about attendance at the school formerly being a "rite of passage" for wannabe criminals.

"It's never been a breeding ground for criminals," he said.

Although he stood by the comments he made about the police, he admitted he could have "drafted" his letter better in relation to the comments made about Mrs Gellen.

He said he was aware of the backlash his letter had created but would not say how it may impact on his position on the board.

"I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

Board chairwoman Chris Richardson yesterday said she was not interested in a public slanging match with Mr Simpson over his claims Mrs Gellen had "outlived" her usefulness.

She was not prepared to say whether the board would seek his resignation. She said his views were in no way representative of the board and the comments made were "unfortunate and untimely."

Ms Richardson, who is in her second term on the board, said the letter had a sparked a negative debate about an event that should have been a positive one for the town.

"We should be applauding the work done in the school and the progress made," she said.

Mrs Gellen announced in early December that she would resign as principal at the end of term one this year.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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