Sacked CGHS principal Taylor reinstated

ANNA TURNER, RACHEL YOUNG AND KEITH LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 24/11/2012
prue taylor
DON SCOTT
CONGRATULATIONS: Prue Taylor receives a hug from her son Hamish after receiving the Employment Authority decision last night.

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Sacked Christchurch Girls' High School principal Prue Taylor has been reinstated and looks set to return to work next month.

An Employment Relations Authority finding released last night found there was "very strong evidence" that Taylor's sacking was "procedurally, and possibly substantively unjustified".

In his findings, authority member David Appleton said: "Having read carefully all of the material put before the authority, I am unable to identify a single specific incident that is alleged to have taken place in respect of which any of the three senior managers could reasonably (or at all) assert that Mrs Taylor has behaved unprofessionally towards them."

Taylor, who was dismissed on November 2 with the school board citing "issues and tensions", has now been officially reinstated as principal in the interim.

But the authority noted a "flurry of media attention" that would follow if Taylor went back to work on Monday would distract staff and students.

Therefore, Appleton said the school board could decide if Taylor was to stay away until the current school term ended on December 11.

A full hearing on the matter will be held on Monday, February 4.

Last night, Taylor told The Press she was "very happy" with the outcome.

She also said she believed she was "already back on the payroll".

According to the findings, school board of trustees chairman James Margaritis had said that if Taylor was reinstated there would be "an immediate loss of senior staff to ill-health or stress".

However the authority found there was "no detail" of what the senior management team described as "victimisation, humiliation and unpredictable relationships" at the hands of Taylor, as had been alleged.

And there was no explanation as to why this detail was not presented during the initial hearing.

The authority ruled that, while Taylor's approach could have caused some problems with senior staff, she was never given a chance to rectify the relationship.

Appleton also found there appears to be a "level of personal animosity towards Mrs Taylor from the members of the board which may well have obscured the proper discharge of their functions and duties as an employer".

The board was partially responsible for the breakdown in the relationship, Appleton ruled.

To ensure Taylor's return is smooth, an action plan will be put in place to help the school's senior staff function accordingly. Taylor must also meet the staff who raised concerns about her return, with an independent facilitator present, Appleton ruled.

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The board and Taylor must also make an effort to work together "effectively and professionally".

He urged Taylor and Margaritis to at least try to repair their relationship.

The authority also ruled there was a "strongly arguable case for unjustifiable dismissal".

Again, Appleton said the board's failure to provide enough information and specific examples relating to its allegations against Taylor was a breach of good faith.

"This, alone, is capable of rendering the decision to dismiss unjustifiable."

Appleton said that the board sacked Taylor without allowing her to attend a disciplinary hearing with a representative of her choice was not "the action that any reasonable employer could have taken".

He said the decision to fire Taylor could have been "predetermined".

"The fact that the board wrote to Mrs Taylor on October 22 stating that . . . ‘the board has unanimously, now reached the point at which it has lost trust and confidence in your leadership of the school', before it invited her to the disciplinary meeting, is strongly suggesting of predetermination on its part."

Last night, Taylor said she would be happy to meet the authority's conditions.

"We've got people who have expressed concern or misgivings or outright unhappiness at working with me and while I didn't know about any of these until this all broke they have said what they feel and it makes sense to put it all on the table and find out what exactly is bothering people and how we're going to resolve it," she said.

"I've always maintained that if anyone has a problem with me I want to know about it . . . and see how we can resolve it."

Board employment advisor Peter Macdonald declined to comment on the ruling last night. Margaritis was unavailable.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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