Prue Taylor's career 'damaged'

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2012
Prue Taylor
John Kirk-Anderson
SACKED: Prue Taylor.

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Prue Taylor's reputation and career as a high school principal in New Zealand could have been "damaged beyond repair" by her dismissal, an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) report says.

Further details of the damning report into the sacking of the Christchurch Girls' High School principal show ERA considers damages may not be adequate compensation if this proves to be the case.

Taylor was temporarily reinstated as principal following the release of the findings on Friday.

The authority found Taylor's dismissal, by the board of trustees on November 2, was procedurally unjustified. A full hearing will be held on February 4.

Taylor said yesterday she had yet to hear from the board, but she hoped to be back at the school on December 12, the day after school ends for the year.

In its report, ERA member David Appleton said it was possible Taylor would find it hard to find an alternative suitable position due to the potential damage to her reputation and career prospects by her dismissal.

"Uncertainty about the reasons for Mrs Taylor's dismissal would continue to prevail in the minds of prospective employers.

"Effectively, her career as a high school principal in New Zealand could well have been damaged beyond repair.

"In such a case, damages would not be adequate to compensate her."

The report highlighted a number of failings by the board to follow the correct procedure.

It also uncovered details of unrest between Taylor and her senior management team.

An Education Review Office (ERO) report, released in August, highlighted concerns with the professional relationships between the board, principal and senior managers.

Following the ERO report Taylor made an Official Information Act request, which resulted in ERO disclosing 47 specific comments made about her.

The school's deputy principal, two assistant principals, the hostel manager, the careers co-ordinator, head of learning areas and the teachers in charge of careers and learning support had all made comments.

About 18 of the comments were direct criticisms of Taylor, the authority report said.

Many others referred to relationship problems, without attributing blame. It said the vast majority of criticisms were generalised.

Hostel manager Dionne Guillemot-Rodgerson said she would not sleep the night before a meeting with Taylor due to stress and worry.

The deputy principal and two assistant principals also wrote a statement saying Taylor's decision-making was inconsistent and she was reluctant to engage with the board and senior managers in strategic planning.

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However, when Taylor asked the board for more detail about the allegations she was refused the information by Margaritis, the report said.

In the ERA report, Appleton said "the evidence suggests that Mrs Taylor was not disliked or viewed with concern".

A letter from a male teacher to the board, sent shortly after Taylor's dismissal, stated he was writing "at the behest of a group of 64 members of staff to express our shock and dismay regarding the termination of the contract of our principal", Appleton said.

Taylor said yesterday there was a lot of work to be done before she returned to address people's expressions of dissatisfaction with her. "I think if we are going to have a good positive working relationships we need to clear the air, otherwise we're just going back to the same old stuff."

Board chairman James Margaritis and the board's lawyer, Peter Macdonald, did not return calls yesterday.

The board has 28 days to appeal the decision.

 

TIMELINE

Nov 2011: Performance appraisal identifies Prue Taylor's strengths, resilience and courage.

April 2012: Board chairman James Margaritis writes to Taylor citing various issues over 12 months which had resulted in informal talks with her about concerns the board had with aspects of the school's operational management. They had difficulties gaining her co-operation to implement board initiatives, he wrote.

July 12, 2012: Mediation held. No protocols, processes or similar are put in place.

August 8, 2012: Margaritis writes to Taylor asking why she used her principal's account to pay for legal advice. Taylor said she did so because it was school-related business. She reimburses the account after inquiries find uncertainty over who should pay.

August 24, 2012: Education Review Office publishes report saying CGHS is "not well placed to sustain and improve all aspects of its performance". Professional relationships are of concern.

September 2012: Official Information Act request by Taylor shows 47 specific comments were made about her by people including the deputy principal, two assistant principals and hostel manager. About 18 comments were direct criticisms of Taylor. Most criticisms are generalised.

October 11, 2012: Deputy principal and two assistant principals provide statement to board saying Taylor's decision-making is inconsistent and she is reluctant to engage with the board and senior managers.

October 18, 2012: Hostel manager writes to board stating she no longer has confidence in Taylor.

October 22, 2012: Board informs Taylor in writing that it had unanimously "lost trust and confidence" in her "leadership of the school".

November 2, 2012: Board decides to dismiss Taylor after she is unable to attend a disciplinary meeting on that day with her lawyer.

- The Press

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