Principal resigns under parent pressure

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2013
Barbara Perry
Southland Times
RESIGNED: Our Lady of Victories School principal Barbara Perry.

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The principal of a Catholic school in Christchurch has resigned as parents banded together to try to oust her.

Our Lady of Victories School has been under the statutory management of commissioner Murray Strong since January 2012 after the previous board of trustees was dissolved as a result of issues related to inadequate board systems and processes, and poor communication.

Principal Barbara Perry was suspended by Strong in October for "serious misconduct", which she denied.

The Employment Relations Authority ordered she last week be reinstated until after mediation between the two.

Strong told The Press yesterday that Perry had decided to "resign in the interests of the school being able to move forward at this time".

The resignation came just days after a group of parents, named Save Our Lady of Victories (SOLV), began collecting signatures for a petition of no trust and confidence in Perry. Her position was "untenable", according to the group's spokesman, Wayne Stack.

Stack believed Perry's resignation was "good news" for the school but he wanted to make sure no other schools had to go through what they had.

An August 2012 Education Review Office report said: "The principal has not yet been successful in building a positive and supportive team culture among the staff."

Stack - a parent of two pupils and former parent-elected board member - said 23 teaching and support staff had left the school during Perry's tenure, with seven engaging legal assistance and another four threatening to leave if the situation was not remedied soon.

The projected role for 2014 was about 128, of a possible 270. There had been 126 pupils leave before the end of Year 8, or indicate leaving at the end of this year, under Perry's management. There were 98 of those enrolled in other local schools.

"Sadly for the Catholic education system, of those 98 students, 56 per cent have been lost to state schools."

"There is an old adage that a school stands and falls on its principal, and [Our Lady of Victories] is currently in free fall," Stack said.

Parent of four OLV pupils, Vince Shallcrass, already decided to remove his children from the school since he did not see management issues being resolved in the near future.

His oldest son had been at the school for 8 years, his wife was an old girl, and her father was a board of trustees chairman when she was a child.

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"That's why we stuck with it for so long, hoping it would be a nice quick turnover. If we'd known it was going to take this long we would have gone 12 months ago."

He did not see issues being resolved in the near future, and did not want to risk his children's education.

Catholic Education Office chief executive Pat Lynch said the problems within the school were of "great concern" to him, and no doubt parishioners and the Catholic community.

"It concerns me if any one of our schools gets into a situation which has developed at Our Lady of Victories."

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Katrina Casey directed questions to Strong, since employment matters were between the commissioner and the employee.

Perry did not respond to requests for comment.

- The Press

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