College staff turn on principal

Staff at Fairfield College have voted no confidence in the principal and board

Last updated 00:23 13/12/2008

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Hamilton's Fairfield College is in turmoil after staff passed a vote of no confidence in the principal.

PPTA acting general secretary Colin Moore told the Waikato Times a motion expressing no confidence in Julie Small and the senior management team and Board of Trustees was put to a PPTA branch meeting at Fairfield College.

In a secret ballot, about 80 per cent of staff who are members of the PPTA voted for the motion.

Fairfield College is a state co-educational secondary school with a roll of about 1235.

The vote of no-confidence follows months of tension at the school which has seen a bitter division between supporters of Mrs Small and other staff.

The Waikato Times has received emails and phone calls from parents, past students and community members over the past four months reporting alleged bullying, financial woes and high staff turnover.

The Education Ministry has appointed John Carlyon to facilitate a working party to address the problems.

"We have been aware of the issues since late August and have been working with the board of trustees to help resolve them," ministry spokesperson Rawiri Brell said.

The working party, which met yesterday, is made up of three school staff members, one member of the senior management team and the principal.

Yesterday afternoon board members and Mrs Small told the Waikato Times the school had been under-performing for some time and their sole focus was to raise student achievement.

Unfortunately, some staff had resisted efforts to raise the bar academically, they said.

Mrs Small was principal of Auckland's Rodney College for three-and-a-half years before taking up the position  of principal at Fairfield at the beginning of 2007.

At the end of 2006, just before she was appointed, just 39 per cent of students achieved NCEA Level One.

At the end of 2007 that figure had been lifted to 51 per cent.

"We are not going to please everyone.

"I was surprised at the number of performance issues the school is either facing now or is yet to face,'' she said.

"If we ask questions about data that's not showing improvement for students, staff become unhappy about that, that makes them uncomfortable.''

Mrs Small said a number of staff had disengaged from the PPTA because they felt bullied if they did not toe the PPTA line.
Of the school's 100 staff, including  spart-timers, about 20 were not members of the PPTA. Support staff were also not members.

Mrs Small said only 18 staff had left this year and about one third of those had retired.

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OTHER CASES:

Cambridge High School principal Alison Annan resigned in August 2004 amid allegations of bullying and results tampering. The board was sacked the following month and a commissioner, Dennis Finn, was appointed to run the school. A new principal began in July 2005.

Also in 2004, Mr Finn was sent in as commissioner at Tokoroa High School after a year in which a block at the school was burnt down, the principal Elgin Edwards was suspended over allegations of bullying and the board of trustees resigned. Mr Edwards was reinstated in March 2005 and paid $12,000 compensation.

- Waikato Times

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