Recommending the Ministry of Education appoint a commissioner
to take over the duties of the Columba College board of
trustees is one of the options the Post Primary Teachers'
Association is considering after allegations of staff
bullying at the school.
PPTA general secretary Kevin Bunker said it was at the ''very
extreme'' end of options the teachers' union could take in a
bid to find a resolution to the conflict within the
integrated Dunedin secondary school.
The Otago Daily Times reported in October that
principal Elizabeth Wilson had been under investigation by
the union for alleged ''severe and persistent'' bullying of
staff over an extended period.
The school board of trustees remains adamant Miss Wilson has
board members' ''unqualified support'' in her role.
Board chairwoman Margot Skinner yesterday said Miss Wilson
had the ''unqualified support'' of the school's board in her
management of the college, and also had the support of the
''The college has an excellent reputation which we are proud
of,'' Dr Skinner said.
''The board of trustees is not prepared to discuss matters
relating to staffing in the media, and will continue to
attempt to work constructively with all parties.''
Miss Wilson could not be contacted yesterday.
Mr Bunker said the board did not seem to want to accept the
allegations, but he believed it was still possible to resolve
the issue by engaging an independent mediator to hear the
If the board continued to refuse to accept the allegations,
other options would have to be explored, he said.
These included recommending to the ministry that it appoints
a commissioner to take over the board's duties, or engaging
an Occupational Health and Safety officer to investigate
''I believe that engaging the Occupational Health and Safety
people is eventually where we will have to go.
''The board is responsible at the end of the day. They have
to do something.''
Mr Bunker yesterday said the union did not want to wait
another year for Miss Wilson to retire, for fear of the
impact on staff.
''We are hopeful we can find a way through this - we don't
want to create victims unnecessarily.
''This whole matter has been lurching along for the past year
and people are at the end of their tether.
''Our members have told us directly that they find her [Miss
Wilson's] style of management very difficult.
''They would describe it as bullying and that it contributes
to an unhealthy working environment.''
Ministry of Education enablement and support head Katrina
Casey said the ministry was aware of issues at Columba
College and the ministry had spoken to the board of trustees
''We acknowledge all the concerns that have been expressed
and take them very seriously.
''We want these issues resolved as quickly as possible in the
interests of the school, its staff and its pupils.''
The ministry had spoken to Dr Skinner and would hold further
discussions this week about the board's plans to resolve the
''The ministry will be providing any support required to do
this,'' she said.
''That support could range from further advice to the extreme
of a statutory intervention.
''We want the situation resolved as early as possible in the
new year and will be working closely with all the parties
concerned to ensure that happens.''