Show of support for principal

A group of Columba College teachers has come out in defence of the school for the first time since allegations surfaced of the principal bullying staff.

Nine staff supporting Elizabeth Wilson and the board of trustees were named in an email sent to the Otago Daily Times, but the group wished to remain anonymous because some of them had already been ''named and shamed'' for their views.

One of the group said a number of staff members withdrew from the PPTA as they were unhappy with the allegations made and the subsequent actions.

While some members of staff obviously had concerns, this was not necessarily the feeling of the majority, she said.

There are 42 fulltime teachers and about 10 part-time teachers at the college.

She said only 20 members of the PPTA had voted a no confidence in the board of trustees, and she believed the 20 were probably led by ''a few disgruntled staff members''.

''Some of the disgruntled members have been at the college for a significant period of time and, if conditions were that terrible, we would have thought they may have sought employment elsewhere.

''The environment has been described as toxic, but there are a number of us who do not feel this way.

''None of us would say that the school is perfect, but having been in a few Dunedin schools, I see it as no worse or better than other environments.

''There are always strengths and weaknesses in all schools and management.

''I do know that I really like it at Columba College, as do my named colleagues, and this publicity does not assist the school in any shape or form, just as it wouldn't in any other local school.

''Our belief is that if you are acting professionally at all times, you are fully supported in our working environment.

''This has certainly been my experience.''

She said the year 13 girls were very upset when some of the allegations came to light. Instead of an end-of-year gift to the school, they chose to give Miss Wilson a personal gift as a vote of thanks and support.

She said the environment within the staffroom had become ''uncomfortable'' ... since the issue arose.

''I personally had been a member [of the PPTA] since I began teaching in 1995, so it was not an easy decision for many of us to leave.

''We were referred to as weak because we must have been bowing to pressure from the principal/board of trustees.

''However, neither of these parties had ever discussed this issue with the group of colleagues that withdrew.

''So, although some staff claim intimidation and bullying by management, we have been subjected to similar behaviour from the PPTA and its members within the college and, at this point, we would prefer to be seen as an unnamed group of teachers who are not in support of the present action by the PPTA.''

She said she asked only eight other people if they supported Miss Wilson and the board, but was aware there was further support for the school.

''In short, there are always two sides to a story.''

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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