The Columba College board of governors has stepped into a
controversy at the school, in an unexpected attempt to
resolve allegations of bullying between the principal and
The Otago Daily Times reported in October last year
that principal Elizabeth Wilson had been under investigation
by the Post Primary Teachers' Association for alleged
''severe and persistent'' bullying of staff over an extended
The college's board of trustees has remained adamant Miss
Wilson had the ''unqualified support'' of the school's board
in her management of the college, and also had the support of
the parent community.
Board of trustees chairwoman Dr Margot Skinner has repeatedly
said the board is not prepared to discuss in the media
matters relating to staffing, and would continue to attempt
to work constructively with all parties.
However, the school's board of governors has now stepped in,
in a bid to resolve the issues.
It was an unusual step, PPTA general secretary Kevin Bunker
The Ministry of Education website says responsibility for
resolving allegations of bullying in an integrated school,
whether it be between pupils or staff, traditionally lay with
the school's board of trustees.
Among other things, the board of trustees is responsible for
overseeing the management of curriculum, staff, finances and
administration, as well as ensuring the school provides a
safe environment and quality education.
An integrated school's board of governors acts on behalf of
the school's proprietor(s) and is responsible for the
school's land and buildings.
Mr Bunker said he had had an offer from the school's board of
governors to act as intermediaries between Miss Wilson and
''The board of trustees is supposed to do it, but there seems
to be a lack of trust between staff and the board.''
Mr Bunker said the board of governors hoped to use church
contacts to act as mediators in the dispute.
''We've agreed to step back for six [to] eight weeks and see
''After that, we may be back at square one, but we're hopeful
that sensible people talking to each other will lead to a
Board of governors chairman Tony Sycamore was unavailable for
Mr Bunker said if the issue could not be resolved, other
options would have to be explored.
Options included recommending the Ministry of Education
appoint a commissioner to take over the duties of the Columba
College board of trustees, but Mr Bunker said that was at the
''very extreme'' end of options.
A more likely option was to engage an Occupational Health and
Safety officer to investigate the allegations of bullying, he