The extended absence of a principal from one of Bendigo’s biggest schools has motivated one mother to petition the Victorian education department for his return.
Debra Slender, whose daughter attends BSE, yesterday posted a change.org petition lobbying for Ernie Fleming’s return.
She resorted to the online petition after inquiries to the school, department and office of Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan did not reap answers about the principal’s absence.
She has also written directly to education minister James Merlino.
Mr Fleming began a period of extended leave at the start of term one, more than five weeks ago.
But the circumstances of his departure are unclear, with the department saying it would not comment on staffing matters out of respect to its employees’ privacy.
The petition describes Mr Fleming as a “true innovator of education”.
“I know many parents personally that would drive for miles to have the privilege of their child attending this school with Ernie Fleming leading this charge,” Ms Slender said.
“The Department of Education need to engage and celebrate this man's achievements.”
The school had a “sombre" mood since Mr Fleming took leave, Ms Slender said, and she feared for of its future, and the future of the Athlete Development Program, if the principal did not return.
“There needs to be stability,” she said.
“I know the kids are resilient, but you don't just take an individual out, especially of his stature.”
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearce has stepped into the position during Mr Fleming’s absence.
The education department was contacted for comment.