A popular Bendigo principal will be absent from his post for a second consecutive school term, the education department has said.
In an email to Bendigo South East College families this week, Department of Education and Training north west regional director Jeanette Nagorcka explained Ernie Fleming would remain on leave when classes resumed after the Easter break.
The Bendigo Advertiser understands Mr Fleming is not on leave because of illness, but is the subject of an ongoing departmental investigation.
“I know that these arrangements have been the subject of considerable discussion and interest among the school community, and I thank you for your patience during this time,” Ms Nagorcka wrote.
“I can assure you that these arrangements will not impact on students’ studies.”
The decision has alarmed current and prospective parents concerned for her children’s education.
Debra Slender, who last month petitioned the state government to return Mr Fleming to his post, said she worried about the school’s stability in the absence of its leader.
Her online campaign attracted 135 supporters.
“It's just a big concern for the school and the kids and the community,” Ms Slender said.
It's just a big concern for the school and the kids and the community. We need some transparency in this matter.Debra Slender, parent
“We need some transparency in this matter.”
Lisa Maud enrolled her daughter at BSE after withdrawing from another school in Bendigo and said the atmosphere at the school had changed since Mr Fleming took leave.
“He's very much loved, and totally interested in every child,” she said.
She believed the education department should come clean about Mr Fleming’s future, saying the school could return to normal so long as there was a “stand-in” in his place.
Jason Sim, who is considering sending his grade 6 daughter to BSE in 2018, agreed, saying a lack of clarity around Mr Fleming’s future left questions threatened the school’s quality.
“The staff are extremely good now, but that's all put in question moving forward if the person at the top isn't there,” Mr Sim said.
His daughter was an aspiring sportswoman and he worried the Athlete Development Program could be put at risk if the school’s leadership was not resolved soon.
Bendigo Senior Secondary College principal Dale Pearce, who has acted as BSE headmaster since the start of the year, will continue in the role.
Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan, whose electorate takes in the Flora Hill school, would not comment yesterday when asked about Mr Fleming’s absence.