Maryborough’s Highview College faces turmoil as staff resign and students leave in the wake of acrimonious disputes between the board, teachers and parents, in the face of what promises to be a tumultuous annual meeting on May 23.
Fairfax Media has spoken to more than a dozen anxious and angry teachers, former teachers and parents have expressed their frustration at what they describe as a ‘bloc’ that has been formed.
They allege nominations for the school’s board have been dismissed arbitrarily and those people who nominated for the board have been rejected on grounds never made clear to them; that proxy votes at the coming meeting have been disallowed without constitutional basis; that a proposed new constitution, rejected at a special meeting recently, will be reintroduced without debate; and that a board position is currently being occupied illegitimately.
Other concerns about the administration of discipline to students and alleged bullying of teachers were also expressed to Fairfax Media.
A former board member who asked not to be identified said that out of 15 current applications for the school’s board due to be considered at the May 23 meeting, only four nominations were accepted.
Those four were supporters of the bloc, the former member said.
Up to 25 staff have resigned from the school in the past three years. More than 100 students are also thought to have left the college.
Melinda Cameron was a teacher at Highview College from 2010 until 2016. Her nomination for a position on the Highview Board was one of those rejected.
“They’ve rejected every nomination, and then said, ‘We don’t need nominations; there’s enough of us to run it without anyone else’,” Ms Cameron said.
“For some members of the board to try to cherry-pick members for their side, fail, and so reject everybody because they couldn’t get a change through about the constitution is outrageous.”
Board chair disputes allegations
The chair of Maryborough’s Highview College board has hit back at critics, disputing allegations of improper board conduct and an enrolment drop in the wake of an acrimonious dispute between the board, teachers and parents.
Highview College’s board chair Gillian Tattersall said contrary to the claims, enrolments had grown under the leadership of principal Melinda Scash.
Ms Tattersall said the students were drawn from a wide local government area including the shires of Mount Alexander, Hepburn, Pyrenees, Northern Grampians, Buloke and Central Goldfields, but this aligned with the strategic aims of the school.
Ms Tattersall also released a statement saying that while the school’s listed criteria for assessing board members was of importance, they “were not the sole basis for assessing applicants”.
“In order for the board to work effectively it is crucial for it to act cohesively,” she said.
“The ability of individual fit and desire to contribute to a cohesive culture was an overarching element in the assessment of each application.”
The statement noted in the past the school’s Articles of Association did not have a formal nomination process for the board and the board wanted to develop and adopt one as a matter of good governance. This was then applied to all nominations, the statement read.
Ms Tattersall said she was not “aware of plans to defer” the coming annual meeting on May 23 and the agenda listed no proposal to introduce a new constitution.
She did not confirm whether board applicants had received correspondence detailing the reasons for their rejection.
Critics have alleged nominations for the school’s board have been dismissed arbitrarily and those people who nominated for the board have been rejected on grounds never made clear to them; and that proxy votes at the annual meeting have been disallowed without constitutional basis.
The school stated successful applicants for board positions had to be members of the Highview company, be nominated and seconded by other members, complete the application independently and have evidence of their skills. Referees could not be family members, due to concerns around bias.