By ROBYN BRISTOW
“Relieved” is how dismissed Rangiora High School Principal Peggy Burrows is describing the way she feels about winning her unfair dismissal case against Commissioner Beverly Moore.
The decision from the Employment Relations Authority released at the end of last week, has upheld her appeal for wrongful dismissal as Principal of the school she led for 13 years, awarding her one of the highest awards ever of $150,000.
“I believe this was always about getting me out so the Ministry could control the school and its $14M in financial assets.
“I thought it was vital to protect those assets and advocate for the students, staff and community,” says Mrs Burrows.
The two-week hearing into the employment dispute between Mrs Burrows and Ministry of Education Commissioner Beverly Moore was heard over seven days beginning on September 13, 2016.
“I am thrilled to have won so definitively. However the money the commissioner has spent on pursuing this case means there are no real winners.
“That’s money which should have been spent on the students and staff at Rangiora High,” she says.
“It was extremely important to me and my family to clear my name and not be remembered for something I did not do. My heartfelt thanks go to the community and teaching staff who stood by me and my family during this very difficult time.
“I am also very thankful for the overwhelming support I have had locally, nationally and internationally.”
Mrs Burrows said from her home in North Canterbury that she is still considering her options with regards to reinstatement, as the ERA determination did not support this request.
Paul Finch of Rangiora, who has vigorously lent support to a campaign to have Mrs Burrows reinstated, says in an open letter the ruling is “way overdue” but is “an outcome for the truth, sense and common decency and supporters applaud the ERA’s decision.”
He says “negative gossip and tittle tattle has had a profound impact on our post-quake recovering town. Those responsible will be responsible forever and the saga will blight our regions history. It has scarred the unbelievable effort those in the past, from the 1880’s onwards, made to develop this community.”
“Peggy has given her entire life to education and students.
“The school has gone from success to success under her leadership which has benefitted the town and region. Among others, I have spent hundreds of hours reading official documentation around education, the school and its history’ I have had conversations with staff and trustees alike, written to the Ministry, MP’s, Select Committee Members and other professional organisations.
“I sat in on the entire ERA hearing and within all this research, I’ve found and heard nothing that would indicate that Peggy is anything but the world class educator that we appreciate her for.”
He says there should be some public apologies to Mrs Burrows, her family, the school and community.
“It would be beneficial if they came quick. The misery Peggy and her family have endured, let alone the costs incurred is unacceptable. We should make amends if those responsible step away from doing so. We are community.
“Ms Moore, following the release of the decision that she is ultimately responsible for, has in my opinion attempted to deceive the community by failing to even recognise the lawyers determination in the letter she issued to parents over the weekend. Her resignation should be immediate.
“Mr Rondel, who is local, a qualified accountant, registered with the MOE and who has a clear understanding of the history of the school already, could easily replace Moore, work with the last democratically appointed Board and Peggy to get the school back on track,” says Mr Finch.
He says the petition for Mrs Burrows reinstatement has been reactivated since the determination and now has over 1960 signatures – 25 percent from Rangiora, the remainder from all over New Zealand and 27 countries worldwide covering six continents.