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Mob Rule the winner - Principal elects to resign

Posted on 17 May 2018
Mob Rule the winner - Principal elects to resign

The following article appeared in today's copy of The Age. If it was an isolated incident, one would see it as very unfortunate for a highly committed and capable school leader, but unfortunately it would seem that it is anything but unique.  As noted elsewhere, some of our CaSPA principals are being subjected to similar attacks in Sydney while the CaSPA Conference planned for Cairns in July continues to be the target for ultra conservatives who question whether our schools belong to the Church and adhere to the "authority of the Bishops". A short visit to the website of one of these groups - ChurchMilitant - at least gives one comfort that we do not subscribe to the sad and belittling "teachings" of the church they claim allegiance to....

It can't be easy running a school these days. Parents invest so much hope and expectation in their children's education, and some invest a lot of money, too.
At the same time we seem to lack faith in the education system we feel that things aren't quite right, and that they certainly aren't what they once were. Many don't like the way schools have changed.

And while in the past the school gate may have been the main forum for parents to air their unhappiness, these days even slight grumbles can be quickly amplified by social and other media.
Dr Michael Davies [pictured above] knows the difficulty better than most. On Tuesday morning Dr Davies announced that he would step down as headmaster of Trinity Grammar School in Kew at the end of the current term.
His resignation follows months of disquiet and unrest in the school community.
In March, Trinity's deputy headmaster, Rohan Brown, was sacked by the school council for cutting a boy's hair before a school photo session.

To an outside observer, the sacking didn't look unreasonable: you'd think the days of a teacher taking to a student's below-the-collar hair with a pair of scissors were long gone, and in sacking Rohan Brown, the school council was making exactly that point.
But after protests by students - who wore casual clothes instead of their uniforms - and a campaign by some parents and old boys, Dr Davies announced an independent review of Mr Brown's sacking.
The review found that although Mr Brown had contravened the school's disciplinary procedures, he should be reinstated. (The review also recommended that if Mr Brown returned to the school, the headmaster should advise him that "he should never in any circumstances cut a student's hair".)
The scandal at the private school in Kew shows no sign of slowing down with many students wearing brown armbands to honour a sacked staff member.

Dr Davies was criticised by some in the school community (including vocal old boys) for changing Trinity's culture. David Baumgartner, president of the Old Trinity Grammarians' Association, attacked what he said was Dr Davies' increased focus on academic results at the expense of producing well-rounded young men.

Some parents disagreed, one telling the ABC, "For the four years that Michael Davies has been there we've seen the school just go from strength to strength."
At a community meeting in March, more than 1500 parents, students and former students called for Dr Davies and the school council to resign. A separate vote found that just 26 per cent of staff at the school supported the headmaster.
Yet in reluctantly accepting his resignation this week, the current school council chairman, Robert Utter, said: "Over the past four and a half years, Dr Davies has been instrumental in the school's continuing evolution as a leading private educational institution. Michael, with support from a team of highly-regarded teachers and educational leaders, has implemented an impressive list of academic, outreach and co-curricular initiatives at Trinity."
It seems that Dr Davies was trying to bring the 115-year-old Anglican grammar school into the 21st century, and not everybody was happy about it.
Whether his resignation will be a good thing for the school or a bad thing will be debated for some time to come. But the circumstances in which Dr Davies came to his decision amid the clamour of an angry mob should fill us all with disquiet.

From: The Age 16 May 2018 11:20am

by Matt Holden, an Age columnist.

Tags: Governance Identity

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