Bill d’Apice
11 November 2011

Dismissal of school principals – guidelines for Board members

Bill d’Apice


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The issue
We are familiar with situations where parents of school children express serious concerns about a school Principal. What happens where this is coupled with a call for the dismissal of the school Principal? How should Board members deal with this?
As reported in”School Toilet Furore Rages On” in The Ageon 26 August 2011 a similar situation arose at the Kew Primary School in August this year.
Here are some suggested approaches for Board members:

  • Maintain independence and objectivity – especially when an incident has been reported in the media – maintain distance from the sensationalism of a ‘trial by media’.
  • Review the facts in a considered and methodical way.
  • Afford procedural fairness to the Principal. (Courts view with disfavour an employer which does not afford an employee satisfactory opportunities to express their views).
  • Carefully review the contract that the School has with the Principal. For instance, consider whether it is governed by federal or state employment laws. It may be necessary to obtain independent legal advice on this; the nature of the legal entity and the level of salary will be important factors in determining which law is applicable.
  • Where settling a possible claim by a Principal, consider obtaining independent legal advice in regard to the obligations of the School and the Principal.
  • Be very conscious of the potential legal impact of humiliation and stress suffered by a Principal involved in such negotiations.

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