Carenne Special School staff speak out
Posted August 25th, 2009 by jules85
I was fortunate to be invited to a meeting at the weekend where a group of four passionate educators met to discuss how to "save their school" following a mass of issues which the school executive, district office and the Employee Performance and Conduct Unit has refused to act upon. The group claims that the department is more interested in protecting a select few than fixing major problems.
The group contacted me asking if I would be interested in reporting on aspects of the meeting after discovering articles on Indymedia about their school. The only condition attached - complete anonymity.
After a three hour trip West of the Blue Mountains, I arrived in Bathurst and made my way to the restaurant where the group told me to meet them. I waited outside for a short time, wondering if my new found friends were going to show up or if I had been stood up.
After a while, a nervous looking woman came out and inquired "Are you Miss Brown?"
I responded "Yes" and followed the woman into the restaurant where the group was sitting. All four of those in attendance appeared jittery and nervous and every time the front door closed they were looking, making sure it wasn't someone they knew. One of the group told me "We are taking a huge risk by meeting here tonight, our careers will be over if anyone finds out."
Another said "you must realise that the only real opportunity for special education teachers and aides in Bathurst is Carenne."
It was immediately apparent the fear and apprehension that these people were feeling. They had taken a big step simply meeting in public, let alone with a journalist. At any time, Bathurst being the small town it is, someone they knew could walk in and see what was happening.
The group told me that they had been making complaints about Carenne for years, particularly about those close to the school executive who engage in misconduct. The group alleges that some of its members reported the relationship between a teacher and student only to be told they were "being stupid" and fobbed off by former school principal Jock Roxborough. Following the report, they claim they were harassed by an assistant principal and her close associates for being trouble-makers.
The group alleges that despite them reporting it well before the department investigation, they have never been asked to make a statement for the unfair dismissal or civil cases. They claim the department has only asked those who will collude and lie to provide statements supporting its defence into the relationship.
In October 2008, the group became concerned about an incident involving a bus escort and a student. They reported it to then principal Terry Mahony and were then subject to a number of attacks by the escort. When the escort began harassing parents at home after hours, the group decided it would begin writing complaints to sections of the department using an alias.
During our meeting, the group expressed astonishment at what they called the "gullibility" of the education department. With court cases surrounding the student sex affair and the unfair dismissal of Brian Carter involving the same people, the group can not believe the department continues to protect those involved. Because of this protection, those who are involved are able to target anyone they wish.
The group told me that there was a major crisis at the school, with staff being plotted against, harassed and setup. They said they no longer had anywhere to turn with Peter Harvey the local School Education Director doing nothing and the Employee Performance and Conduct Unit interested in finding out who is complaining rather than investigating the matters.
One of the group said "Peter Harvey showed his true colours on Wednesday, he has no interest in solving problems. He just wants the problems to go away,"
"He knows who sent letters and what-not and he was there denying that they came from the school."
Some of the matters complained about by the group are :-
•Breaches of the department's duty of care to students. They allege that in June a student got access to medication which was left unlocked in a teacher's desk and overdosed requiring a visit to the hospital which the school executive attempted to cover-up until it was exposed to the School Education Director.
•Threats of violence and defamatory remarks. Staff speak about how they would like to cause serious harm to whistleblower Brian Carter and student sex victim David Withyman for causing trouble for the school. Members of the school executive often join in or laugh at the comments.
•Nepotism in staffing. The principal's husband is given office work and a teachers aide's husband has been given the groundsman's position.
•Setups. An assistant principal has bragged about planting evidence and spooked staff about one of his theories in order to have another member of staff dismissed and items have been stolen from a teacher so that other's enemies are implicated in the theft.
•Access to information held by NSW Police. Due to a relationship between a Police officer and a school staff member, information held by Police has been leaked to the school.
•Letters sent by staff to set others up. The group has identified to the department who is sending anonymous letters complaining about school staff, which often are sent by those who the letter complains about in order to set someone else up.
•Circumventing legislation. They claim they were told by the principal not to refer to certain people in documents and instead use pseudonyms so they can't access them under Freedom of Information legislation.
The group says because of this they must regrettably take their cause public and expose what is happening at the school.
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