Principal fights to keep job

By Kathryn Powley

School failed to protect kids: report.

James Parker. Photo / TVNZ
James Parker. Photo / TVNZ

A school principal is fighting to return to work despite a scathing report about how his deputy - a prolific paedophile - was able to prey on young students.

Stephen Hovell has been on leave from Pamapuria School near Kaitaia since August, when James Parker was charged with numerous child sex offences.

Parker pleaded guilty to 49 charges and has not yet pleaded on 23 other charges, including four of sexual violation of male pupils.

Hovell has kept silent but his lawyer, Bryce Quarrie, an employment law specialist, said he was keen to return to work in the New Year.

"Stephen is employed by the school. Is and always has been, throughout all of this. It is his wish to resume duties."

Hovell was now dealing with an "employment issue".

He had earlier been advised not to speak to Robin Arthur, the barrister who conducted a report for the school's commissioner on why the school failed to provide a safe environment for students. The report was critical of Hovell's "inadequate" response to concerns about Parker's sleepovers.

Quarrie said Hovell was preparing his response to the report. He said Parker was an "incredibly smart operator" who sought out his victims through Maori kapa haka.

Commissioner Larry Forbes would not comment on Hovell any further than to say there was "a process" which must be followed. "We are still working through the process of making decisions around Mr Hovell's future employment. There has been no further progress."

A meeting between the parties is scheduled for this week.

- Herald on Sunday

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