ERA finds sacking of principal was justified

By Mike Dinsdale

Bay of Islands College was justified in sacking principal Elgin Edwards the Employment Relations Authority has found, saying his "abrupt righteousness" did him little service at the school.

Carol Anderson, the school's limited statutory manager (LSM), dismissed Mr Edwards in April this year, citing serious misconduct and irreconcilable differences. He was appointed in 2010, and although the roll grew and NCEA achievement rates improved, his tenure was marked by division. Ms Anderson said the key relationships within the school and external stakeholders and Mr Edwards had irretrievably broken down.

Mr Edwards claimed his dismissal was unjustified and sought reinstatement. The case was heard by Employment Relations Authority (ERA) member James Crichton in Whangarei last month. In his just-released decision Mr Crichton found Mr Edwards's dismissal was justified.

In his evidence to the ERA Mr Edwards acknowledged that in hindsight he would do some things differently. He had taken the job partly for the challenge of turning the school around. Mr Edwards felt he got little or no help from senior staff, and some were "unyielding" to change.

Mr Edwards said yesterday he was looking at possibly going to the Employment Court.

Mr Crichton said in the circumstances of this case, the dismissal occurred in the context of a long-running dispute between Mr Edwards and a succession of employer parties about his behaviour in the workplace and in particular about his inability to build wholesome relationships with the people around him.

"That particular facet of the disputation had been a constant factor from the very beginning," he said.

"One has to only look at the evidence from members of the original Board of Trustees, the Board's letter to Mr Edwards in the middle of 2011, and then the exchanges between Mr Edwards and two succeeding LSMs on the other to identify that a constant theme was Mr Edwards' apparent inability to build enduring relationships with other stakeholders in the school community and his explicit refusal until the ERA's investigation meeting to accept that he had ever done anything wrong.

"This abrupt righteousness which seems characteristic of his behaviour in his time at the school has done him little service."

Mr Crichton said taking all matters into account his considered view is that it was available to Ms Anderson to reach conclusions Mr Edwards had been guilty of serious misconduct and the only sanction appropriate in all the circumstances was dismissal on notice.

- Northern Advocate

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