Sacked school head wants job back


Sacked Pamapuria Primary School principal Stephen Hovell claims he has been made a scapegoat for James Parker, the former deputy principal who is in prison after admitting 49 sex offences involving about 15 boys at the school.

Mr Hovell said after his dismissal last week that he intended seeking an Employment Relations Authority order reinstating him to the job he had held since 1989.

His lawyer, Bryce Quarrie, of Kaitaia, said: "The evil person, the culpable person, in all of this always has been James Parker."

The Ministry of Education replaced the school board of trustees with Commissioner Larry Forbes after the paedophile scandal engulfed the school following Parker's arrest in July last year. Mr Forbes suspended Mr Hovell the following month.

Last week, when asked about the reasons for Mr Hovell's dismissal, Mr Forbes said: "Given that there is likely to be a challenge to the decision I can't respond with specifics at the moment."

The commissioner indicated he would make contact with the Age and answer questions about Mr Hovell's "non-return" to the school as soon as he could.

Advertising for a new principal would begin "as soon as possible".

A report which the school commissioned from Auckland barrister Robin Arthur late last year said Mr Hovell hadn't done enough after parents, other teachers and police raised concerns about Parker.

Following an investigation of these concerns in 2009, police wrote to Mr Howell advising complaints made against Parker had been retracted. The principal and board of trustees chairperson instructed Parker not to take children to his home.

Mr Quarrie said that Commissioner Forbes had told Mr Hovell not to talk to the media. The gagging order had stopped him responding publicly to comments being made, "effectively throwing responsibility on him for the whole affair."

The commissioner came into Pamapuria like the sheriff riding into Dodge City - to clean it up, Mr Quarrie said.

"It seems that something had to be seen to be done. We do not believe Stephen Hovell should be held accountable for the actions of James Parker."

A mother of two boys targeted by Parker said she didn't hold Mr Hovell responsible: "There's nothing wrong with Mr Hovell. He didn't do that to the children. He is still a good person."

But another mother was pleased the principal had lost his job. "I think he should be accountable for what happened, " she said.

A man with friends among Pamapuria parents said their main concern was that while the issue was being highlighted by media their children were being bullied over contact with Parker.

- Northland Age

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