Discredited principal employed by ministry

By Nicholas Jones, APNZ staff

Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney (pictured) raised the issue of Deborah Anne Mutu's employment in Parliament. Photo / Christine Cornege
Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney (pictured) raised the issue of Deborah Anne Mutu's employment in Parliament. Photo / Christine Cornege

Labour has accused former education minister Anne Tolley of misleading the public over what she knew about a suspended school principal's appointment as an expert adviser.

Deborah Anne Mutu resigned as principal at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Kaikohe in 2008 after her husband John Hone Mutu was suspended by the school's board of trustees the previous year.

But she later worked for the Ministry of Education as an "expert'' adviser to principals.

The Mutus have been deregistered for serious misconduct and ordered to pay $20,000 each in costs following a hearing by the New Zealand Teachers' Disciplinary Tribunal.

A hearing in October was told a series of incidents involving Mr Mutu took place between 2004 and 2007.

In one case, Ms Mutu ordered staff to tear up the written complaint of a 15-year-old student alleging Mr Mutu had visited her at home and kissed her.

The girl's brother-in-law arrived to find the two together and punched Mr Mutu.

She told the hearing that at the time she did not believe her husband - from whom she has since separated - could behave that way.

Ms Mutu was employed in February by the Ministry of Education as one of 46 student achievement practitioners - "experts'' paid to advise principals.

A Ministry of Education spokesman said Ms Mutu was seconded from another organisation, but the secondment was terminated in October when the ministry became aware of the disciplinary proceedings against her.

In October, Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney raised Ms Mutu's employment in Parliament.

Mrs Tolley responded that Ms Mutu had never been suspended from her job at Te Kura School and dismissed concerns about her background.

Mrs Tolley said the ministry had done "extensive research into the background of the over-500 applicants'' for the 46 student achievement practitioner roles.

She said at the time the questioning was "more muck-raking from Labour''.

Ms Moroney today said there were questions about how much Mrs Tolley, who has since been made police minister in Prime Minister John Key's new Cabinet, knew at the time.

"Anne Tolley stood in Parliament and misled the public by saying that there was no principal that had been suspended who was employed in this role. Now either she hadn't checked her facts correctly, or she knew the information and was deliberately misleading,'' she told Radio New Zealand.

"I think the Prime Minister needs to satisfy himself that he has a minister of police who knows what is inappropriate in terms of dealing with issues of sexual conduct, and I believe that the Prime Minister should be holding an investigation to find out whether the minister in fact did know all the background of Deborah Mutu when she stood up in Parliament and gave those answers.''

Ms Moroney said the ministry would have known when it appointed Ms Mutu.

"What I want to know is did the minister also know that information?''

Whangarei principal Pat Newman also questioned why the Ministry of Education was appointing specialist advisers who were unfit for the roles.

"It's appalling ... it really questions in my mind the appointment processes used by the Ministry of Education in Northland, how they could appoint a person with that background,'' he told Radio New Zealand.

"They can't say they didn't know the background even though they've tried to, because they were involved in that kura in 2008 and 2009 sorting out the mess.''

Mr Newman wanted to know why Mrs Tolley told Parliament the ministry had not hired a suspended kura principal.

Newly appointed Education Minister Hekia Parata said she had been assured that the ministry had since put in place a rigorous process for secondments, including background checks.

- NZ Herald

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