Auckland's troubled McAuley High School will find out this week whether the Ministry of Education will intervene after the loss of two top staff and a police warning to a senior teacher.

Police Detective Inspector Colin Higson has confirmed that police investigated an alleged assault by a male teacher on a student at the Catholic girls' school in Ōtāhuhu on May 23.

"Police carried out a thorough investigation and a 61-year-old male was formally warned in relation to this matter," he said.

The teacher, who taught Samoan language, was placed on leave soon after the incident, but about 200 students and parents protested at a board of trustees meeting in June, singing hymns to support a request for a Samoan-speaking teacher.


Students protested at the school during August with placards saying "No to Babysitters", claiming fill-in teachers who could not speak Samoan were merely "babysitting" them.

Students holding placards saying
Students holding placards saying "No to babysitters" at McAuley High School on August 10. Photo / Facebook

Principal Xanthe Sulzberger, who was hired from a deputy principal role at Mt Roskill Grammar to lead McAuley from the start of this year, took "leave" in late August, and former long-serving principal Anne Miles is now acting principal.

Board of trustees chairwoman Joe Anne Tongotea said one of the two deputy principals resigned last month and her job is now being advertised.

"With regards to our principal Xanthe Sulzberger, she is currently away," Tongotea said.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the ministry has "requested to meet with the Board and the Catholic Diocese during the week of October 15 to communicate our preliminary decision regarding statutory intervention".

A statutory intervention could range from appointing a limited statutory manager to work with the board through to appointing a commissioner to replace the board.

"We recognise that McAuley High School is facing some challenges," she said.

"The principal contacted us in June about a matter involving a teacher at the school and asked for our support. That matter is now before the Education Council.

"While working with the school during this time, we recognised that the overall operation of the school was being impacted.

"We have been closely monitoring the situation and have been meeting with the board of trustees, most recently on August 31, to discuss our concerns and also what further support we can provide, including statutory support.

"The board has declined the offer of statutory support stating that it had a plan of action to address the current issues. We asked the board to provide its plan to us to inform our decision-making regarding whether or not a statutory intervention was needed."

Tongotea said the board "cannot comment on employment matters but can confirm that we take all matters relating to safety and wellbeing very seriously and liaise with appropriate organisations as relevant".

"Our students and their interests sit at the heart of our school and decision-making," she said.

"Personnel matters are complex and need to be handled carefully and sensitively. Our board has sought advice from the NZ School Trustees Association and been updating and in communication with the Ministry of Education.

"Each member of our Board is committed to stepping through this appropriately and meeting all of our responsibilities.

"I can also confirm that our board of trustees looks forward to meeting with the Ministry of Education to give them an update and develop a shared understanding of the best way forward.

"In the meantime we are doing everything needed to ensure that this does not impact on our students and the high quality education that we provide. We as a board are completely confident our students are safe."

McAuley High School student leaders in 2014 when the school was judged among the best in the country, from left Hinemoa Finau, Selena Tugaga, Hazel Celeste and Lidia Araboo. Photo / File
McAuley High School student leaders in 2014 when the school was judged among the best in the country, from left Hinemoa Finau, Selena Tugaga, Hazel Celeste and Lidia Araboo. Photo / File

McAuley High School had 775 students on September 13, of whom 676 (87 per cent) were Pasifika.

Under Miles the school was one of the country's best-performing decile 1 schools and was profiled by the Education Review Office in 2014 as one of seven secondary schools achieving the most "equitable outcomes" nationally for disadvantaged students.

As well as the deputy principal's role, the Education Gazette currently lists vacancies at the school for a te reo Māori/Religious Education teacher, a dance or drama teacher, assistant heads of English and Science, and what appear to be alternate vacancies for general English and science teachers in case senior teachers could not be found.