ELEEBANA Public School parents are “frustrated and disappointed” about what they say is a lack of transparency around the Department of Education’s merit selection process to choose a new principal, which saw only one candidate interviewed.
Parents have collected more than 340 signatures on a Change.org petition asking for the department to review what they have described as a “broken commitment” to re-write the criteria for the role and re-advertise it, after a six-month process involving the appointment of three selection panels.
Mother Anna Colquhoun said the school’s relieving principal Dr Carl Leonard, who was previously deputy principal for five years, applied for but was not interviewed for the role.
It was given to Lucinda Farrell, who previously led Hillsborough Public.
An appeal against the process was dismissed last week.
“This has never been about trying to engineer an outcome, but ensuring everyone who was qualified and committed to the school had an equal opportunity,” Ms Colquhoun said.
“We don’t know the new principal and this is not about questioning her qualifications or experience.
“But the process by which she has been appointed raises too many questions for us to have faith that the outcome is what’s best for our community.
“We want an urgent, independent investigation into the processes followed by the department.
“We’re concerned our representatives did not have an equal voice and that despite our growing concerns, the department failed to make good on promises made to us along the way.”
A department spokesperson said the final panel’s decision was unanimous.
“A highly respected and experienced principal was the successful applicant through this appropriately convened process,” the spokesperson said.
“The P&C-nominated parent representatives were part of this merit selection panel at each step of this process.
“Each panel member has been an equal participant in discussion, assessment and decision making.
“This principal panel process overran anticipated timelines because of the unexpected withdrawal of members of the selection panel and because sufficient time was provided for all stakeholders to finalise their representatives on the panel.
“Every stage of the merit selection process followed the department’s recruitment requirements and advice.”
Dr Leonard became relieving principal at the end of 2017 and the permanent role was advertised in May.
A selection panel was formed, comprising a director of educational leadership who acted as convenor; a principal; a parent representative and a teacher representative.
Panel members were trained and told all stages of the selection process must be kept confidential.
Members wrote specific selection criteria and the advertisement for the position.
The panel was later dissolved because it was unable to make a determination.
Brisbane Waters director of educational leadership Karen Jones was appointed as convenor of a second panel.
Ms Colquhoun said Ms Jones told the August P&C meeting she would bring applicants up to date on the process.
But this did not occur.
“Applicants had not been given any further information,” Ms Colquhoun said.
“We wanted to make sure we did not lose anyone along the way.”
The second panel started assessing applicants for shortlisting but both the parent and teacher representatives resigned a short time later.
The parent wrote a minority report, which is required in the case of a dissenting viewpoint.
“We were very concerned,” Ms Colquhoun said.
“We had a representative voting with their feet and unable to say what they were worried about.”
Ms Jones called through to a September P&C meeting.
“She assured parents if they put forward a third representative the parent or teacher could request to start the process from the beginning, by re-wording the criteria and re-advertising the position,” Ms Colquhoun said.
“The third panel met, the process wasn’t restarted and they had to continue from where the second panel left off.”
A fifth member was appointed to the third panel.
Ms Farrell was the only candidate interviewed and announced as successful on November 19, despite the 10 day appeal period not having yet lapsed.
Ms Colquhoun said parents were “frustrated, disappointed and absolutely shocked”.
“With Dr Leonard’s ability, how was he not considered worthy of an interview?”
She said he’d made a “outstanding impact”, “but he is not behind what we are doing”.
“It’s quite insulting to our community for it to be suggested that he is behind our efforts.
“We’re a switched on parent group led by our own experience and concerns.”
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