Marlene Campbell triumphs in judge’s decision

In a judgement just out Marlene has won compensation and near full costs. The judge’s decision was uncompromising.

  • The decision to suspend Ms Campbell was not a conclusion in which a fair and reasonable employer could have reached in all the circumstances so that her disadvantage was established.
  • The decision to dismiss Ms Campbell was not a conclusion which fair and reasonable employer could have reached in all the circumstances so that her dismissal grievance was established.

And the costs flowed …

I can’t praise the bravery of Marlene Campbell more highly.

She has been the victim of horrific political and bureaucratic cruelty. It started with one complainant that didn’t go to proper process, then to Anne Tolley’s office from which was directed all the bureaucratic power she could muster, and the jackals went to work.  The minister’s office at that time was all over the editorial office of the Southland Times with heavy bias apparent throughout.

Then Hekia Parata joined in the attack.

Ministers of Education used their office for political vengeance; Katrina Casey in the minister’s office was something else again; the education review displayed phenomenal bias; and then there were the statutory managers and commissioners – the system is invidious, and the people used seem to come across as enjoying taunting and inflicting humiliation on principals – all the time, of course, bayed on by the ministers and ministry personnel.

This was payback time for the opposition to national standards.

I wrote a posting called: Marlene Campbell: The Dreyfus Case of New Zealand education. The following was part of it.

Key juncture one

In June, 2012, the school’s regular ERO visit took place. On the second day Marlene Campbell was told that ERO intended to use the review to investigate anonymous complaints that had been made against her. Marlene Campbell asked for details so she could respond but was refused them; she was steamrolled, the matter was then simply reported to the ministry recommending an investigation.

Predetermination laid bare.

This was a put-up job. The matter was really a carry-on from the Ann Tolley regime. Hekia Parata and the ERO and ministry bureaucrats, though, proved only too willing to continue this terrible thing.

The moment the Marlene Campbell complaint letter arrived at the ERO, the opportunity was seized by the bureaucracies as manna from heaven and the letter was quickly passed onto the ministry, being well practised in what to do.

ERO made no judgements as to the merits of the complaint because that might well have contaminated it with the odd fact or two; the intention, I suggest, being to keep the complaint free of detail so the ministry could provide its own, to be magnified beyond belief, mountained from a molehill, imaginatively reconfigured.

How on earth could anyone respond sensibly to an anonymous complaint, by definition absent of context, expressed in general terms?

This is unconscionable.

Key juncture two

Peter McDonald was appointed limited statutory manager. He did two things.

First, he announced almost immediately and without consultation that the only way to solve the matter was for Marlene Campbell to leave. Just like that.

Predetermination laid bare.

Of course, Marlene Campbell refused.

Secondly, a teacher at the school who had, following due process, been demoted by the board of trustees with the agreement of NZEI, was reappointed to a senior position after what has the appearance of some very partial manoeuvres. Just like that.

Are you flabbergasted?

Then, amazing goings-on for a year and a half.

Key juncture three

McDonald in the year and a half that followed, in sinister mode, tried to find fault in Marlene Campbell’s behaviour; find facts, as I see it, to fit a pre-determined judgement, but failed.

The chairperson of the board of trustees and the board then became totally exasperated at the cost and terribleness of the situation so, to force the ministry’s hand, resigned. In doing this, the chairperson reiterated his utmost confidence in Marlene Campbell, declaring her a most wonderful and exceptional principal.

McDonald seems to have panicked. Out of the blue, he accused Marlene Campbell of a specific instance of bullying. (This was, of course, later utterly disproved.)

He put her on leave.

Four days later his term as LSM ended, to be replaced by a commissioner, Nicola Hornsey,

Key juncture four

The appointment of commissioner was the signal for frantic efforts to dig the ministry out of the hole it had dug itself into. That hole, however, only became a concern to the ministry when Marlene Campbell didn’t capitulate.

The commissioner said she would finish the investigatory process before the start of the school year. She failed to do so.

Marlene Campbell was dismissed on March 6, 2014.

This is all so terrible and unjust that it is difficult to take in.

Throughout the one and a half years, the bureaucrats have, almost without exception, refused to provide details of allegations, particularly unreasonable given that on the very few occasions when they have been provided, they were proved to be nonsense. The only charges remaining are unsubstantiated generalisations.

Significantly, in her final report, the commissioner pulled back from some of the allegations previously offered as the reasons for Marlene Campbell’s suspension and made some attempts to correct gross procedural errors.

The ministry case, by these very actions, lies in shreds.

Clearly, the delay in presenting the final report involved a going to and fro about how the report could backtrack without making the LSM, the ministry, and the commissioner look complete idiots. The final report failed, because they do.

Think of the harm all this has done to the fabric of education, indeed, New Zealand society, the tearing at the threads.

It is pure Kafkan in its terribleness, and it’s here in our little country.

The motive was malice; the process travesty; the outcome horrendous.

The politicians sat back, confident that no harm would come their way. Their plan had worked before, why not with this prime target?  Send in ERO complete with anonymous letter murmuring mysteriously about matters needing investigation and then quickly hand over to the ministry to enable it to appoint a statutory manager who could proceed to take outrageous advantage of the assumption of good faith in authority. The process from there is well established: the principal muzzled; the statutory manager goes fault fishing; the principal’s position destabilised with occasional releases of information to various directions; the cost of the statutory manager is used to turn the school against the principal; time is prolonged in the hope that new elections would bring in anti-principal trustees; and, failing all that, wait for the huge legal cost to make the principal have to excruciatingly balance fighting for justice against welfare of his or her family.

But with Marlene Campbell things didn’t work out per usual. Hence the current situation. This dogged and brave principal deserves our help and support.

I accuse the ministers and ministry of false accusation and misrepresentation of justice from lurid obsession. An overstated analogy? I say given the New Zealand context it isn’t, and given the elements of injustice involved, worth pondering. Anyway, if you were Marlene Campbell would you be splitting hairs?

The government and the education bureaucracies have declared deep and unrelenting antipathy to the idea of public education. When is the penny going to drop?

When are we going to unite on enough is enough?

 

And to bring you up to now – would you believe that yesterday (19 October, 2015) the Southland Times was at it again, this time with an incompetent journalist, someone called Ben Mack.

Salford School is looking for a new principal Mack declares – the result of ‘a judge (denying) a former principal of the Invercargill school’s bid for reinstatement’.

‘Marlene Campbell was principal of the school from 2006 until March 2014, when she was sacked by school commissioner Nicola Hornsey.’

This read terribly and so unfairly for Marlene.

But then Mack was good enough to report that the judge had ‘ruled she had been unjustifiably dismissed’.

Did that give you pause Mack?

Did that give you pause to change from your prevailing tone.

Not even a brief moment to weigh things up?

You have a tin ear for the truth and injustice Ben Mack, try another occupation.

You were replaying the terrible cruelty that had been inflicted on Marlene for so long.

You see Mack, the reason why the judge didn’t reinstate Marlene was because the biased, the stupid, the ignorant, or the incompetent (feel free to choose your category Mack; on the whole I suggest the last, though it’s a close-run thing) would continually return to stir things up which, as even you might comprehend, would have worked to the detriment of the children. But Marlene’s victory is now so comprehensive, the injustice so nakedly exposed, and your new job shucking oysters so timely, we can perhaps live in hope she might win where she wasn’t reinstated.

‘Acting principal Fleck’ was then interviewed and what was reported was somewhat unfortunate; that could well have been the reporting, so let’s just leave it at that.

What follows then is the cosmic hypocrisy and arrogance that is Katrina Casey.

Remember: Marlene had been unjustifiably suspended and dismissed by the combined decision-making of Casey and Hornsey.

Casey had the gall to say ‘hiring a permanent principal would provide stability and leadership at the school’ … it was your conniving and illegal behaviour that caused the instability. For goodness sake! What kind of monstrous bureaucrat are you?

Casey then went on to say that ‘commissioner Nicola Hornsey, who was appointed to govern the school in 2013 had made ‘good progress in addressing the challenges the school faces’. The only challenges you nitwit were your agents acting illegally.

What Casey and Hornsey had lost in the courts they were trying to win in the media.

Then the whopping costs came out today.

Yay! Marlene won you lost (but not really but you know what I mean).

I’ll leave the last word to DaniGrace – good on you DaniGrace, you didn’t forget and stayed by your principal.

Really disappointed, I have two children at Salford and I went there also. Salford is not as good as it was when Marlene was principal. She actually cared about the students and out of school activities for them; she got to know all of the families; she would be involved with everything. It will take someone as good as Marlene to bring Salford back to how it was, good luck finding that.

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4 Responses to Marlene Campbell triumphs in judge’s decision

  1. chris.bayes@xtra.co.nz says:

    Hi Kelvin I read the judgement and thought it was a lose/lose situation all round. Human beings behaving badly and a definite lack of professionalism. I certainly don’t think the Principal at the centre of the case ‘triumphed’ in the judges decision. In fact her behaviour was less than the standard I hold for a Principal. Regards Chris

  2. Kelvin says:

    The behaviour reported was done through the instruments of the bureaucracies. At no stage did they use proper process to put it under scrutiny, if they had it would have been shown to be fantasy. There still isn’t any instance of any incorrect behaviour. The judge had to repeat some of the bureaucratic reconstructions as a matter of form not fact. My write-up demonstrates the sequence. She was a leader against national standards, Cameron Slater was used. There was no improper behaviour of any sort, nothing of any sort. My Kafkan description of putting the person under the control of the bureaucracies, controlling the media, then scrounging around to find something, even if minor, was what happened They couldn’t find anything even then. Look at the implications for something that was nothing. Putting a principal’s vocation to death like a dog, and the shame to continue beyond that death. My sequence and key junctures must be read. Right to the end they tried to win the matter they had lost. It was a triumph of will for Marlene and innocence.

  3. stephen dadelus says:

    Marlene did the best she could but there were other agendas operating. If the Board, Principal and staff were left to sort it out with a respected and experienced senior primary school Principal supporting them, the outcomes could have been very different. For me the villain of the piece was Macdonald – an incompetent upstart. Its hard to understand why the Ministry had him as their go to person. Those making that call in the Ministry were inept to say the least. Marlene found herself in a no win situation and her courage and determination to pursue justice for herself is commendable. The judgement narrative should be required reading for principals, board chairs and MoE senior managers e.g. the Katrina Casey’s of head office!! So much damage done to so many good people and for what?
    Over the past few years, I have read about this ongoing debacle through your postings Kelvin, and having now read the thorough and cohesive judgement delivered by Judge Corkill, I can see why you championed Marlene Campbell from day one.

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