A famous victory for Peggy Burrows

The famous victory was for Peggy Burrows along with her wonderful supporters, including Marlene Campbell, Paul Finch, her lawyer, and many from the school and community.

I accept, however, that networkonnet kept charging into the issue, keeping it in the headlines, saying things others might have been loath to, maintaining morale, and generally needling.  Intermingled with this always the intent of getting it right. There might be a fierce anger expressed in the network columns at perceived injustice, misuse of power, but I have always tried to get it right on the basis of sound argument.

In recent times there have been significant wins against extreme prejudice as the government proceeded to put down those leaders who fought national standards. What a victory for the indomitable Marlene Campbell! And then there was the behaviour of the ignorant and boorish education review officer at Opua. The education review office went this way and that to avoid responsibility, including sending in senior officers to bale up and bully senior school personnel. But there was, eventually, a complete back down (except for an apology).

In the case of the wonderful Peggy Burrows (my goodness what she has been through) the Employment Relations Authority comprehensively upheld the appeal on all three grounds. She was completely exonerated. There is much more to come but that can wait.

The decision comprehensively upheld he appeal for wrongful dismissal, awarding her one of the highest awards ever: $150,000 plus costs.

‘I believe,’ Peggy said, ‘this was always about getting me out so the ministry could control the school and its $14 million in financial assets.’

Key points from the determination were that:

  • Had Peggy Burrows not been dismissed she would still have been principal
  • Peggy Burrows did not contribute in any way to which to the issues on which the commissioner based her decisions to dismiss
  • There were no grounds for dismissal.

Often an award will be reduced in some way because the person dismissed has contributed in some way to the dismissal, however, in this case, no reduction was made was made.

Were you in at the beginning of the this terrible matter – when reports in the Christchurch Press insinuated impropriety with finances and then charged that Peggy did not have approval to go to an international conference to deliver an address (by invitation) on her doctorate (Maori children’s learning)? That insinuation and charge was engineered by the to-be commissioner in a mischievously redacted secret report and not countered by her when, as commissioner, she knew it to be wrong.

But this morally and legally reprehensible commissioner continues in her job, poisoning the atmosphere of Rangiora High School, hanging in there, creating confusion, telling whoppers, while Peggy has lost her job – where is the justice in that?

And parents of Rangiora High School and community members – this individual is still saying she is going to raid the school finances to pay for her unlawful, lavish-expenditure, duration.

In the next posting, I will prove once again, to absolute certainty, that the school-owned finances cannot be used for school capital development, expenses, or matters of that sort. She talks about a caveat, saying she has hunted high and low, and cannot find it – she rabbited on about this right from the start, and continues to do so. How the money can be spent, you individual you, is spelt out in the legislation, not free floating as though something to be sought – and no post-modern legal interpretation by a ministry legal lackey (brought in after the initial lawyer refused to co-operate) will, in the end, controvert that.

This individual should be kept right away from school money (and children and schools).


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15 Responses to A famous victory for Peggy Burrows

  1. Vern Stevens says:

    Congratulations to Peggy, she thoroughly deserves every cent of that payment.

    • Pippa Wright says:

      I too feel glad that Peggy has won. However no $$$$ can compensate for being put through such an unfair and undeserved process. 😦 Kia kaha Peggy.

  2. Tony Hamilton says:

    No amount of money can compensate for the loss of job and career. This commissioner individual, and the MOE, need to stop dreaming up alternative facts to suit themselves. Great job Kelvin keeping us well informed, and for contributing to a “successful” outcome.

  3. Kelvin says:

    An Auckland educator writes:

    Hi Kelvin

    Great news and true to your predictions! Bev Moore now involved in finding her replacement … Grrrrrrr.

    ANOTHER TOPIC … Did you read the NZ Herald article about the NZEI’s study about the stress that Principals are under

    Sure … But should they not be looking at the flow-on effect to their grass-roots members – the teachers themselves.

    I keep hearing about the stresses teachers are under as they run around in circles, keep changing tack, loading everyone up.

    As for the response from the MOE that Communities of Schools will lower stress – what a laugh.

    Best wishes for the New Year.

  4. Paul says:

    The attack on Peggy is kind of threatened everywhere of late. ERO whose work at Opua and in other locations was disgraceful leaves even the very most hard working and capable school under threat for reasons other than those related to teaching and learning – political reasons. It is hard sometimes to resist being quiet and falling into line – but a quick reminder that doing so is an abrogation of ones responsibilities as not only a principal but also a caring person must keep us continuing the fight. Thanks for your work Kelvin.

  5. James McFadden says:

    Please read the ERA determination. Burrows was not exonerated. The ERA rules on process, not guilt or innocence. Burrows lost all but one of her claims for disadvantage and was awarded $20,000 (plus salary until the hearing date, which is standard practice in a ruling of unjustified dismissal). Burrows was not awarded costs. The reasons for her non-reinstatement make compelling reading. You may wish to correct your errors of fact.

    • Kelvin says:

      Peggy was found to be unjustifiably dismissed – end of that story. It was long and powerful argument that formed a thread for the whole judgement.

      The bullying and the deception with the heavily redacted, hidden scope report, that formed the basis for the ministry appointing the commissioner and dismissing Peggy is the dynamite document, but it fell outside the beginning of the employment period though ran into it. That document, surely, will be the basis for further court action against the commissioner and the ministry.

      Teachers and principals in such hearings really face triple jeopardy: one for the present job; one for a near future job; and one for a job ever. Commissioners know this and given the complexity of being a principal and the powers held by commissioners they can easily discredit principals. The commissioner brought her best shots to why Peggy should be dismissed and failed miserably.

  6. Kelvin says:

    What you are undertaking in your dry tone James is not reasonable argument but bullying. You lost but you continue with uncontested evidence and petty harassment. A terrible thing happened in education but a stunning decision was delivered and a measure of justice delivered. From my point-of-view I would recommend going after a good number of the main figures involved.

  7. James McFadden says:

    As an interested observer of process I have not lost, but I do appreciate there are few winners in this situation. Your accusation of bullying is unwarranted. I have read the ERA determination and simply want to clarify the facts as presented by the ERA member. From the member’s description of Burrows’ behaviour (as set out in the determination) it would seem she was unsuited to her former role as she had difficulty building relationships with others – notably her board and leadership team. I have no intention of “going after” anyone. Such vindictiveness would serve no purpose. It is now time to let this school move on. Recent media coverage suggests Burrows holds the same view.

    • Kelvin says:

      The persons and institution found in the wrong were the commissioner and ministry. Peggy was a fine and successful principal. Some members of the board of trustees wanted to sell the school’s assets; they went to the minister who also wanted to; a false document was produced, a secret document, a hidden document, and it was used, used as an instrument to dismiss the principal and damage her reputation without her being in a position to defend it. Bullying on the basis of that document will be proved when the proper court for its use becomes available. In your bias you are not starting or concluding with the right set of ‘facts’, the story is that no proper grounds were found for dismissing the principal. A whole bureaucracy against Peggy, unlimited numbers of lawyers, but no grounds were found. I refuse to allow these columns to be used for what seems to be the venting of a sore and bitter loser.

      • James McFadden says:

        Your refusal to publish opposing arguments on this blog does nothing but demonstrate your own bias.

  8. poled says:

    We hear this week that New Zealand ranks highly in some international survey about countries with the least corruption. I class the Opua, Salford and Rangiora situations as corruption.

    I wonder if someone writing of Peggy Burrows “…it would seem she was unsuited to her former role…”, has asked the same question about the commissioner appointed to Rangiora?

  9. Clare Dargaville says:

    To say that Peggy Burrows ‘was unsuited to her former role’ is patently untrue. I have known Peggy for over 30 years and also had the privilege of working alongside her. You would struggle to find a more dedicated, hardworking and visionary educationalist, in all of New Zealand. The testimonies of her students, past and present, not to mention the support of colleagues and a past principal throughout this whole saga, speak for themselves. I also sat through most of the ERA hearing. It was clear from listening to all the evidence, Peggy was innocent of the charges. If the ‘commissioner’ had approach Peggy with her concerns in the original ‘secret’ report, Peggy could have cleared those up. Instead, Peggy had to endure two years of public insinuations about her professionalism and integrity. Let’s see…..
    * Had Peggy Burrows not been dismissed she would have still been principal.
    * Peggy Burrows did not contribute in any way to the issues on which the commissioner based her decision to dismiss Peggy
    * There were no grounds for dismissal.
    Peggy was totally vindicated, but lost her position as principal, yet the ‘commissioner’ is still ruling the roost at Rangiora. How does that work? Is that justice?

  10. P. Absolum says:

    Totally agree with you Clare. Not only that, the SLT group when asked if they could work with Mrs Burrows again, they ALL said NO! Now how is that coming from those whom Mrs Burrows has supported, put into their rolls, one granted leave of absence for two years where one year is the norm. Mrs Burrows supported his two year leave of absence, and that is the thanks she gets. No, they will rue their words. Mrs Burrows could work with them, but NO, they couldn’t. Any wonder why after they said negative things about her.

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