A petition to reinstate a Sutherland Shire primary school principal who is understood to have been stood down has garnered thousands of signatures from parents and community members.
Former Principal of Marton Public School in Engadine, Andrew Doyle, was reportedly relieved of his position over the Christmas break. Parents and members of the school's community formed the Marton Action Group (MAG) - and they want answers.
They believe he has been "excessively disciplined" by the Department of Education (DoE) for "trivial clerical errors" that do not warrant him being demoted from the role of principal.
Federal Member for Hughes Craig Kelly supported MAG's plight and told the Sutherland Leader he thought the DoE ought to "put the evidence on the table" and "let the public make the judgement on that call [to demote him]".
According to MAG's change.org petition, which has over 2500 signatures, Mr Doyle - who was a principal at Marton for three-and-a-half years - is charged with:
- an alleged conflict of interest regarding a contractor who put in the air conditioners at Marton;
- a clerical mistake where the school hall that was used by an external company after hours did not have the updated form completed;
- another clerical mistake that happened at another school regarding international students that occurred prior to him starting at Marton;
- and an issue regarding clean fill, which occurred at another school.
Mr Kelly said Mr Hughes seemed to be "a very popular principal that all parents love".
"He also seems to be the subject of procedural unfairness. Whatever allegations are made against him, he doesn't seem to have had the opportunity to be able to address those - he's been forced out of his position, and there seems to be no good explanation," Mr Kelly said.
Mr Kelly said he thought the allegations against Mr Doyle were such that he had made a "technical paperwork breach", and that the issue could be summed up as "a minor technicality it seems, a very harsh outcome and an arbitrary unfairness."
"He seems a good decent bloke who's been given the rough end of the pineapple," Mr Kelly said.
"There are so many incidences in today's society where people are losing their entire careers, thrown under the bus without giving due process."
When the Leader asked the DoE to provide the reasons for Mr Doyle's exit from Marton Public School, a DoE spokesperson responded thus:
"We are unable to provide more information on the movements of Mr Doyle.
"The school's acting principal is Jody MacDonald."
The MAG petition stated that Mr Doyle had been "an exceedingly popular Principal in the community, loved by students, parents, guardians and grandparents alike".
He was reportedly "secretly investigated during the Christmas holiday period", then escorted off the grounds after school hours, without being allowed to say goodbye to his students or colleagues.
"Andrew Doyle would put everything into caring about the children at his school and he cared for them as though they were his own," the petition stated.
"He knew them all by name and would often play handball with them before school and after school whilst they waited for their bus which he would then walk them to the bus and ensure they all got on safely."
The petition stated Mr Doyle was "a rare find and is exactly what an exceptional Principal should be."
"He has successfully navigated the line between being friendly and maintaining a professional relationship with the community," it stated.
MAG is calling for the Department of Education to appoint a different investigation team to re-investigate the matter.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.