Besieged principal ramps up defence
THE besieged principal of an elite Brisbane bayside college will meet with whistleblower investigators this week as he ramps up his defence against 'serious misconduct' allegations that threaten his career.
James Sloman, executive principal Moreton Bay College and Moreton Bay Boys' College, has lodged formal whistleblower and 'stop bullying' complaints against the Uniting Church-aligned schools in a dramatic showdown with the board.
Mr Sloman has been on "personal leave" since January after the school launched an investigation into allegations including "inappropriate, intimidating and belittling behaviour".
The veteran educator has strongly denied the allegations and claims he is being victimised by a faction of parents and board members upset at a major overhaul of the school swimming program and a conflict-of-interest probe into one board director.
The twin colleges, with a total of 1650 students whose parents pay up to $16,000 a year in fees, have been thrown into turmoil amid the stoush in which both Mr Sloman and the board have called in high-profile lawyers.
Two board members, including former chairman John Eisenmenger, resigned in January in what sources say was a protest against Mr Sloman's treatment.
Sources say Mr Sloman, who was due to return to work this week, will meet with independent whistleblower investigators tomorrow.
He lodged a 'stop bullying' complaint against the board with the Fair Work Commission last week, seeking to prohibit any disciplinary action against him when he returns to work. A hearing date has not yet been set down.
The scandal has divided the college, with some parents bitter critics of Mr Sloman but others staunch supporters.
One parent told The Courier-Mail that Mr Sloman had been targeted by vocal "activist parents" who had "the ear of the board".
Sources close to the embattled principal, who lives on campus with his wife and two teenage sons, rejected claims by parents of a high staff turnover, plummeting enrolments and falling OP results and say he has been inundated with messages of support.
"The 50 staff who have left over five years includes maternity leaves, teacher exchanges and retirements … it's not actually that many and well below industry metrics," one source said.
The college sent a letter to parents calling for calm following The Courier-Mail story, echoing some of the sentiments of Mr Sloman's supporters.
"You will appreciate that it is not appropriate for the colleges or the board to discuss any enquiries or investigations it may, or may not, be undertaking to ensure the integrity of those enquiries and to afford procedural fairness to those involved," it said.
"The behaviours and expectations of staff are guided by a detailed code of conduct. As in any large organisation, there will be times when mediation, investigations, and examinations of behaviour and relationships will be required.
"Whenever this is necessary, there are clear procedures and practices which ensure appropriate protections and confidentiality to the individuals involved."
One parent said the treatment of Mr Sloman had been "absolutely shocking" and the school's handling of the entire situation was "appalling".
"There are only about four or five (agitator) parents but it only takes a spark to start a fire," he said. "For a few parents to drag the rest of the college community down like this is just unacceptable.
"James is hard but you have to be in his position, and there are plenty of glowing references for him and the good things he's done at the colleges."
The parent said a new board was needed to remove any suggestion of bias "and either sack James or back him".
"The Uniting Church has to step up and appoint a new board," he said.