In­terim head steps in

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By TESSA JOHNSTONE

An ex­pe­ri­enced Welling­ton prin­ci­pal has taken the top job at a Porirua school plagued by ac­cu­sa­tions of bul­ly­ing.

For­mer Welling­ton High School prin­ci­pal Prue Kelly started as in­terim prin­ci­pal of Bishop Viard Col­lege last Mon­day, af­ter the pre­vi­ous prin­ci­pal took study leave.

The chair­man of the school’s board, Al­lan Holden, said prin­ci­pal Teresa Cargo had been granted study leave for the term and that the school was in a hold­ing pat­tern. He de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Holden had pre­vi­ously said that the leave re­quest, made by Cargo, was not un­wel­come, but would not say why.

Ear­lier this year two boys were se­ri­ously as­saulted in two un­re­lated at­tacks. In March, Joseph Nawl, 15, was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal af­ter be­ing punched un­con­scious by a fel­low Viard stu­dent.

A month ear­lier, Noah Cof­fin, 12, was at­tacked dur­ing a game of bull­rush and suf­fered con­cus­sion, a bruised face and a gouged eye.

Kelly, who left Welling­ton High in 2012 af­ter 17 years as prin­ci­pal, said she was happy to step into the breach.

‘‘What I’m find­ing is that the place is very wel­com­ing, there’s a huge amount of good­will, the staff are hard­work­ing, the kids are well be­haved, they smile and wel­come you, and I’ve found it a very safe, friendly place,’’ she said.

Kelly would not be drawn on the vi­o­lence and bul­ly­ing claims at the school, but said the board had been wise to em­ploy an in­terim prin­ci­pal rather than ask an­other staff mem­ber to step up. ‘‘This way I can sit here and the school can get on with all the won­der­ful things it’s do­ing and I’ll just do the things that a prin­ci­pal does.’’

The pub­lic­ity about bul­ly­ing did not re­flect what she had seen at the school, she said.

‘‘ It’s easy to sit out­side the school and say there’s bul­ly­ing go­ing on, or one in­ci­dent is an in­di­ca­tor of gen­eral malaise in the place, of things go­ing badly. That’s not what I’ve found here.’’

Kelly was made an Of­fi­cer of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit for ser­vice to ed­u­ca­tion in the 2014 New Year honours.

A po­lice spokesman said the stu­dents in­volved in the as­saults of the two boys had been re­ferred to Youth Aid and would prob­a­bly un­dergo po­lice al­ter­na­tive ac­tion, which may in­clude com­mu­nity work.

The mother of one of the vic­tims has taken both her chil­dren out of the school.

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