Interim head steps in
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.