By ERWIN CHLANDA
With just one working day left before school starts, it is still unclear what will happen next Tuesday to the 160 children, most of them from disadvantaged backgrounds, of the Yipirinya School.
The Education Department has the power to intervene in the sacking of the principal, which was made public by the Alice Springs News Online on Monday.
Education Minister Robyn Lambley (pictured below) said today: “The Department of Education has not been informed by the Yipirinya School Board Chair that the principal has been relieved of his duties.
“The department’s Executive Director, Education Partnerships, has requested a meeting with the Yipirinya School Board Chair and is awaiting response. To date, no response has been received.
“Ms Gail Barker, Executive Director, Association of Independent Schools NT, has advised that it is investigating the matter.
“In accordance with section 68 of the Education Act, the department will be carrying out a special investigation of the school in February 2015.”
However, Ms Barker says: “We will not be investigating this, as the Chief Executive of NTDoE will instigate an investigation.
“We are keeping a close eye and working with the relevant parties to seek an outcome that is in the best interest of the school.”
Ms Lambley says this month the NT Government provided $199,532 to the Yipirinya School Council Inc.
Ms Barker says her body has not been contacted by the school council but she understands that the Education Department is likely to intervene in the dispute.
Ms Barker says what is unfolding at Yipirinya School, clearly requiring departmental intervention, has rarely happened in the NT.
Meanwhile, it is clear that resolution of the matter is firmly within Ms Lambley’s power, because the department she oversees operates under the NT Education Act which regulates the registration of schools, including private schools such as Yipirinya.
While the Act seeks to resolve disputes in a conciliatory fashion, with the agreement of the board, it also has the power to overrule it if consent cannot be reached.
The Act says the department’s Chief Executive Officer may appoint an assessor who “may enter a [non-government school] for the purposes of carrying out a routine assessment or special investigation”.
While the assessor must give notice of five business days to the school he or she “may enter [it] for a special investigation without any written notice … if the assessor thinks it might jeopardise the investigation”.
The Act says a member or staff of the school “must [provide] information the assessor reasonably requires … documents relevant to a routine assessment or special investigation [and] other cooperation and assistance”.
The Chief Executive Officer may then vary the registration of the school, suspend or cancel the registration of the school.
Before taking an action the Chief Executive Officer must “notify the governing body of the proposed action and of its grounds, and allow the governing body a reasonable opportunity to make representations in relation to the proposed action within a reasonable time that is specified in the notice”.
We rang the school at 4pm today and spoke to Lance Box. He thanked us for the opportunity to provide a comment but said at this time none would be made.
PHOTO: Yipirinya students, from our archive.
Yipirinya row: Will 160 kids have a school?
By ERWIN CHLANDA