The Secretary, My New South Wales High School P & C Association.
This is the most difficult letter I have ever written.
Since all other avenues have been closed to me, and I am reluctant to involve MyNSWHS in a media circus, I wish to bring several matters to the attention of the P&C, including safety hazards to students and substantial waste of resources.
Four years ago I was running My New South Wales High School Library and working on several projects to benefit our school.
I was enjoying my job so much that I was investigating postponing retirement for a decade or more.
On 28th June 2010, two people from Regional Office arrived and gave me ten minutes to gather my personal possessions before I was escorted off the premises.
So ended my 27 years dedicated to MyNSWHS.
Why was I removed so brutally from the school I had served so faithfully?
A report had been made about me, claiming I was “a potential danger to staff and students.”
I have never been given an opportunity to challenge these allegations, which are at odds with the evidence.
In fact my efforts to improve safety at my school were ignored, and in one case, undone.
I was never a danger to anyone.
Right up to the day I was marched off the school premises, my Library was attracting record numbers, both during classes and lunch breaks.
Students rushed to my Library because they felt safe, as I’m sure they will confirm.
They felt so safe with me that on several occasions, when their teacher did not arrive, whole classes would bring themselves from the other side of the school to my library, where I would quickly find out where they were up to and organise some work.
The previous Principal and Deputy can both corroborate this.
Over the years I have used my initiative to fix a number of hazards at My New South Wales High School.
I raised concerns about several safety issues but achieved nothing.
What would I know about safety?
Thirty-five years teaching in several schools and thirty years with the SES and VRA rescuing people from accidents have taught me a little about safety.
The NSW State Rescue Board trusts me to train and accredit rescue personnel, yet my school ignored my efforts to fix several hazards.
Following two accidents, I tried to ensure a safety light was left on in the Library Annexe.
My work was immediately reversed (setting a record for getting something done at MyNSWHS) and I was accused of doing unqualified electrical work.
This is untrue.
Over the years, I did a lot of unqualified building and maintenance work around the school, making improvements that are still in daily use.
There have been no objections to any of this work.
I have now been isolated from MyNSWHS for over three years and the Regional Director will not answers my letters, so I have no way of knowing if anything has been done about these safety hazards to our students.
One of the issues outlined in my safety submission has since resulted in a death overseas.
I hope something is done locally to prevent a repeat.
In response to public concerns about contagious diseases, several times I raised the need to improve hand-washing facilities.
After four years work I was close to getting hot water piped to most hand-basins in the school, but without my knowledge the project was taken from me and the money spent on something else.
Several years ago I discovered a Federal-State grant of $50,000 for energy conservation initiatives in schools.
This was a unique opportunity to make big improvements to My NSWHS.
I have 35 years’ experience in solar design and construction.
I know of nobody else in the school with interest or expertise in the field.
A staff meeting agreed to my proposal to join the Solar Schools Scheme.
I spent four years following its guidelines to the letter and kept the school administration informed of progress.
After extensive design work and site inspections I received a firm quote from Dillons Plumbing of Tamworth.
This was ready to be submitted to the next round of Federal funding early the following year.
Without my knowledge, a submission was made via the NSW arm of the Federal-State scheme.
All my work on the scheme and all my expertise was totally ignored.
Worst of all, a unique opportunity to upgrade facilities for our students was wasted.
If I had been allowed to continue with my submission, our school would have been enjoying solar-heated water piped to wash basins and showers throughout the school, plus solar light tubes, sunshades and timer switches, as well as a $20,000 PV system on the Library roof.
Instead, the school got some light bulbs and $44,000 was spent on PV panels for the Library roof.
The scheme was set up for educational purposes, to promote thinking about conservation, an area in which I have always been passionately involved.
The whole school community was supposed to have been consulted and brought on board - something I had been achieving.
Instead, without most of the school realising what was going on, the money was quickly spent and a unique opportunity to improve our facilities was wasted.
Why, when I was so near to making my biggest contribution to our school, was it all taken from me without my knowledge, and most of the money wasted?
There was no deadline for submissions.
I had brought the scheme to the school.
I had the expertise and experience.
I had followed the guidelines to the letter.
I was available at all times.
The administration knew that even when I was on Long Service Leave I visited the school weekly to keep on top of my job in the Library and help Distance Education students; I made sure my mobile number was available to staff and students.
Was I capable of managing this project?
I have a long track record of initiating and completing projects to improve our school.
The administration knew that a few months before this I had organised around 100 people from throughout NSW to produce a successful television advertisement for the VRA.
After two years of trying to discover why the project was taken from me, I have been given no reason.
75th Anniversary Re-Union
Over the years, with the help of enthusiastic students, I raised many thousands of dollars to benefit My NSWHS.
In 1992 I purchased our first video-editing computer to edit footage taken with the video camera funded by the P&C.
I enthusiastically built up the school’s historic archives in preparation for re-unions, and collected many historic videos of students and school events.
After my removal on June 28, 2010, I sent letters appealing to be allowed to complete urgent projects such as this.
I eventually received an assurance that District Director Ruythe Dufty “would look into this” - but I heard nothing more.
All my work was wasted.
Nobody saw my historic videos.
The nearly-finished Year 12 album is still on the computer, but I was not allowed to complete it.
I had the enormous distress of watching the 75th Anniversary Reunion parade from the sidelines, knowing that I was not considered a part of the school which I had served loyally for twenty seven years.
I was told later that long-serving staff were publicly recognised for their efforts on behalf of the school.
My name did not even appear in the fine print.
Why was I removed?
I dedicated most of my working life to My New South Wales High School in the hope that I would one day be considered part of a community and feel a sense of belonging.
I always went out of my way to help others; when approached for assistance my response was always “No worries!”
Despite this, many times over the years I was left without support.
On one distressing occasion I was severely abused by a large, angry student when defending mistakes made by a previous Deputy Principal- yet he would not back me up!
Despite all the harassment, victimisation and hate mail I have been subjected to during my years at the school, I carried on doing my best for the kids, my colleagues and my community.
I expected that one day my dedication might finally be valued.
Although I had often experienced the frustration of not getting support for my various proposals, I had at least been allowed to use my initiative.
With the help of our wonderful kids I was able to make many improvements to our school.
Under the new regime I had the humiliation of having my projects undermined or taken from me.
For a dozen years I conscientiously ran our school’s Formal Assemblies and Awards Days, building up these events as an important window to the community.
I raised thousands of dollars to purchase equipment and installed projectors, screens and lighting equipment to enhance these events.
Three years in a row my preparations for Awards Day were severely hampered when this equipment was damaged or removed as a result of school musical productions in the hall.
Anyone else might have approached the young teacher causing the problems, but out of respect for her enthusiasm I tried to avoid a confrontation.
Instead I made a written complaint requesting a meeting be called to improve cooperation and communication among staff using the stage.
I felt sure that my work running these important events would be valued and something done to ensure it continued.
Instead, for eight months there was no response to my formal complaint.
I became increasingly frustrated as the problems continued.
When approached, the Administration refused to support me, claiming my letter was insulting to staff.
This was the first I had heard of this.
My immediate offer to change the wording was rejected.
It was clear nothing would be done to support my work.
After this, my suggestions and requests were ignored, even in areas where I had expertise critical to the running of our school.
I have not the words to describe the absolute frustration of making increasingly emotional appeals for support to an impassive senior officer who eventually says, “I’m really concerned about your mental health...”
My efforts to maintain a professional silence about these matters worked against me.
The staff were unaware of the repeated insults to which I had been subjected; they only saw my increasing distress, and many avoided me.
It was only after I reluctantly resigned from running Assemblies and Awards Days that a token effort was made to locate one missing item.
Nothing was found. (Following this, I waited several months until the Year 12 kids had completed their HSC exams, then approached one of the students involved in the musical. It took only 2 minutes to locate what the Administration could not find in over eight months.)
Because of this shoddy treatment I slipped into what was diagnosed as severe work-related depression.
I reported this in the hope of getting some understanding.
Instead my treatment got worse.
The School Magazine
Still desperate to be valued, I took on the role of publishing the 2009 school magazine, a job I had done several times before.
Nobody else in the school had wanted to take on this task, but my wonderful SRC kids quickly got the project under way.
Unfortunately our enthusiasm was hammered when their good work was criticized by my supervisor.
My complaint about this unprofessional behaviour was ignored, yet a retaliatory complaint about me was followed through rigorously, causing me three months of distress.
My efforts to address a safety hazard which had already caused two accidents were undone without consultation.
I could not get support, even over this safety issue.
Despite my qualifications, I was overruled in running the Library, even regarding resources I had purchased and installed myself.
It was made clear to me on two occasions that not only would I not be getting any support, but that the two people at the centre of my formal complaints would be protected from all knowledge of the hurt they had caused me.
A year of regularly being treated as worthless took a heavy toll on my fragile ego.
What greater insult than to have a supervisor lean over my desk and ask “I wonder what you are good at?”
Following this, all the things I WAS good at were taken from me.
The Solar Schools Project, my greatest opportunity to make a lasting difference to our school, was taken from me without my knowledge, and most of the funds wasted.
Despite suffering from severe depression and painful injuries sustained helping at a road accident, I kept going to school because I needed the sense of purpose which comes from working with our wonderful kids.
Even this was taken away from me when I was suddenly marched off the premises.
I was sent to Sydney for an assessment of my fitness to continue.
The Doctor found me to be a useful teacher who should be rehabilitated back to my job after a 3-6 month break.
I faithfully followed the advice of the doctor, using up my carefully-saved retirement nest egg over the next 18 months in the belief that the Department would also follow his advice.
My employer ignored the doctor’s recommendations.
Nothing was done to get me back to work.
Apparently I was of no value.
The concerns expressed for my health (which were used to justify my removal) evaporated as soon as I was off the premises.
For two years I heard nothing from my school.
Not a card, phone call or visit.
The cruelest thing was to isolate me from my only social contact.
To be so callously discarded and forgotten after giving so much to my school has been the greatest trauma of my life.
My employer aggravated my workplace-related depression by isolating me from my only source of social contact, the only thing giving me a sense of self-worth.
I still yearn to hear a kind word.
Anything to indicated that my working life devoted to My NSWHS was valued.
After all the thoughtful things, large and small, that I had done for my colleagues and my school, what was done to help me?
Nobody complained to me about my actions or the service I provided.
To this day, nobody has explained to me why I was marginalised and my projects taken from me.
Why people who I had so often helped literally turned away from me in my time of greatest need.
Surely I deserve to be told why.
I have heard two stories that are being told about me.
These stories are totally incorrect and have caused me great hurt.
Surely I should be given the chance to challenge rumours and assumption made about me?
The whole issue has been treated with silence.
My career has been destroyed, but I hope to repair some of the damage to my reputation, which I value as much as life itself.
I was tossed aside and written out of the school’s history.
Despite 27 years of dedication and loyalty to my school the records will show only allegations against me.
Never could I have imagined that doing the right thing by others was to work against me.
Sparing a young teacher any knowledge of the aggravation she had caused me led to the destruction of my career.
In increasingly difficult circumstances I soldiered on with my job.
I now realise that I could have gone off on compo and avoided an enormous financial and emotional loss.
Despite it being far outside my job description, I had made succession planning part of my focus.
By approaching a likely future Teacher-Librarian who could provide the English-teaching experience I couldn't bring to the role, I helped ensure that MyNSWHS had available locally a person to take over on my eventual retirement.
The encouragement and assistance I gave seems to have been forgotten.
An article in the Advocate (6th June 2012) added salt to my wounds.
After all my work improving the facilities and services of our Library, my replacement appeared to have been given the credit.
Many schools have a great tradition of rewarding loyalty and maintaining contact with former staff and students.
Those schools in turn often benefit from their support and financial assistance.
Here I remain, isolated 5 km from MyNSWHS with hard-earned experience in several fields; a wealth of ideas and contributions still to make.
What a waste.
My vision for My New South Wales High School :
I empowered students, and they showed responsibility in return.
Every day our school enjoys the benefits of students' ideas that I encouraged and put into effect.
Despite this, I experienced only criticism from my supervisor, who described my ideas as unworkable.
I often felt like I was the only one doing anything about the biggest issue we face: climate change.
It was my privilege to help prepare our wonderful kids for the challenges of an uncertain future, particularly climate change, and to show them how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by using good design.
After years of work I was on the point of realising that dream - then it was all taken away from me and most of the money wasted.
Our school has been crying out for modern facilities that do not depend on toxic gas heaters, but the new buildings are a disappointment.
My efforts to have some input into their design came to nothing.
They were built facing the wrong way, making no use of winter sun for heating, but with maximum exposure to afternoon summer sun.
The expensive PV roof panels are pointing the wrong way and shaded for most of the day.
What a waste!
Many good people work at MyNSWHS, with much expertise and experience that could be used for the benefit of the students.
Unfortunately, I believe that the school no longer values initiative, innovation, dedication, honesty and integrity.
What do I Want?
I want to defend my hard-won reputation.
I want to know what I have done to deserve such shoddy treatment- by people I had so often gone out of my way to help.
I want to be able to trust people again.
I want a good night’s sleep.
I want to be happy again, to be able to laugh and enjoy life.
I want this crushing weight off my chest.
I know what caused the severe depression which was diagnosed in 2009.
The people who treated me as worthless will never give me the cure I seek, but perhaps others in the school community might be able to spare me at least a kind word, to partially undo the great damage done to my self-esteem.
I want some evidence that my life’s work was not wasted.
The crippling injury I am suffering has been made worse by the isolation imposed on me.
Time has not diminishing the frustration, disappointment and anger I feel over the way I have been treated.
The impact on my health has been profound.
Since I have been isolated by the school administration and Education Department, I have nowhere else to turn.
The school community has the right to know the truth, and I have the right to defend my reputation.
I have no faith in the Education Department’s internal grievance procedures, which I followed faithfully.
Departmental officers ignored or rejected my formal complaints, yet assumed the accusations against me to be true - despite glaring inconsistencies.
I was not informed of complaints against me, and my appeals to have their truth investigated have been denied.
Anyone reading the cold, unfeeling responses to my many carefully-worded appeals for some support or assistance would be concerned for the future of our children’s education.
I would welcome an independent investigation into the management of my case.
I believe it would find that my career was destroyed by the misuse of a fundamentally flawed system which lacks an appeals process.
I was sentenced and punished, yet I am still waiting to hear all the charges and get an opportunity to defend myself!
Any reasonable person aware of the way I had been treated might have found my distressed behaviour to be understandable, even restrained.
I have no hesitation in admitting raising my voice against two students (for persistent dangerous behaviour).
I would welcome any comparison with anger management issues within the Administration.
What is the priority of our education department: to make the best use of the dedication and expertise of teachers - or to defend and cover up poor management?
For over three years I have lived in hope, waiting for the phone call, letter or visit that means someone cares about me.
In desperation I have phoned former colleagues to ask for some understanding, some indication that I was valued.
Instead I have been misunderstood, misrepresented, even abused and threatened- by the very people I have so often helped.
I have not the words to express my disappointment.
My faith in humanity has been severely shaken.
So many people have benefited from thoughtful gestures from me, yet I have been not only forgotten, but actively isolated.
Over the years I have attended and contributed to many farewells, and helped ensure colleagues received well-deserved recognition for their achievements and service.
Even our two-week prac-teachers are honoured with speeches and a going-away present.
After my 27 years dedication to the school I was tossed out and forgotten.
Last year the new Deputy - a man of rare decency- invited me to attend a monthly formal assembly.
Going back into the scene of so much trauma was one of the hardest things I have done.
I thought that finally I had been remembered and that I too might get the recognition so many others had received.
Instead, when no-one came forward with anything positive to say about my decades of service to the school, the Deputy had to ask me to write the speech.
I had to bring along a certificate to be presented with.
Later I learned that the whole thing had been instigated by my wife.
If anyone wishes to challenge anything in this letter, let them have the decency to do so in a public forum, so I finally get the chance to defend myself.
I want to thank the P&C for its continued commitment to public education amid ever-mounting pressures from the media and government.
I should also thank the community for sending us the wonderful kids we teach; working with our cheerful students each day was the highlight of my career.
I miss them.
I trust you will do the best for the kids.
My employer has failed -
to provide a safe workplace.
to respond to a formal workplace complaint
to respond to the report of a workplace injury
to follow the advice of their medical officer.
and has -
Ignored efforts to improve workplace safety
Allowed victimisation within the school
Ignored mismanagement within the school
Followed their own guidelines selectively
Repeatedly refused my requests for an investigation into allegations against me.
Ignored my repeated appeals to be allowed to return to work
Provided misleading advice which left my family with no income for 14 weeks
Caused me the loss of over $30,000 in accumulated LSL
Allowed my career to be destroyed.
Believed allegations made against me.
Failed to inform me of allegations made against me (allegations I could easily refute).Rejected my own formal complaints, despite the evidence.
I have spent months preparing this letter -
- because you deserve to be informed of what has gone on.
Your New South Wales High School Teacher-Librarian.