Principal ‘a bully’ -teachers

A group of JG Meiring High School teachers have accused the school’s principal, Theodore Linderts, of bullying staff, using school time for his own benefit and parading around the school in morning slippers.

Fed up, the staff took their gripes to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), but they’re unhappy with how the department has handled the situation so far, saying little seems to have been done to investigate their concerns and that instead of handling the matter confidentially, as they were assured it would be, their identities have been revealed to the principal.

The teachers have made several worrying allegations about Mr Linderts’s performance:

* There is a high staff turnover at the school, with between 10 and 12 teachers leaving each year. So far this year, the teachers said, 10 new teachers had joined the school.

* Matric results have declined from 96.9 percent in 2013 to 89.3 percent last year.

* Mr Linderts is never punctual and when staff challenge him about this, he shouts at them.

* Some teachers have still not received contracts for their positions at the school, and some have

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been there for more than a year.

* Mr Linderts uses school hours to drop off and fetch his own children at another school.

English teacher Shinaaz Da Silva, who has been at JG Meiring for more than five years, said she had had enough and wanted something to be done about the way the school was run.

Ansa Cronje, the head of Grade 10 at the school, said she was unhappy at the school and could not see how the current situation could continue for much longer.

She said the school has a lot of potential but this was hamstrung by weak management.

Northern News met six of the school’s teachers last week. Four of them were reluctant to use their names, but they too echoed Ms Da Silva and Ms Cronje’s concerns. They said more than 20 teachers had signed the complaint letter sent to the WCED. “We refuse to be victimised and treated like children. One cannot work in an environment where you feel like you are being watched. We are the teachers, not the pupils,” said Ms Da Silva.

She said she loves teaching and wants to make a difference in the lives of the pupils. “That is what keep us going,” she said.

One of the teachers who did not want to be named said the principal lacked management and people skills.

“He uses bullying in order to get what he wants, especially when he is in a situation that he cannot handle. There is no transparency at JG Meiring. We feel like we being spied on.”

The teachers say that despite a WCED official assuring them that the matter would be investigated sensitively, without their names being revealed, that had not happened.

They say an official who had visited the school on Friday June 3 to investigate had effectively outed them by asking for all the teachers who had signed the letter to the WCED – at least those he could identify from their signatures – to be called over the intercom to come to office where he had spoken to them.

Since then, the teachers had heard nothing further until last week, Friday June 24, when the official had called one of them to say he had been busy, but he had arranged with the metro north education district for a school psychologist to visit the school in the new term and speak to the affected teachers to assess their emotional well-being so that steps could be taken to deal with their concerns.

Northern News tried contacting Mr Linderts at least six times last week at the school without success. Numerous messages were left with the school receptionist but he did not return our calls. Northern News also sent Mr Linderts a text message on Monday June 27, but he had not responded by the time this edition went to print.

Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for the WCED confirmed that the WCED’s district official had met with 22 staff members of JG Meiring High School on Friday June 3.

She said a staff member had lodged a complaint and requested that a mediation programme be put in place to ensure the issues they highlighted be addressed and solved before a formal labour process was implemented.

Ms Shelver said that WCED’s officials agreed and requested the professional assistance from the metro north education district.

“On Thursday last week the district official notified the educator’s representative that the district will assist with the mediation and management programme at the start of the new term. The representative agreed to this. It was also agreed that the district will assist the school on a management level and put intervention strategies in place with regards to the identified complaints,” said Ms Shelver.