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Wesley Neumann sided with community to protect pupils from Covid - Hendricks

14 October 2021 1:16 PM
Tags:
School
learners
Covid-19 regulations
Wesley Neumann
Heathfield High School

Lester Kiewit speaks to Vernon Seymour, attorney of principal Wesley Neumann and past Trafalgar High principal Nadeem Hendricks.
  • Principal of Heathfield High has been found guilty of misconduct by the WCED
  • The misconduct charges related to a decision he took last year to allow pupils to stay home rather than return to school as per the WCED directive
  • Neumann's lawyer Vernon Seymour and past Trafalgar High principal Nadeen Hendricks believe principals have a difficult balance between being answerable to the department and being accountable to the community

© arrowsmith2/123rf.com

Wesley Neuwmann, the principal of Heathfield High School in Cape Town has been found guilty in a disciplinary hearing for not reopening the school as instructed during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A case of 11 counts of misconduct was opened against him in the middle of last year by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

This, after Neumann had allowed pupils to remain at home rather than return to school on the date announced by the education department due to concerns about a surge in Covid-19 cases at that time.

We are very disappointed. We engaged in the process in good faith. We went to the DC hearing complied with all the directions he was requested to comply with but ultimately the findings came as no surprise to us.

Vernon Seymour, Attorney for Wesley Neumann

What happened last year leading to this censure?

Between June and July 24th last year, that was the peak of the pandemic here in the W Cap. It was the first wave and nobody was quite sure how to respond to it and there were varied perspectives including from parents.

Vernon Seymour, Attorney for Wesley Neumann

He says at the time, Neumann continuously consulted with the parents of the learners as well as the community and other stakeholders.

They adopted stances that were occasionally at odds with that of the education department and he was eventually then charged with misconduct and had to go and answer them at a DC.

Vernon Seymour, Attorney for Wesley Neumann

The situation became a tightrope of responding to both the department, the school governing body, learners as well as parents, and the community, suggests Lester. Ultimately, to whom is a school principal answerable?

Principals face a real challenge today and during this, the education department kept reminding us that the school principal is a representative of the department and so his role is to carry out departmental directives.

Vernon Seymour, Attorney for Wesley Neumann

He says the difficulty comes in because the principal's appointment is recommended by the School Governing Body (SGB) who decides what type of principal the school should have. The SGB then makes that submission to the employer which is the WCED.

The department then makes the appointment if they believe all the requirements and legal prescripts have been complied with.

Vernon Seymour, Attorney for Wesley Neumann

This results in a principal ensuring everyone is happy - the community and the department - and he says this is not always possible.

Nadeem Hendricks, school principal at Trafalga High joined the discussion.

I am very, very angry and disturbed under the circumstances but we are used to this kind of stuff coming from the WCED.

Nadeem Hendricks, Past principal - Trafalgar High

Hendricks says Neumann was selected by the school community to represent their welfare and it is sad that this is how the department has dealt with the situation.

There seems to be a complete disconnect between that understanding

Nadeem Hendricks, Past principal - Trafalgar High

People just don't understand Mr Neumann sided with his community because he saw the dangers of Covid on his children.

Nadeem Hendricks, Past principal - Trafalgar High



14 October 2021 1:16 PM
Tags:
School
learners
Covid-19 regulations
Wesley Neumann
Heathfield High School

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